Gary Vaynerchuk nailed it with the phrase “marketers ruin everything”. Here’s some tips to help you break away from interruptive marketing tactics and start telling stories that people love.
Ten years ago, if you’d told me I was going to become a marketer, I probably would have laughed at you.
There’s nothing in this world that drives me more crazy than advertising. I dread the influx of calls from “private number” on a Friday morning, like you can’t believe. My junk folder on Gmail reached such an astounding volume of spam, that I had to open a second (and then third) account, just to escape. So it seems almost ironic, that such a self-proclaimed hater of marketing communications ended up in that very same field.
Let me explain why I’ve become an inbound marketing evangelist (that’s right, I genuinely love inbound marketing).
Stop storytelling like it’s 2007
I recently discovered Gary Vaynerchuk - and I’m so glad that I did.
Firstly, he’s hilarious. But more importantly, he makes marketers take a good, hard look at themselves from the perspective of their audience. His key message is that “marketers ruin everything”. We’re like cats chasing mice. Every time the mice find somewhere safe to hide, it’s not long before the cats start gathering, and the mice need to move on again.
Gary’s video, Stop storytelling like it’s 2007, inspired me to write this post.
From cave paintings, to folk tales, human beings have been sharing stories since the beginning of time. The art of storytelling is deeply ingrained in our history, our cultures and our daily lives. As a journalist, I love stories. I love reading them, and more than anything, I love telling them. When I was a child I used to write and illustrate “novels” with my dad, so it seems only natural that I grew up to be a writer.
As a journalist turned marketer, I spend a great deal of my day consuming content as part of my research. I subscribe to hundreds of newsletters and blogs, I follow a lot of businesses on social media and watch lots of videos, like Gary’s, on YouTube.
What I’ve come to realise is that, when it comes to content, the internet has reached saturation point.
Image source Giphy
Every brand is trying to stake claim to their niche online - but very few are actually adding true value with their content.
We all know that blogging is a great way to boost search engine optimisation (SEO) and that social media platforms help us to distribute our content to a much wider audience. However, what we need to realise is that our audience is smart enough to distinguish between content which was selfishly created to rank highly on Google (and subliminally punt sales), and content which authentic, and genuinely adds value to their lives. In Stop storytelling like it’s 2007, Gary explains that one of the most common areas that brands fail to add value, is on social media.
Why are social media networks so badly misunderstood?
This is because, traditionally, we’ve seen social media as a distribution channel only - lumping all the various platforms under this umbrella term, and failing to acknowledge their unique characteristics.
Image source Giphy
Gary urges marketers to stop trying to use a one-size-fits-all strategy on social media saying, “we have to start respecting the nuances of the platform”.
Content + Context = giving the right person, the right message at the right time.
Image source Stare Cat
Successful content marketing is a marriage between content and context - without context, your beautifully written piece of content will never have the impact you hoped for.
“99% of people are looking at social networks as distribution. You’re doing something somewhere else, and then you’re using the Tweet to drive towards it. You’re using the Facebook status update to drive towards it. We default to thinking that social networks are distribution, because we treat it like email. To really win in the world we’re all about to embark into, we need to start respecting all these platforms. [...] We have to start respecting the context and the nuances of the room”.
In order to merge content and context successfully, we need to understand the psychology behind why people are in a certain space. Why are they on Instagram, and not on Facebook? Your audience on Facebook is vastly different from your audience on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest.
“When you’re on Facebook, that’s an all encompassing awareness around your social graph. When you’re on Pinterest, your psychology is intent to buy or aspiration to buy. You need to be storytelling differently in those platforms. We have to be giving them different visuals that are mapped to the psychology, and not the number of users that are there. [...] We need to be asking why they’re there”.
Understanding the psychology behind the different social media platforms
If you have 1 000 followers on each of your brand’s social media platforms, and you post the same piece of content across all of these platforms, you’re likely to notice that it perform differently on each platform. A blanket strategy is insulting to your audience - what this shows is that you haven’t taken the time to listen to why they are there, and what they expect from you in this space.
“Why does somebody like to go to Tumblr? Because they like [...] animated GIFs. So give it to them, and give it to them in a way that a human being would give it to them - not a brand”.
People are tired of brands interrupting them with messages that they didn’t ask for, and aren’t ready to hear. It’s so difficult to capture an audience’s attention - why would we risk losing it, by producing content that isn’t helpful or relevant, and disguising it behind catchy titles, that promise the reader value that isn’t there?
“What I’ve been testing, is jab, jab, jab, right hook”, Gary explains. This is the principle of give, give, give - and then ask. “How about we listen instead of talking - people like that”. This is what sets the inbound methodology apart from traditional marketing methods.
The inbound marketing methodology acknowledges that people have had enough of being interrupted. It’s a movement to produce marketing that adds value, using the Pareto Principle (80% of your content should be informative, entertaining and educational, and only 20% should be self-promotional and speak about your brand).
“Give people value and funny stories. Give them an animated GIF that makes them laugh. Say happy Monday, it’s fine. You don’t need a business objective for every piece of creative. We live in a world where it’s not just about campaigns - where you do two or three of them, and you spend all your money. We live in a world where we’re doing it everyday, a lot of it, and so we have the freedom - the creative freedom to actually act human, and bring a little value to them”.
Here’s how you can start telling stories that you’re audience will love
Make sure you’ve got stories worth telling
If you looking for “quick and easy”, don’t do content marketing. Creating an original and authentic piece of content, which adds value for your audience, takes time - but the results will be well worth your effort. Both inbound marketing and content marketing are about establishing your brand as the go to source for information, educating and building trust, and building relationships with your audience.
This can’t (and won’t) happen overnight.
If you don’t have anything helpful, relevant or useful to say, rather don’t say anything at all - there are no shortcuts to creating good quality content. Bombarding your audience with content for the sake of it will only irritate them, and cause them to seek this information elsewhere (possibly driving them straight into the open arms of your competitors).
Plan your content strategically
Begin with a set of SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based) goals. Once you have your goals and objectives in place, you need to establish who your audience is. This is best achieved by building buyer personas (a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer), and their unique buyer’s journey.
Finally, determine your content pillars (the core topics you intend to address with your content), and set up an editorial calendar. By planning and scheduling your content strategically, you’ll be able to focus your messages to reach the right buyer persona, at the right stage of their buyer’s journey. This planning stage is crucial if you want to strike the perfect balance of content and context.
Leave room in your content strategy to be responsive
Your content needs to be agile. A well laid out strategy must act as a guideline, but it shouldn’t be completely set in stone. Some of the top performing content online taps into current events - this is called newsjacking. Take a look at how Oreo took advantage of a power outage during the US Superbowl.
Remember that your audience has a very short attention span - so if you don’t publish regularly and consistently, they might forget about you and move on to something else. Your editorial calendar is your best friend - stick with it. If you planned to publish blog posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays, make sure you follow through with this. If you send out “Happy Monday” messages on social media - make sure you do it every week.
As Gary says in his video, “no matter what you do, always and forever, our job is to tell our story, and that is never going to change. The way you make real money, the way you make real impact, the way things get changed is by great storytelling. It’s always been that way, and it will always be that way because [...] we’re human beings and that’s what we like”. Give your audience what they want, in the format that they want to receive it.
For the love of cats (and all things cute and fluffy), stop interrupting people and start telling them stories that they’ll love. The time, energy and resources that you put into building this relationship is more valuable that you can imagine. Be creative, be original and most importantly, market to your audience the way you would like to be marketed to.
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You can watch Gary’s full video, Stop storytelling like it’s 2007, here.
Featured image from Shared.com (Grumpy Cat)