Back in my days as an editor, one memorable management meeting addressed the question of how to take advantage of a big advertising opportunity. A sales rep suggested that we could publish a bonus issue with the advertiser as the sole sponsor.
But what would the topic be, I asked. “That's no big deal,” said the rep with a dismissive wave. “Your staff can just write some content.”
The attitude that content is as simple to whip up as a cheese omelet was a constant source of frustration to me during my journalism career, and it appears that the mindset hasn't changed all that much with the surging interest in content marketing.
Two recent studies illustrate that many b2b marketers are putting the content cart before the horse.
The Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs (http://bit.ly/CMIMprofs) reported last month that b2b marketers worry more about the quantity of information they publish than the quality. Another recent survey of 700 b2b technology marketers by software company Optify found that only about one-third have a defined content marketing strategy (http://bit.ly/OptifyCM).
In other words, we don't know what to say but we want to say more of it.
The fascination with output is understandable to some degree. Respected sources such as HubSpot have documented the correlation between blogging frequency and traffic for years. Beevolve recently reported a statistical link between Twitter activity and follower count.
Be careful of taking output statistics at face value, though. Accomplished bloggers are prolific in large part because their words have an impact. No successful blogger I know will tell you that word count has anything to do with it. Similarly, accomplished Twitter users are cautious not to spam audiences.
It's tempting for managers to measure performance with a ruler rather than a stethoscope. If you're turning out a lot of stuff, you must be doing your job. Unfortunately, your customers and prospects aren't hurting for stuff. I often ask audiences if lack of information is a problem and I have yet to see a hand raised. On the contrary, for most of us the bigger problem is filtering out the stuff we don't want.
Output metrics don't matter if what you're putting out doesn't inspire a reaction. Metrics like reach and impressions are relics of the media age, when the audience couldn't respond. Today's success measures are engagement criteria such as retweets, comments, shares, subscriptions and downloads.
Corning's five-minute video, “A Day Made of Glass” has racked up 20 million views, almost 12,000 comments and 67,000 “likes” on YouTube. There's no better example of the power of quality.
Paul Gillin is a consultant who specializes in community journalism and social media. His website is www.gillin.com.