The Content Marketer’s Shortest Day: Inspirations to Let Content Be Your Light
On this Shortest Day of 2012, I am a sad observer watching the aftermath of last week’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. The winter solstice also known in the northern hemisphere as the darkest time of the year has special meaning for me. While we celebrate the days that will slowly start getting longer, we must also acknowledge the darkness in the world around us. The solstice is my time to do that.
My social channels are jammed with messages that make it clear: people are trying to make sense of this dark tragedy by creating and sharing content. We are not new to national tragedy, but we are new to a world where the aftermath and reaction is no longer localized. Social networks and new media tools are now vehicles for anger, sadness, solidarity, insight and more. What happens next is the result of how we participate — through content.
Content with intent is, after all, what we seek to do in the business world. There is much to be learned from the imaginative ways people have responded commemorate those who were lost:
- This Tweet from @MotherNatureNet listed things anyone upset or grieving can do. 9 of the 14 involve content creation and participation — even content abstinence (online gamers calling for today to be a day of cease fire #osceasefire). The rest involve taking action in solidarity with the victims and their grieving loved ones.
- Arianna Huffington called for action rather than national conversation.
- Many petitions to choose from have been added to Change.org from people wanting our country’s legal and legislative branch to respond.
With these examples of people (ordinary to famous) using content for change, there are elements we can take forward into our content marketing strategies for the New Year:
#1 Question creation. Sometimes the most engaging content is best produced by your customers. In 2008 I was part of a team that launched the Cisco Learning Network, a social learning resource for IT professionals pursuing Cisco certification. People worldwide signed up and their enthusiasm created a community for information and peer-to-peer education. We also seeded the community with original and technical learning content and hand-curated IT career information. But the peer-to-peer element made the site sticky and created brand loyalty. The community is now more than 500,000 members. Can you give your brand enthusiasts a stake in your content creation process?
#2 Human touch. Content is king because of the human touch. Content that you curate and publish should in some way carry your company’s perspective on why the information is important. If you’re a B2B company, make the information an integral resource your customer can use in his workday and you’ll reap the benefits. Brands are becoming publishers in part because customers are looking (and searching too, of course!) for content that helps them make buying decisions or informs. Content is your tool to assist them in the process. It’s no surprise that companies like Coca Cola are publicly declaring a shift from “creative excellence to content excellence.” Help your customers make sense of the industry around them.
#3 Filtered or curated? Both matter tremendously. In 2010 Gwen Bell predicted that the need for filtering technology would rise in the next 5-10 years. It’s happening even sooner than that. As brands become publishers, they do so in a realm where a Facebook “Like” = consent. Of course, that’s changing. Like filtering, curation also reduces the overall volume of content but to instead include it in a mix. Both challenge marketers who must often compromise by investing in certain content channels (social networks, for example) and not others. Fresh (recent) content, new perspectives and original thought are the qualities that keep content value high, be it curated or original.
#4 Thought leadership. It’s not just for breakfast anymore. Thought leadership can be built from a compelling mix of original and curated content. More content increases the likelihood of SEO-positive audience engagement. The technologies you need to create your content mix are out there! LinkedIn’s recent launch of its Thought Leaders Program is a great example of a brand starting to publish as a way to engage its 187 million members in 200 countries. Their challenge is a double edged sword of opportunity (content attracts) and challenge (many industries are present in the LinkedIn network).
#5 Create collaboratively. More is in fact, merrier. Positive expression can be contagious. This summer, I participated in a flash mob convened by a local dance studio. The purpose? Just have fun. No marketing fliers or promotional materials, just joy — as much as we could muster for a bustling Saturday farmer’s market. We danced for 5 minutes to choreography and music curated from the instructors. Classes leading up to the event were practice embedded right into the product. In a recent article, David Cooperstein shared some interesting ideas about pushing digital into the physical realm. Does your industry offer an annual tradeshow where people gather in person? Who can you invite to collaborate to craft a memorable experience?
Wishing peace, healing and the return of the light upon those reading, grieving, creating and participating in the human experience as the wheel of the year turns.