4 Signs You’re Investing in Bullshit Content Marketing

It’s really not difficult to be a good content marketer.

You write stuff that people want to read. You occasionally promote your product. You build your brand as an authority.

And you keep the promises that you swear you’re going to keep.

How many times have you read articles like these and felt betrayed by the end:

If you’re like most people, you might have even been tempted to click on one of these links, only to learn (again) that most of its content is inapplicable rubbish. If making a million dollars overnight were really guaranteed, idiot-proof, or even easily replicable, everyone would be doing it. Instead, they’re just replicating a headline that works.

Content marketers are trying to trick their readership into reading information less dedicated to serving the customer and more dedicated to serving the business. I can guarantee you that none of your customers appreciate you wasting their time. (Why do you think Upworthy has such a bad reputation?)

I call this phenomenon bullshit content marketing. 

There are, of course, great blogs out there. And sometimes even those great blogs have misses on their promises, but still perform (or the tragic phenomenal blog that never gets noticed). What I think every competent marketing executive should be channeling John Wanamaker when he said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” Well, I can tell you that cutting your bullshit content should be step #1.

If you’re making any of these content marketing mistakes, consider cutting the fat. All you need is high-quality, entertaining or helpful content. Everything else should be promptly destroyed. 

What does that include?

1. Focusing your efforts on newsjacking

It’s difficult to get newsjacking right… and easy to get it wrong. 

Newsjacking is the process of relating a popular current event to your marketing efforts. The most famous newsjacking was when Oreo made light of the 2013 Superbowl power outage.

Funny, right? In fact, Oreo’s newsjacking success caught the eye of several other businesses who immediately tried to duplicate its success. Some of it really worked.

Unfortunately, most of them didn’t. 

While newsjacking can be successful for a hot minute or two, the long-lasting newsjacking stories tend to be those of corporate embarrassment. 

Newsjacking is simply not worth your time unless it can be strategically planned for. What made the Oreo tweet so successful is that it felt so organic and sweet–marketers couldn’t have planned on the Superbowl blackout. Unless you can really cleverly plan to make New Years or Thanksgiving really relate to your product, forgo the timely tweets and focus on long-term planning instead.

2. Spending money on content that even your mother wouldn’t care about

I hate to break it to you, but your content is probably really boring. Like, stale marketing PowerPoint presentation boring.

And the worst part about it is that your readers’ disinterest is not their own fault. Your content should have been written for them. Boredom with your blog is your fault, no one else’s. 

There are only three kinds of content that engages readers: informative content (ex: research), entertainment (ex: online quizzes), and problem solving (ex: how-to’s).

Everything else is unquestionably bullshit content marketing because anything else directs attention away from the potential customer. It’s only natural that Internet users are all “Me, Me, Me;” why would you scroll through a blog for anyone else? 

3. Spraying and praying

Are you on these distribution channels? Keep a mental list:

  1. Twitter
  2. Facebook
  3. Google+
  4. Pinterest
  5. Reddit
  6. StumbleUpon
  7. Flipboard
  8. We Heart It
  9. Kaboodle
  10. Digg
  11. Tumblr 
  12. Yammer
  13. Instagram
  14. YouTube
  15. LinkedIn
  16. Periscope

If you’re on more than four channels and you’re not involved in a multi-billion dollar organization, you’re wasting your time.

(Trust me. It’s a lot easier to overdo it than underdo it.)

Overpromoting is symptomatic of a bigger issue: you don’t know where your audience is. Because I write about content marketing for more advanced professionals, I know my audience is all over the place, but that I should double down on Twitter and LinkedIn. 

For CMOs, it’s also a giant waste of money. To promote well, each piece of content on each channel deserves hours of work. Don’t shout out to a crowd on a megaphone and hope one or two customers hear you–snuggle up to them and whisper in their ear.

4. Forgoing a story

Research is not a story.

Repurposing other people’s original content is also not a story. 

Storytelling, in content marketing, is the same as storytelling in the “real world.” It involves a journey, a purpose, emotion, and connection. This is how brands can clench onto an audience.

Dry content, manufactured content, and boring content are all content without a story. 

How do you make sure that you’re getting your story told?

Have a content strategy that centers around a story. Promise your readership something, like that they will learn how to fix up their own home or that they will learn about the best free headline tools available, and follow through. 

Hire traditional writers and journalists. These are the people who are not only already trained in the art of storytelling, but also have an ear for a good lede. 

Finally, stop trying to bullshit your readership.

Your audience isn’t stupid. They know when you’re spitting content at them with the only goal of getting at their wallets. Your audience deserves more respect than that.

And so too the craft of content marketing as a whole. 

2 thoughts on “4 Signs You’re Investing in Bullshit Content Marketing”

  1. I really enjoyed this post! Thanks for setting me straight, haha. I think the last one is a real mind balance to gain before typing… everytime.

  2. This is probably one of the best articles on marketing I have read in a long time, if ever. I have seen so much of the same kind of garbage you are talking about online and it make my stomach turn. Every time I see an obviously BS click bait headline for some clearly worthless "article" I am sickened by it. I majored in journalism back when journalism was already on the brink of collapsing and eventually I just gave up trying to get a news reporting job at all. Since that time, trying to transition into PR, marketing and other related fields has been excruciatingly tedious. Dealing with unimaginative marketing firms who would rather get me to go stand out on the corner hawk wares on the street like a common peddler than pay me modest salary to write content for their clients seems to have become the norm now for so many people who are still trying to work in marketing can expect for their prospects for employment. I was at just such a firm yesterday for a "round one" interview. I had already read the reviews of their BS on glassdoor but went to the interview anyway. While waiting for the interview I chatted with the other potential hires in the waiting room and was surprised that some of them even had MBA degrees. The market seems to be saturated now with desperate, over-educated under-paid young people clawing for fake jobs from scam artist operations. I am becoming so sick of all the BS I see in marketing that I am almost ready to give up on it entirely. Years ago I thought I wanted to be a storyteller. Now I find that most firms see me as only useful to be a one line bullshit artist and cat-caller. Marketing is bullshit.

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