Avoiding ‘Content Shock’

By Aaron Paitich


Companies that rely upon online content marketing to help them tell their stories are facing a problem today. Up until recently, creating great content and posting it on your website or blog—the proverbial needle in the Internet haystack—was sufficient to reach your audience in a meaningful way. But that’s no longer true. More and more marketers are finding that content strategies that reliably worked last year don’t have the same impact anymore.

Why not? One big reason: the online haystack is getting too big. After years of steady, but relatively slow growth, the amount of content published on the Internet has been growing rapidly of late. And it’s projected to accelerate even further going forward. In fact, in the next five years, online content is expected to jump by nearly six fold, according to research from CMI/Marketing Profs (see graph).

At the same time that content volume is ramping up, however, content consumption is leveling off. With tablets and smartphone penetration now reaching saturation levels, consumers in the U.S and many other Western nations are bumping up against the finite limits of their waking-hours attention span. In other words, it’s not just that the online haystack is getting too large, it’s that the public doesn’t have time to look for any more needles.

Theses countervailing forces have created what content marketing expert Mark Schaefer calls “content shock”—the point at which simply producing more and more content starts to suffer from the law of diminishing returns. It requires a new, more active approach to content.

“Great content does not necessarily rise to the top. Great content is merely the starting point,” writes Mark Schaefer on his {grow} blog. The days of passively posting content and feeling confident that your audience will find it are over.

“Content sitting idly on a website—even superb content—has as much value as the world’s greatest movie script locked in a cold, dark vault,” Schaefer says. “It is doing nothing. It means nothing. It is certainly not rising to the top or creating measurable value for our organizations.” Instead, the key question for companies looking to tell their stories becomes, as Schaefer puts it: “What comes after ‘great content?’ How do we ignite our excellent work to cut through this intimidating world of information density?”

The solution starts with changing from a passive to active content strategy. Don’t expect your customers to search for or stumble upon your content. Instead, you want to seek them out and deliver it to them at the right place and time. This means leveraging tools like social media, email, and even direct mail to meet your audience where they are online (and offline). If you’re not pushing out every piece of content across multiple channels and enticing your customers to opt-in to hear more—whether it’s via e-newsletters, YouTube channels, or Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feed— you’re wasting your content and missing opportunities to more effectively engage.

That’s a recipe for ‘content shock,’ for needles getting lost in the haystack. To avoid this fate, you need a comprehensive marketing strategy that strives to match your great content with your customers’ curated online habits. The eventual goal: to build a relationship with your customers that positioned your company’s content as a valuable resource, one they know how to quickly and easily access whenever they need it. In effect, it about taking the needles out of the Internet haystack and sticking them in your customers’ pincushions.