Blog: Design Musings and Other Nonsense

We discuss design, business, web products and other miscellany.

Natural Content Marketing


Content marketing has become a huge topic of discussion today. Lots and lots of people are talking about content marketing. So much so that a mini gold-rush is on, with lots of marketing companies throwing their hats in the ring, promising gains in traffic, sales, and “stickiness” by offering to provide a robust content marketing process.

To me, it seems that a lot of thest content marketing providers are SEO companies evolving to remain relevant. That is, in my humble opinion, SEO is not what it was even five years ago. Quite simply, search engines are simply getting too smart to be (easily) gamed. I see this trend only continuing, and as such, I think the smart SEO people are looking at content marketing as a way to grow with these changes.

In my opinion, this is inherently a good thing. That is, content is a thing. And, by creating more things, there is more content available to us in the world. Now, will every piece of content be edifying for each and every person? Well, of course not. But, since good content is valuable, and the good content is the most likely to get shared/commented-on/etc. (which is the main goal of content marketing). As such, this should mean that more, better, content will be unleashed on the world, which is a good thing.

Now, with this rah-rah attitude towards content marketing, you would think that I consume content marketing like crazy. The fact is, I don’t. In fact, I think most pieces of content created for content marketing are not very compelling, interesting, or worth reading. The problem with this sort of content, for me, is that is is often superficial, hyperbolic, or just common sense.

To be more specific, what I am talking about are the sorts of blog posts which have run rampant through the design and development blog communities (and probably lots of other industries too). They are the “Top 10 Ways to Tame jQuery” or “Fifteen things You NEED in Your Next Contract” or “101 Examples of Great Use of Poison Dart Frogs in Design”.

To me, these sorts of posts, or articles, are tiresome. They are like pre-packaged meals, built to hit a spec, but they never really deliver on the experience. When I read a blog article, I want to read about something that means something. I want to be challenged to think differently, to hear about something awesome, or learn how other (really smart) people’s minds work. To me, these “Top List” posts are often trite and meaningless.

So, why am I talking about this today? Well, it is because I have had it pitched to me (by some very smart marketing-type folks) to increase this sort of content on this site. My initial reaction was like a petulant two-year old. With arms firmly crossed, and a pursed face, my initial response was a resounding “NO!”.

But why? What is wrong with this sort of content? If people share it, it must be good right? And, if people share it, and hear about you (when they wouldn’t have otherwise), isn’t it worth it? In a word, no.

There are a bazillion people blogging on the Internet, a fact I am thankful for almost daily. The ability to be exposed to opinions who would never have risen above a populist threshold to be heard in the traditional publishing industry is wonderful. And, as one of those bazillion, I have to ask (and answer) a fundamental question: What do I want to say? No one is forcing me to write these articles, and so, why? Why put fingers to keyboard? Why devise topics and work them out in a blog post?

My simple answer is to put a different voice into the mix, to (perhaps) take a different angle on issues and say something new, or different, or at least mildly interesting. And to me, most marketed pieces of content are none of these.

What I try to do instead is what I call “Natural Content Marketing”. It is far less effective than traditional content marketing, but it is also far more authentic (a trade I will take, every time).

Maybe this is naive, but my attitude is that I will write about what I think is interesting, what I wish people would write about, and let the sharing chips fall where they may. I don’t write to achieve any sort of artificial status of twitter followers, subscribers, or clients. In fact, if I did come at this blog/site that way, I would an abysmal failure.

Plus, I am just too much of a creative curmudgeon to be told what to write. For me, this kills the flow, and makes writing arduous. And, I know this is pedantic, but not writing what think is at least a little intellectually dishonest, which spoils the whole effort. To me, creative writing comes from a pure place that must be treated with respect and appreciation.

What I think is important, and interesting, is people plumbing the depths of what they think and why. How they think the world works, what makes them successful, what holds them back, and what makes something awesome. That, I will read, and so, that is what I try to write.

Photo Credit: Sprout Content

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