OK, I’m at attempt number 3 at trying to write this post and find enough things in my 2015 book that I got right. Things have changed so much in that time, that it was much easier for me to find things I got wrong.
But I persisted and I’ve managed to find 5 things I was close enough to getting right, let’s get into them.
It’s not much, but I think what content marketing was then and is now, is very much the same thing. “Content marketing is releasing something interesting that grabs attention for a business and builds trust”. Other than I suppose the order has shifted in a lot of cases where these days it seems there are just as many examples of people creating the content and the audience first, and building the business later.
Related: Product-audience fit
But essentially whether it’s businesses using social media and content to reach audiences and spread their brand into the world, or its influencers or celebrities using their existing audience to sell things to, the idea is the same – create some attention-grabbing content and use it monetise the attention.
One definition that has flipped however is my definition of Great content “Something you provide to your audience that captures their attention and encourages them to engage and share”. These days the audience is less ‘yours’ as social media platforms move away from the traditional “social graph” to more towards the “interest graph”, your job is to create something that is generally engaging to people on the platform and the algorithm spreads it well outside your follower circle. And for that reason, it’s less important for your audience to want to share it and more important to just make something that is engaging and keeps people watching. The social networks will reward you for it by showing the video to more people – because that solves an engagement problem for them.
Hooks weren’t quite as understood back then as they are now. I did mention the importance of hooking people’s attention with your headlines as the book was more about written content, but they have become more relevant than ever 8 years on.
At the time I said “Always remember not to be too “over the top” with your hooks, or you will run the risk of disappointing your readers once they check out your content.”
Well the importance of hooks is alive and well but not being over the top is not the direction it’s gone in! If you want to see absurd hooks in action, just open TikTok and start scrolling. The effort people will go to to put something at the start of a video to make you watch it until the end has become extreme.
Shouting “stop scrolling!”, showing people randomly dancing for no reason, showing 2 videos at once of completely unrelated content, showing content that let’s you know something is about to be revealed (you know what I mean) , showing the end of the video first, saying the opposite of what people expect you to say, showing videos where it appears something is going to happen but nothing actually happens are just some examples. Hooks have taken over modern content creation. In a world where most of your content is shown outside your traditional audience and networks only care about time on screen, this is the game now.
Influencers were’t a huge thing back in 2015 but we still sort of knew that there were people with big audiences (used to be mainly email lists) that could help spread your message. We hadn’t even yet really agreed that ‘influencer’ was the right word for these people. Where it’s gone in the 8 years since, is pretty spectacular to see.
These days people are making millions of dollars from a few posts on their social media accounts if they are ‘influential’ enough. And as much as some of us might not like it, people with large social media followings for whatever reason, are pretty damn influential.
One thing I promoted quite a bit back then was creating your own Facebook groups for engaging with your really close fans. I did it with my first book, The 7 Day Startup back in 2013 and the group helped get the book to a number 1 ranking on Amazon. I did it again with my brewery Black Hops, with the group helping get the brewery named as the number 1 brewery brand in the country 2 years in a row.
I still use the strategy now with my podcast The Boss and the Brewer, where we have a Facebook group and each week the most keen listeners ask questions and give us free content ideas for the show. It’s a great way to keep the discussion going during the week about the current week’s episode. I’ve even noticed that people with large enough audiences have these groups created for them in some cases which is quite cool.
Still after all these years I’m still using Facebook for this and I think it still work pretty well. Facebook page engagement has dropped off for me and my own organic channels are harder than ever to reach people on, but the groups seem to still go quite well. The idea of engaging your most keen supporters at a deeper level than your public social media accounts and email lists, is always going to be a good one.
Storytelling was a pretty big focus of the book and it’s something I’ve talked about a lot throughout the years.
“The most powerful content in the world moves people in one way or another. It could be through humor, through surprise or shock, or just purely joy (entertainment). In short, you do it by telling good stories. Storytelling is a great way to capture and hold people’s attention. It’s been proven over generations and is a simple strategy for you to use with your content. Learning how to craft stories and how to follow a framework to tell your story is a worthy exercise.”
I’m happy to say this hasn’t really changed. A great story is still the best way to get people’s attention for a business or for your content and investing in your ability to tell stories is still a good use of your time.
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