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The 10 Commandments of Content Marketing


Marketers often confuse content marketing with engagement. Just because you get someone’s attention doesn’t mean your audience actually cares. You spend all of this time following the work of others, listening to experts who preach soundbites and executing against a programmatic calendar only to miss the very thing that connects with people…relevance.

It’s hard to gauge or appreciate something so contextual however when we base our work on the measurement of the wrong things. Numbers do not reflect engagement. They measure activity. And, whether or not that activity matters to your business or brand, doesn’t matter too much at the moment. Campaigns are planned, executed and measured by outdated KPIs every day. A view isn’t the same thing as a connection. A “Like” isn’t an opt-in nor a reflection of a targeted community. An impression isn’t symbolic of a prospect. R.O.I. isn’t calculated by vanity metrics…that would be the other R.O.I (return on ignorance.)

The are human beings on the other side of your content. There are frustrations, aspirations and willing attention spans on the other side of the screen. Engage them. Entertain them. Inspire them. Only three things matter as you develop your content strategy, relevance, resonance and significance (R.R.S). Everything you do should incorporate these three pillars of engagement.

To help, I developed a fun set of “commandments” to shake the mediocrity out of the marketing ecosystem. More so, seeing possibilities for what they could be rather than basing them on what exists allows us to ctrl-alt-del or command-ctrl-power content strategies to be more relevant, engaging and ultimately resonant.

The 10 Commandments of Content Marketing

1. Don’t chase shiny objects. Examples include newer channels like Periscope, Meerkat, Snapchat, et al. There will always be the next big thing, but you don’t have to chase after them. Instead, chase after your customers—be where your customers need you or want you to be.

2. Stop operating against a content marketing calendar. Content calendars make you think about quantity, not quality. Your consumers are already overwhelmed with mediocrity, so don’t flood them with more.

3. Refrain from exclusively following case studies of people “doing great content.” While they may be rock stars in their own markets or at conferences, they don’t have a relationship with your influencers, customers and stakeholders in the same way that is unique to you. Best practices for reaching those particular audiences are yours to figure out.

4. Don’t you dare use technology to “scale your shit.” Technology is forcing us into a trap of scale. While we might preach 1:1 engagement, technology gets us away from that and back to the “one-to-many” broadcast model we always tend toward.

5. Shift from views or impressions as metrics and instead track performance and outcomes. Everything in terms of media has traditionally been about consumption. In the social mobile era, it must instead be about sharing and action. Change perception or inspire behaviors. Cause positive effect in your markets. Move people to mutually-beneficial outcomes.

6. Don’t assume you have one audience. You have many different types of people you need to speak to—all of whom believe they’re special snowflakes. Your audience has an audience who has an audience of their own (aka audience of audiences). Know who they are, and create content tailored for them.

7. Stop creating content for people who will approve it (like your CMO or client). Remember there are human beings on the other side of that screen. They also think they are special snowflakes. Treat them like it. Your job isn’t to assume that you or your organization is special. Your job is to make everyone you reach out to feel like they are the only person you wanted to talk to that day.

8. Stop reaching out to people only when you need them. This business is all about relationships. That’s what marketing is supposed to be all about—it’s based on creating mutual value and earning reciprocity.

9. Stop selling. For every one time you sell, you should have at least four other pieces of content or moments of engagement that help, entertain, solve problems or inspire people. Some call this the 4-1-1 approach.

10. Stop investing in “Mediumism. Contrary to popular belief, you are not a storyteller. That title is reserved for those who really care about the people they’re trying to connect with specific to the medium of engagement. Mass broadcasting across all forms of media is called spam. It happens so often that I came up with a word to describe it, “mediumism.”

Quite simply, mediumism is placing inordinate value on channels over people. Platforms, channels and technology are merely conduits to human beings. True storytellers are enamored, even obsessed, with relevant story arcs, characters, emotions, outcomes, et al. They aim to immerse people in an experience that matters beyond the moment. It’s thoughtful. It’s informed. It’s relevant. It’s awakening and inspiring.

Think of content as a social object. Aim beyond the moment. In other words, design social objects that stay alive because people can’t stop talking about and sharing it. Don’t just talk to or at people, strive talk to and through them.

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37 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “The 10 Commandments of Content Marketing”

  1. Ryan Valizan says:

    This is good advice, I read another article recently saying too many content marketers are seeing a reduction in their engagement while producing more content overall. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Your content strategy and content produced needs to be analyzed against what your end goal is. If you want to increase engagement you have to create content that people WANT to engage with by personalizing it to them. If you’re goal is to build brand awareness then the engagement should come second to ensuring your content, again, is relative to the viewers you’re developing the content for. Often times, the pieces that will see the most engagement will not be product specific, unless it’s a really cool product or feature that sets a new expectation in the eyes of your audience. Users aren’t looking for more sales pitches when they find your content, they want answers or information. If your able to provide quality content that helps people meet their own, and completely selfish, motives then you will begin to build trust and credibility with those users. If those same people are who you’re strategy has deemed the target audience then they will find more use out of other pieces you produce and be more likely to engage with your content, spend more time on your site, and give your promotional content more interest than if they’d first started their process seeing you try to sell them something. Every time you get a user to return to your site for information, their click through rate and overall perception of your brand, as well as TOP, increases. This also leads to more WOM marketing, which has more significance to your marketing than any other channel

  2. The medium is no longer the message.

  3. The timing of this post is impeccable. Thank you so much!

  4. Rachelle McKinney says:

    I train Subject Matter experts on the why, what, how and where of using Social Media to build their personal/professional brand. As you well know, they are inextricably linked. I haven’t been struck by a piece in some time that was so poignant to our cause; you really nailed the R.R..S for this human in your piece, The 10 Commandments of Content Marketing. I look forward to sharing your advice and hope we have the opportunity to cross paths in person in the future.

  5. Kieth says:

    Content marketing is an important part of every business organization for improving its conversion rates and product sales. You need to promote your content in the right possible way through guest commenting, social platforms, sharing your content with other bloggers and site so as to improve the reach and readability of your content.
    Apart from this, business organizations can take the help of various heat map tools like Mouse Flow, Mocking Fish, Click Tale and such others so as to create content according to the taste and preferences of your site visitors. If you are not having much knowledge about which heat map tool to choose, I would recommend you to go for Mocking Fish as it is lower in price, has simple dashboard design, is easy to implement and offers free lifetime account facility.

  6. Timmy Jones says:

    Good article. I like the idea of treating the consumers like human beings and being more in a give and take relationship. They want to be cared about and some brands do a good job of this and some brands don’t. But not all brands would benefit from being more connected to their audience and a more personal level, as you stated. But when it is done well and authentically, it can be a game changer for any brand.

  7. Steve.Ogida says:

    This content is what i call breathtaking one particularly when been said that “Numbers don’t reflect engagement reither they measure activity”

  8. Julie Carpenter says:

    Thank you for all of the great tips, Brian. This was insightful yet straightforward. I especially appreciated the 4-1-1 approach you mentioned in Commandment #9. It’s a great rule of thumb to follow.

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