Talking Content Marketing – With Mark Schaefer

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Mark Schaefer published a thought provoking article last Sunday (4th January), I wanted to focus a Talking Content Marketing article specifically on the topic.

Mark is a consultant, marketing keynote speaker, college educator and the author of four well-known marketing books including Social Media Explained.

Make sure you read, ‘Beyond Content Shock: The Defining Trend Of 2015 Is Content Ignition‘. What this article highlights is that we need to move beyond the cliches of ‘content is king’ and ‘great content will always rise to the top’ and understand the deeper role of content to engages others, invite interaction and become an asset to your business.

If we create great content, people won’t necessarily come. We now need to look at the ways to become relevant to others and in the places people want to interact with us.

Mark’s ‘content ignition’ viewpoint becomes a key aspect for his up and coming book, The Content Code. I hope you heard it here first.

Six questions, six answers, lets focus:

Do you think businesses use the word ‘content’ as a safety blanket? Where producing content and sharing on the channels they have become accustomed to is considered enough?

I’m not sure you can wrap a general statement about marketing approaches and practices.

I think different companies are at varying levels of marketing sophistication. There are some real breath-taking examples of content being used to achieve business results, some businesses — perhaps most — have never heard of content marketing and have yet to open a Facebook page. And then, there’s everything in between. Naturally there are leaders and followers.

Should businesses become much smarter with the assets created? ie. the infographic that becomes a blog, that becomes the Slideshare, that becomes the podcast, that becomes the video?

This is a two-edged sword. On the one side yes … many businesses under-utilize their content assets.

When I work with a business, one of the first things I show them is where all their content is ‘hidden’ in their company!

There is also an opportunity to re-purpose this content. For example, I have recently re-ignited some of my best blog posts by turning them into high-quality infographics and Slideshare presentations. A blog post that had received 7,000 views in its original form had more than 100,000 views on Slideshare. Pretty amazing!

But now for the dark side of this opportunity. A lot of people see cheap imitations of original content as a way to swarm the web with content to achieve SEO benefits. And it might even work in the short-term. But in the long-term this reflects poorly on your brand. So yes, re-purposing makes good business sense, but always serve your customers with quality content.

Do businesses need to find the balance between producing content that connects and becoming more efficient with technology?

N.B. listening to Jay Baer’s interview with Brian Clark on the New Rainmaker podcast he mentioned the ‘Jay Today’ videos are made solely via his iPhone6 on a tripod and then uploaded to YouTube and the audio to iTunes.

I think the driving consideration needs to be “quality,” not necessarily production values.

Jay’s series is a good example. One take. Shot on an iPhone. Not exactly Hollywood, but it’s also pretty darn good HD video! The entry barriers to creating quality content in technical terms is almost zero. But the entry barrier to create quality content in terms of helpfulness and insight is still in a rarefied zone.

Jay’s content works because he smart, not because he has Hollywood good looks. You can only ride sizzle so long. There has to be some steak there, too.

Is relevance to our audience (and in the words of Tom Webster  entertain, challenge and from genuine expertise) far more important than content frequency ie. you can produce the best content, but doesn’t mean anything if no one sees it?

You have to look at the business context.

One of my favorite stories is about a medical doctor — a pediatirician — who blogged about immunization and raising healthy children. She averaged only five page views a day. But one of those readers started an immunization revolution in her neighborhood because of the doctor’s blog. The content didn’t move very far, but it moved to the right people, didn’t it?

The relative audience size is less important than relevance. But even that is not enough any more because of the overwhelming information density we face on the web. The competition in many niches is intense so we need to find creative new ways to ignite our content. In my research for a new book, I have been diving into this subject and have found that this is a science unto itself. So many marketers overlook this. They create the content, they build the social media audience, but the content never moves. In other words, it’s useless.

I think we will be seeing content transmission specialists as a common marketing function. We can’t just plant the seeds. We need to water them too.

Is content ignition more powerful when it comes from an original ‘source’ ie. the website, where everything sits and you have complete control to direct your audience/subscribers?

That is an excellent question and the answer for me is conflicted. Obviously the goal is to attract people to a site that you own so you can build connections, relationships, authority and eventually sell something. So the content on my site works that way.

But my content is also syndicated by other sites like Social Media Today. This is a business model that depends on free content from me and others so they can make money from ads and sponsors. Of course I get compensated with nothing but “awareness.” That’s nice of course but I get zero referral traffic from these syndication sites and that’s the story you’ll hear from other bloggers too. I don’t see any evidence that publishing to a “borrowed” audience does anything to grow my own audience but of course there could be some more subtle, long-term impacts that I can’t measure.

I have a friend who is building her brand almost entirely through posting in other channels like Huffington Post and even The Harvard Business Review. But I think she regrets not owning her own readers. In general, I would say it is better to own the content and own the audience.

How would you advise content creators to prepare for an era of content ignition? Is it to constantly learn, is it to experience, is it understanding where our audience comes from?

I have spent the last year studying this idea of content ignition and to be honest, it has changed me.

There is a science and psychology behind the act of sharing content that is overwhelming and beautiful and incredibly fascinating. People share content for hundreds of different reasons but there is a uniform psychology behind it very much connected to self image, caring for others, and even caring for the author or brand. It is an intimate experience, an enormous sign of trust and communion that I never considered before.

In my new book, which should be available by May of 2015, I look at six elements of content transmission (this is The Content Code) that are accessible to any business of any size. And the beauty is that whether you have the resources to do a little or a lot, it’s all going to help.

Of course the expectation is, it starts with quality content. Quality, quality, quality. But in today’s world that is simply the way to earn a seat at the table. That is the point where you stop writing and start igniting to really make your marketing succeed.


This is the second interview with Mark in the Talking Content Marketing series, click here to read the first interview. Thanks again to Mark for his time and considered response.

With The Content Code on the horizon, keep up to date with what is happening from Mark’s world:

The {grow} blog: click here

The Marketing Companion Podcast: click here

Mark’s books: click here

Mark on Twitter: click here

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