Too Much Content – Advice I Love to Ignore

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been told there is too much content I’d have, like $5.

The thing I see right away in the content is that there is far too much content. MORE PICTURES!!” -Sam, Web Designer, 11/16/2012

I agree! We need more pictures. Who’s going to take them?

When people say that a website needs less text, what they are really describing is a graphic design problem. They want a zero-entry, spoon-fed, baby-stepped introduction to the content. “Start me off with two-to-three words and a picture. If I like what I see, I’ll keep going.”

Too Much ContentType text layout is just as important as the pictures used on a website. Large fonts, small fonts, bold fonts, and font spacing can all play towards the readability of a site. A web site can be filled with text and still be readable as long as the text is organized correctly.

Okay, I get websites, but what about Social Media?

This morning one of my managers emailed me a link to Mashable’s Sorry, Marketers, You’re Doing Facebook Wrong. In it the author goes over a recent report that states, “When it comes to posts, less is more,” and “suggests a self-imposed 80-character wall for Facebook posts.” People are so “bombarded” with posts that we need to limit what we’re saying down to 80-character posts in order to get people to like us.

How about we make the posts as long as is appropriate for the material and the medium? For longer posts, consider writing an ebook, white paper, or a long blog post. Longer social posts are socially acceptable on Google+, but not as much on Tumblr or Facebook (Google+ tends to have a more intellectual crowd).

So is a ton of content good or bad? I’m confused.

Imagine if Google had the choice between serving up your 80-character post or your 10,000 word essay. Which one would it choose? The one that answers the question. Google wants to deliver the best results so that people keep using it and so they can keep selling ads. Aim to answer people’s questions (ie. add value) and it doesn’t matter how long your content is.

I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” ― Mark Twain

Neil Patel, a content marketing expert, recently wrote How Long Should Each Blog Post Be? In short, he found that the more established a brand is, the less they have to write. Conversely, the less established a brand, the more they have to write. This is how Nike can get away with short taglines in their advertisements, but newcomers have to use long sales letters to convince buyers.

One other aspect to consider is market sophistication levels. At sophistication level 1, no one knows what your product is or what it does. It’s totally unique and so it needs a lot more information written about it. At level 2 there are competitors so you’re only talking about what makes your product different. Each of the 5 levels states less and less about what the product actually does.

Content Length is Contextual

A good content marketer will take into account the medium he’s writing for, the target audience, and the market sophistication level of the product when determining how much content is too much content. Blanket statements like “there’s too much text” or “people don’t like to read” are simply not true without context. There is a time and place for all types of content length.

Content Management Systems vs. Managing Content

If I were tweeting today I would have wrote: WordPress is not so much a content management system as much as a content display system.

Content Management Systems vs. Managing Content

A content management system (CMS) designed by Erich Stauffer would allow content to be platform-agnostic. In DRY (don’t repeat yourself) terms, the content would be an object who’s repurposing could be tracked. Essentially, the content management system would not store the content, but report on the status and whereabouts of the content. Let me explain with an example.

Example: A blog post is written in WordPress. The dashboard in the CMS sees this new post via RSS and prompts the viewer to describe (via checkboxes) whether or not the material has been repurposed as a video, soundcloud, podcast, slideshare presentation, or as part of an email has been backlinked from Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

In essence, the CMS would work more as a marketing automation workflow tool – guiding you through the process of wringing out as much value from each initial post as possible. This same process could be accomplished via any sort of trusted system: pencil and paper, Word worksheets, Excel spreadsheets, Trello, or even WordPress itself via custom code.

I have yet to do it manually even once, yet I have recommended it to others many times. I’m not sure a tool would make me want to do it more, but ‘doing’ is not what I do. ‘Changing’ is what I do. That’s how I’m wired and I’m fine with that, but it doesn’t mean the ideas aren’t good or helpful for production workers who are more comfortable creating content in a structured environment.

It’s not that I don’t do stuff. I do practically whatever anyone tells me to do. I guess it would make more sense to put that line in context. I once worked in a corporate department where my boss used an analogy about us being the rudder and ‘ops’ being the engine. I had very little ‘corporate’ experience prior to working there and had never worked as a business analyst before. (I am very thankful for the opportunity as I feel it was one of the best jobs I ever had.)

As a result of my intial ignorance of how to be a business analyst, I wasn’t aware that other people had a similar or different opinion on the subject of how organizations should be organized. I only knew of it as ‘how my boss thought’. It wasn’t until after I visited the “Indianapolis Leadership Circle” (formerly known as the Leadership Mastery Group) put on by Tony Piazza that I heard something similar from the speaker, Scotty Bevill. He said (paraphrased for convenience):

[Project managers] don’t like to run things – we like to build, change, and refine things. That’s just who we are as people.

I use that word “people” specifically as Scotty was very adamant about business being “people dealing with people” and that we shouldn’t try to take the “human” out of who we are. The people in the room at the leadership meeting were mostly project managers who were mostly former IT workers. The other people in the room were current IT workers (such as myself, who is currently an IT Specialist in my day job). This is more of a belief about who we are as workers, not as much about the willingness to do or not do work. People like us (project managers and business analysts) prefer to be change agents, not production workers.

Content Management Systems vs. Managing Content

Permission to speak freely? Okay, for a second here I’m going to throw out all preconceived notions of what I should or should not do, what I am or am not capable of, and what does or does not make business sense. I’m just going to say what I think I want to do and then step back to see what sticks. As Scotty Bevill says, “Start with what is known.” Here’s what I know: I have found a way to add a sales funnel dimension to keyword research. Let’s call these “buyer keywords”.

  • Once you have identified ‘buyer keywords” you can start to write content that attracts those searchers.
  • Once content is created it can be both backlinked from social media and repurposed into other content.
  • Once visitors start coming to the content, the content can be optimized to increase conversions.

Compendium, a business blogging platform which recently got purchased by Oracle, has 3 steps to create content which are 1) Research 2) Organize and 3) Create. I’d like to create a service that does 1) SEO Keyword and Competition Research 2) Creates and Manages Content and 3) does A/B Optimization.

Content Repositories

Update: Since writing this I’ve since discovered something called a “Content Repository“. There are several types, but what they all have in common is a clear separation between the content and the presentation of the content. What I’m still looking out for (and willing to provide as a service until software can be built around it) is a way to track all content like a database and know when and/or how often it’s been linked out via social media or to certain social bookmarking sites and whether or not it’s been repurposed to a pre-defined selection such as Youtube, Soundcloud, or Podcast.

So when you take what I consider to be my ‘flux capacitor moment’ where I realized I had this ‘super power’ to attract customers to me by writing what matters to the customer and add in what I’ve since learned about content marketing, customer acquisition systems, and customer development I’ve got a knowledge base that is poised to be leveraged with the right content management system. By system I mean the methods (processes + tools) that can multiply the efforts of a content marketer by first finding out who is already seeking their product and writing directly to that person.

I’m not sure how to do this, but those are my collection of ideas.

Customer Acquisition Systems in a Marketing Ecosystem

You may have heard of “marketing platforms“, but I’d like to introduce what I’d like to call “marketing ecosystems”.

What is a Marketing Ecosystem?

While a marketing platform contains a ‘home base’ such as a web site and its corresponding marketing channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and Books – a Marketing Ecosystem takes a slightly broader view and encompasses:

  • The Marketing Platform
  • The People Doing the Marketing
  • The Processes of the Platform & the People
  • The Technology used by the People
  • A/B Testing, Events, Analytics, SEO, Twofers

Customer Acquisition Systems in a Marketing EcosystemA Marketing Ecosystem is a Customer Acquisition System that funnels traffic and buyers from the Marketing Platform into a trusted Onboarding System that has feedback loops to the Marketing Platform.

The outputs are blog posts, videos, social shares, books, events, products, and services. The inputs are traffic, phone calls, email, email sign-ups, new clients, and revenue. I’ve written before about how books are the new business cards, but now books can be your advertising too.

Licensing & Commercialization of Intellectual Property (Twofers)

In marketing terms, this is referred to as “repurposing content“. Content is the energy that keeps this Marketing Ecosystem running. Content creates traffic. Traffic leads to revenue.

The most effort should be spent on making the best content possible. Marketers will say “make it share-worthy” or “remarkable“, but let’s get back to basics. It needs to be quality. Quality attracts quantity. This is the core of Content Marketing.

An Example of Content Flow Through the Marketing Ecosystem

A trusted, knowledgeable person is mined for their insight. This insight is edited into a series of blog posts, a book, and several videos. In each of these marketing channels, backlinks are placed to buy a product or service and sign up for an email list. The same content is then sent to this email list with more links to buy products or services, but everything should be tested.

Test Everything (Beta Title for this Section Until Further Tests Completed)

Test Everything is a Marketing Ecosystem tenet. In SEO, conversions, and sales, the single most important element is the TITLE of the page, post, book, or sales brochure. In books, the cover is the second most important element. But how do you test? Using Facebook, Twitter, and Google Ads, test titles and covers until a significant improvement in sales is discovered.

Don’t Forget About the People or the Products and Services

Remember that this Marketing Ecosystem is made up of people talking to people who have problems that the products or services solve. People are messy, emotional, and rarely rational. They make decisions based on copy, design, urgency, FAQs, or personal referrals. And keep in mind that the people who answer the phone or emails also have emotions – so they need properly trained, but all of this cannot happen without quality products and/or services.

The marketing ecosystem can be perfect, but it will implode if the product or service is awful. A Marketing Ecosystem Engineer must ascertain whether or not a product or service is worth supporting or whether the product or service first needs further developed.

On Building a Customer Acquisition System using a Marketing Ecosystem

Once a marketing ecosystem is fully understood and the product or service has been fully vetted, a Customer Acquisition System can be built. This system would provide the editing and implementation of the web and social design, content creation, distribution, events, referral connections, email marketing, onboarding training, and do A/B testing and analytics. This system could be offered as a service.

An Example of a Customer Acquisition System at Work

A dentist is interviewed for his dental knowledge. This is turned into a series of blog posts and videos. Each of these have the opportunity to directly sell or add to an email list. The blog posts are turned into a book, which is sold on Amazon. This book also has links back to his products and services + the ability to sign up for his email list. The dentist can now claim that he is a published author. Each title and cover is A/B split tested to ensure the highest ranking and payout – and ultimately increased conversions.

How I Have Applied This System in the Past

I have attempted to create and use a system like this by taking some of my most popular blog posts on Erich Stauffer figurines (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) into an ebook on Amazon. However, I did not test the cover and feel that its design has hampered it’s sales. My Youtube channel is called “TheBlogReader” because it was meant to record me reading my blog posts as a form of repurposing content. I only did that a couple of times though, however I still recommend it to my clients, but they hardly ever want to do it. Maybe they are expecting me to do it for them. Video is one of the things I am going to be working on more this year.

How to Create a Customer Acquisition System

I’d like to say I have this all figured out, but I’m still learning and trying new things. I’m going to apply some of these principles to a new project I’m working on – one that I can’t share yet – but if you run a business in the Indianapolis area and want to talk about it, please let me know.