Last week I attended the Content Summit in Brisbane to speak on a panel and that led me to reflecting on how many things I got wrong about Content Marketing in my 2015 Book Content Machine.
After sending the post to my weekly email list (subscribe here), I had a few people reply wondering what I thought I got right, it’s 40,000 words there must be something in there that isn’t way off!
I dusted the book off again and had a look fully planning on writing a follow up post on the things I got right. Unfortunately though, on a quick pass I couldn’t come up with 5 and I found it much easier to find more things I got wrong, and what’s more I found 6 more! So here they are, 6 more things I got wrong about Content Marketing in my 2015 Book Content Machine.
BTW this isn’t intended on being a self deprecating article, the book was never designed as a look forward into the future of content marketing – it was just what was working at the time, and boy have things changed.
Quality over quantity
The book focused heavily on the idea that content quality was the most important thing and quantity wasn’t super important. My thinking was that I’d created 100s of posts and only a few had ‘hit’ so the key was to find the ones that hit.
In observing the content that seems to go well in 2023 I’m not sure I’d agree. When I look at people getting a lot of attention with content, I’m blown away by the amount they post. And even people who I follow on places like Twitter or TikTok, I’m shocked by how many times I see certain people’s posts. I follow @levelsio he’s tweeted 108,400 times since he joined in July 2013. That’s 3,551 days averaging 30 tweets per day every day for a decade!
Want to know something funny? I just looked at his profile for the point of writing this and found I don’t even follow him! I see his Tweets constantly I just assumed I followed him!
I follow @justinwelsh (I actually do, I just checked), he must send 50-100 tweets per day I see them constantly!
Same on TikTok, same as Instagram, have you seen the story length of some of the people who have a big following on Instagram? It just looks like a big full line.
The days of creating one decent piece of content per week seem to be over. The people getting a lot of attention on these platforms must be creating hundreds if not thousands of small pieces of content per week. The algorithms love quantity and once social networks became predominantly algorithm-driven as opposed to follower-driven, the quality over quantity idea went out the window to some extent.
Blogger, content marketer or creator?
In the book I drew a distinction between a blogger and a content marketer. I thought at the time there was a group of writers who identified as a ‘blogger’ and my position was if you want to use content marketing to build a business then the business should come first. I preferred the term content marketer because the idea was always to start with a business and then create content to market to potential customers. Blogging just seemed like it didn’t have a lot of purpose, it was just about creating content.
Well I’d say things have changed on that front. The people doing very well with content these days are often referred to as Creators. It’s a term that’s gathered a lot of steam since I wrote the book, it wasn’t used much back in 2015. Now when you sign up to a professional account on Instagram it asks you if you are a business or a creator.
The idea of creating a lot of content to get a following and then figuring out what to sell them afterwards was a frowned upon strategy in 2015. It lacked direction and seemed like a hail mary. But what people have done since then by executing this exact strategy is absolutely mind blowing.
In the last month I’ve been to over 15 different shops to find a certain product. There’s an app in the app store made by a random person on Twitter (not affiliated with the company) that tracks stockists for the product – it’s the number 1 paid app in the Apple App Store in Australia today. My kids talk about this product every morning, every afternoon and every night. When I put them to bed they wonder whether tomorrow will be the day they get it. Stores who got it early were marketing up by 500%.
The product is a drink called Prime, made by 2 guys who started out making funny videos on YouTube. It’s the fastest growing drink of all time. The company turned over more than $100,000,000 in its first year. I remember when my life’s goal was to create a 6 figure business! I don’t even know how many figures $100m is!
Mind blowing numbers, but the story of building an audience doing one thing and making a lot of money selling totally unrelated products to them is not uncommon.
- Mr Beast makes interesting videos on YouTube. He is worth $1.5b. He sells a snack food Feastibles valued at $50m, his Mr Beast Burger franchise operation makes over $100,000,000 per year. He’s 24 years old.
- Conor McGregor, a UFC fighter created whisky brand called Proper 12 and sold it a few years later in a deal worth $600m.
- Ryan Reynolds an actor, recently sold a his gin company Aviation Gin for almost $1b, and his mobile company Mint Mobile for $2b.
- In 2015 when I wrote the book, Kylie Jenner was worth $5m. 6 years later she became the world’s youngest self made billionaire at 21 by leveraging her following on social media into extremely successful unrelated business in cosmetics.
There are so many more examples, these days the model has very much shifted to build first and sell later as opposed to create a business and figure out a way to get your content in front of potential customers.
I was wrong, and it bums me out because in a way I wish I doubled down on my personal brand back then when it was going quite well, but I thought it was’t the move – instead opting to focus all of my attention on businesses and more or less shutting down my personal brand.
In the book I had a long section on what I thought were the components of high quality content including being useful, easy to read, emotionally relatable, not all about you (lol), specific, generous, original, sharable, interesting, long (lol).
So many of these things are way off the mark in 2023. For starters people who create content all about them seem to be rewarded more and more these days. Being sharable doesn’t matter as much these days because of the change in algorithm meaning you can get content in front of people without someone having to actively share it – so the goal now is just eyeballs, not creating something so great people want to share it.
Original I would say is not as important as it was, just have a look at TikTok, millions of people creating basically the same video day after day after day.
And ‘long’ couldn’t have been more wrong. Short has won for sure. Stories have taken over social networks, short form video sharing networks are growing bigger than anything else (TikTok, Reels etc). Long form is harder and harder, shorter and more content is the winner.
Blog comments or comments generally
Around the time I wrote the book a few of the popular ‘bloggers’ removed comments from their blog. I thought this was a huge mistake and thought the comments area on the blog was a good place to get a feel for the impact of your content and was a great way to engage with your readers. Recently when I decided to kick my blog and email list off again, I made the decision to turn off comments on the blog just like they did years ago.
Comments sections in 2023 have sort of become their own little back room of the internet, with their own culture and personality. It’s more rare for them to be a genuine discussion of the content, and more common for them to become a place for your own content to live. What I mean by that is, a comment online is a place to get eyeballs on your own words.
The comments threads in social posts are sometimes really entertaining, sometimes really toxic, but generally no longer a place for genuine engagement with your audience. Getting people to comment on a blog post these days is nearly impossible anyway! Once people’s profiles get big enough, the comments are so impossible to manage that they don’t even read them.
I have to take the L on this one. Google+ launched a few years before the book came out. The tech giants were in a flurry to compete with Facebook with Apple launching its terrible attempt iTunes Ping and Google coming out with Google+ not long after.
The general sentiment at the time was Google was important when it came to ranking content and they were so big and had access to so many users that Google+ should not be ignored. Most marketers like me were actively sharing stuff on there but not getting a lot of engagement. In the book I had Google+ as a recommended place to share content.
Turns out we all could have safely ignored it, because it was ultimately shut down after not getting enough traction in users and engagement.
The main differentiator in Google Plus was this idea of ‘Circles’ where the user could manually add people to different groupings. The idea seemed fun, but as it turns out it’s actually the opposite of what people ultimately want. As was made clear by the explosion of TikTok, people don’t want to really do anything other than scroll.
TikTok has double the engagement level of any of its rivals (over 10 minutes per session). Google+ had an average engagement time of 5 seconds.
TikTok realised that people don’t want to do anything but scroll, so they create a product that is supremely engaging from the second you open it. It doesn’t require a social graph, you don’t have to follow anyone, it’s smart enough to do all of that for you. And the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube have all gone in the same direction as a result.
No mention of AI
In 2015 there wasn’t much talk of AI. It’s hard to imagine any conversation about content creation happening in 2023 without ChatGPT or other AI tools being the first thing mentioned. AI is completely changing the way content creators plan and execute content. In fact even a book about content marketing seems a bit superfluous in 2023 given you can pretty much ask ChatGPT anything about it and you’ll get a better response.
Just as an experiment I asked ChatGPT to give me some me thoughts on some components of high quality content. All of these came with an explanation as well but here is its list vs my list from 2015.
|Dan’s List||ChatGPT’s List|
Not all about you
I think the ChatGPT list is better than mine, but the bigger point is you wouldn’t even ask for a generic list of ’10 features of great content’ when you can just ask Chat GPT to give you some specific ideas for some content, and write it for you (in your own voice) and give you the code to publish it (if needed). Even whole books have now been released that have been written by AI.
Yesterday I saw a LinkedIn post with some very specific ideas for using AI to promote a podcast, it’s great stuff and I’m going to give it a go this week for my Podcast The Boss and the Brewer. I think there’s a good chance we can 10X our engagement with a few hours work, with the power of AI. This stuff is extremely powerful and has completely changed what it is do be a content marketer in 2023.
Where to from here
I may still do that post on things I got right because there were a few, but there’s probably a higher chance I get a better content idea from AI.
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