Death-To-Your-Business Content Strategy
It’s like those A therefore B equations they teach in university logic courses. You’ve got a website therefore you need content.
No problem. Just write/buy/steal some, right?
Good content strategy (and remember, content refers here to every digital interaction you have with your clients and prospective clients) isn’t easy to create. There’s a reason good strategists and copywriters are worth their weight in gold. Without getting into the nuts and bolts of it, you need user research, web writing and editing skills, decent metadata and yes, a plan. And that’s just the start. Then you have to look after whatever you have, monitor and respond to what it does, and learn from your mistakes. This is starting to look a lot like hard work.
Well, it is.
Which is why some companies take a ‘get everything free and connected to my business as much as possible all the time’ approach to using content. Essentially, they just try to hold a bigger stick, and hope that because it’s really big, people will respect them and not be put off by how heinously ugly their stick is.
It’s not a good way to go. And here’s why.
Bad Content Strategy #1: Automatic Content Aggregation
RSS feeds and algorithms that capture stuff that may or may not fulfil user needs and promote business goals do have one big advantage over strategic organic content: they save an awful lot of time. But then, they also might be costing you an awful lot of money in terms of their inability to engage clients or their lack of understanding and differentiation between good content and what my college buddies called ‘mind chunder’. You know it: the type of stuff you see in Facebook updates and twitter feeds that could easily be the deranged ranting of a person about to climb a tower with a high-powered rifle.
It’s like my uncle Erwin used to say: don’t take shortcuts (and he was waylaid by a moose taking a shortcut in the woods, so he would know better than most).
Bad Content Strategy #2: Let’s Publish Everything. Everything!!!
It seems like an obvious way to improve search engine rankings, provide value to your customers, show the competition you know what you’re about and basically just up your street cred when it comes to the internet. But, like most things that seem obvious, there is a huge BUT involved.
But, like the latest boy band, content gets old quickly. It starts to get in the way of efficient business practice, and it frustrates people wanting to get something from you. If you don’t look after it properly, search engines are going to ignore it (and soon, they’ll start to get a proper grip on this type of approach. And what then? They’re not going to be nice to you, that’s what). Worst of all, people will start to get vocal about their wasted time. Social media can kill a business quickly, so you don’t want people digitally hating on you.
Bad Content Strategy #3: Outsourcing for Cheap
A quick look at some of the crowd-sourcing platforms out there will show you that there are people (and worse yet, groups of people) willing to work for next to nothing. You can buy 500 words for $5 or less, and although it will most probably arrive on time, you will get what you pay for.
Badly written content, with a poor use of language and a dodgy understanding of your business will make you look like a chance-taking amateur. You will lose the trust of your clients and your competitors will laugh at you. Not good for business.
Bad Content Strategy #4: User Generated Content
You’re a businessperson, so you should know how fickle people can be, especially when it’s their hard-earned money you are asking them to part with. You’re setting out your stall, and unlike the local marketplace, you can’t even see people breezing past. Online, they click way quicker than they can walk, and they’re invisible. You want to rely on these people to produce content that produces business?
No, you don’t. You especially don’t want to rely on these people to advertise or seed your content, or drive its adoption by other people.
People have no vested interest in your business, they generally don’t have a lot of money, and they’re always short on time. They won’t work for you because you want them to, or because you hope they will.
And Finally, Towards a Good Content Strategy…
First, stop saying you don’t have time to think your content strategy through. You do. You just have to make it a priority. Everyone is under pressure to deliver – this is a high-paced, profit-mad, egocentric and dog-eat-dog world. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sit down and think things through. Much of that rushing around should function more as an argument for proper planning rather than against it.
Also, you need to realise that just as everything is time sensitive, everything is political. You’re not going to be able to put a great content plan into action simply because it’s a great content plan. You’re (probably) going to have to negotiate everything. So make nice, make friends, and talk things through.
Finally, (and this is getting repeated down here because it is the point that most needs to be repeated when it comes to content strategy) don’t underestimate the work involved in producing, managing and curating quality content. You need to take this process seriously simply because of the sheer volume of stuff out there, and the continual shrinkage of people’s attention spans, let alone the fact that everything you put out there should be fulfilling your user needs and achieving your business goals (never get tired of repeating that – it’ll serve you well). Take the time, put in the effort, reap what you sow. That’s a truism that will never become a cliché.