“Kill your darlings”, yes, I said it! It may sound crazy but will be one of the wisest and most valuable business decisions you made – here’s why
The problem is, simply put, out of control. Just because a company or individual can create and distribute content on a platform, doesn’t mean they should. But it’s happening… and it’s killing content marketing strategies around the globe.
I’ve had the opportunity to analyze content marketing strategies from huge brands, desperately trying to build audiences online leveraging content marketing. In almost every case, each one made the same mistake.
They diversify too quickly.
Let me explain.
When an organization decides to fund a content marketing strategy, the initial stages are always exciting. Just coming to the decision of which audience and content niche to target is an exhausting process, but once complete, the company is ready to create content…everywhere.
Should we do a blog? Check. How about a YouTube video series? Yes to that. Podcast? Sure. TikTok series? Why not. Email newsletter? I guess so.
Then add about five other social media channels and you have yourself a content marketing strategy.
Just not a good one.
According to Content Marketing Institute research, the average enterprise creates content on between 14 and 16 different platforms.
Succeeding at this kind of strategy is like winning the lottery. It just won’t happen.
Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.
One channel. One content type.
The greatest audience-building entities of all time selected one primary channel in which to build their platform:
- Financial Times—printed newspaper
- Fortune—printed magazine
- TED Talks—in-person events
- ESPN—cable television programming
- Huffington Post—online magazine format
- The Joe Rogan Experience—podcast show
- PewDiePie—YouTube series
Even in today’s age of social media, content empires start with one platform as the core base of operation and primarily deliver content at that one place over time to build an audience.
For my new book ‘Content Inc.‘, we interviewed and analyzed more than 100 individuals and small businesses who went from zero subscribers to a massive audience. After two or three years, these content empires became multi-million-dollar platforms.
The interesting part is that they didn’t diversify immediately, but focused on delivering consistently valuable content, primarily on one channel and one content type, choosing audio, video, or text plus images.
- Ann Reardon from ‘How to Cook That‘ decided to create consistent videos and distribute them on YouTube
- Philip Werner from ‘com‘ creates and delivers a text-plus-images blog post every day on his WordPress-developed website
- Wally Koval from ‘Accidentally Wes Anderson‘ distributes one image per day on Instagram, including amazing textual detail describing the location
But these are the exceptions. Most content marketing strategies run short-term blitzes (sometimes called campaigns), diversifying before the proper time.
Content marketing strategy is about saying “no”
When you decide to employ a content marketing strategy with the goal of building a loyal and trusting audience over time, you actually need to decide to not create and distribute content in certain places.
But what if you are already on multiple platforms? If you already have a content marketing strategy, now is probably the time to start killing some of your channels.
We always want more. We believe more is better. When launching a new content effort, “master of none, jack of all trades” never, ever works. How did Amazon become the most valuable company in the world? For three years the company sold only books. Once they perfected that model, only then did they begin selling other things. A proper content marketing strategy behaves the same way.
Successful content initiatives work because they start their journey with one amazing newsletter, one amazing video series, one amazing in-person event, or one amazing blog rather than 100 randomized content pieces that don’t inspire any kind of behavior change.
There is something about focus. There is something about being truly remarkable at one thing. The problem is that it requires you to choose. It requires you to stop creating content everywhere and focus on what’s really important, what will really move the needle.
The four components
Whether you are a media company, a large enterprise, or a content entrepreneur, building a loyal audience includes four key components.
First, identify one target audience
Choose an audience that is too broad and you’ve already failed.
Second, you need a differentiation area
We call this a content tilt. Basically, why would anyone want to engage in your content on a regular basis? Mark Schaefer, the author of Cumulative Advantage, calls this “finding the seam,” which is a content gap that you can exploit to rise above all the clutter.
Third, you identify the primary content platform
The one that makes the most sense for your storytelling. Both your expertise/skill area and the audience will dictate that.
And finally, you select your primary content type
These could look like videos on YouTube, text/images in an email, audio on a podcast, and imagery on Instagram.
When do I diversify into other platforms?
Did you know that Red Bull Media House started with a mini-magazine that they gave away at Formula 1 races? In order to include the results post-race, they actually lugged a Heidelberg press to the track and printed it next to the track.
That mini-magazine turned into ‘Red Bulletin‘ magazine. Once they built what Brian Clark from Copyblogger calls a minimum viable audience, then (and only then) did they diversify into the billion-dollar media conglomerate they are today.
The focus and energy they put into making the Red Bulletin great paid off. But this is not a rare occurrence for successful content empires. All great media companies do this and have for years. Look at ‘The Morning Brew’. They almost exclusively focused on building an amazing email newsletter for years. Once they built an audience of over 100,000 subscribers, then they diversified into the podcasts and the multiple other targeted digital newsletters they successfully developed.
So, set an audience/subscriber target and focus all your energy on reaching that number. Then, once you have a loyal audience that loves you and probably will buy anything from you, you can diversify to another platform.
But what about social media?
Of course, you can keep your precious social media channels. That said, you need to think about them differently. What’s the goal? Is it for research and development? Amplification of content? To build subscribers? Whatever the goal, make sure it aligns with your core platform.
Let’s look at ‘The Hustle’, newly acquired by Hubspot. The Hustle’s goal on Twitter is to be interesting every day to their target audience and ultimately drive new subscribers to their email newsletter. Everything they do on Twitter supports their platform strategy.
Bob Ross churned out ~30k paintings in his lifetime.
Nearly 3x the output of Picasso.
But finding one online for sale?
— The Hustle (@TheHustle) May 2, 2021
So yes, you don’t have to close up all your social media, but you sure as heck have to align your goals with your platform.
Try killing one
Building a platform that works is challenging for any sized company. We all have limited resources in some way.
The best advice is to perform an honest analysis of what you are doing. Maybe that podcast just doesn’t make sense. Maybe that YouTube series is a waste of time? Or maybe not.
Perform a simple content audit and, then, kill something. Kill something so that you can be better at something else. Who knows, maybe your podcast or your email newsletter could be amazing but you just haven’t focused enough because you are tinkering with Facebook groups or TikTok.
Make the tough decisions now so that, later, you can build the audience of your dreams.