Content Marketing Is Getting Harder. That’s a Good Thing.

The digital media world is focused on content.

Joshua Topolsky, co-founder of The Verge and Vox Media, recently took to Medium to chastise media entities in a barn-burner of a piece titled “Your Media Business Will Not Be Saved.” The entire piece is worth a read, but this part stood out to many readers (edited for language):

“Your problem is that you make [junk]. A lot of [junk]. Cheap [junk]. And no one cares about you or your cheap [junk]. And an increasingly aware, connected, and mutable audience is onto your cheap [junk]. They don’t want your cheap [junk]. They want the good [junk]. And they will go to find it somewhere.”

It’s a lesson that digital marketers would be wise to heed as well, as Facebook has announced changes to its algorithm. Guess what these changes will favor? Pages that share content users want to read.

From Facebook’s blog post:

“[W]e’re learning that the time people choose to spend reading or watching content they clicked on from News Feed is an important signal that the story was interesting to them. We are adding another factor to News Feed ranking so that we will now predict how long you spend looking at an article in the Facebook mobile browser or an Instant Article after you have clicked through from News Feed.”

Whether you’re a newspaper trying to attract readers or a brand driving sales through a strategic digital marketing campaign, clicks have been a key metric to judge the performance of content for years. But as users become savvier to algorithm-gaming tactics and social networks fight to keep their audiences engaged, it’s natural that the time spent on a video or article becomes more important.

As 2016 continues, organizations should focus more on the quality of their content than the quantity of content to prepare for how digital platforms will adapt to audience preferences. Digital marketers have spent years building big audiences—now it’s time to prove your value to them by providing helpful or surprising content that gets you noticed. Here are a few quick tips on how to do this:

Don’t rely on cat videos. Unless, of course, you’re a cat breeder, animal shelter, or another organization that is somehow trying to activate cat owners. Audiences know when you’re pandering, and they’ll penalize you for it through negative comments or by unfollowing or unliking your account.

Surprise your audience. Show the human side of your organization. Provide actionable advice to your audience. Ask questions and have your experts answer them. By creating useful, sharable content, you make it easy for your fans sing the praises of your brand.

Know that you will not reach everyone. By creating strong content for a clearly defined audience, odds are you’re not going to reach hundreds of millions of users. Get comfortable with that. You want to reach the right people who will eventually become customers or clients.

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