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Three Easy-to-Make Content Marketing Blunders

Three Easy-to-Make Content Marketing Blunders

Content marketing isn’t rocket surgery, but it does have a lot of moving parts. If you do something — anything — every day, eventually, you fall into autopilot, and you’re no longer really thinking things through. You may forget about one of those moving parts, and that’s how you make mistakes.

Even expert marketers make blunders from time to time. We’ve seen it happen, from tweets gone horribly wrong to Ashton Kutcher in brown face. No, really.

But sometimes content blunders are more subtle, and rather than leading to outrage, can simply lead to missed opportunities, and fewer customers. Next time you brainstorm a content strategy, keep your wits about you so the content you create is effective, and not ineffectual.

Mentioning “Social Media” Doesn’t Make Content Shareable

The power of social media is undeniable. People who discounted Twitter as a fad a few years ago no doubt had to eat their words as the social network celebrated its seventh anniversary. And no matter how many times Facebook changes its layout, its News Feed, or its privacy policy, it’s still the largest social network in the world with more than one billion users.

So it’s no surprise that marketers would want to capitalize on social media’s popularity and power to reach the masses. And it makes perfect sense to want to create content that people will be eager to share on one or all the social networks they belong to.

But here’s the thing — simply mentioning social media in your content doesn’t make it shareable.

You could write a hundred blog posts, articles, infographics, whatever, about how people use social media to do X, the evolution of social media, how social media has changed the marketing landscape, or how social media has affected social media. You could mention social media in every other sentence, or just in the title. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is — are you ready? —Ã‚ the quality of your content. I know, you’ve heard that one before, right? But I think some of us may have lost sight of what the quality part of quality content really means. It’s not just about correct grammar and spelling, although I’m a big believer in both. It’s writing things that people find interesting, surprising, infuriating, amusing, educational, or just fun. It’s making your readers feel something.

That is how you get people to share your content on Twitter, Facebook, and Digg (you know, when you can actually find it).

And have you heard this before too? Yes. I’ve even said it here before. But no matter how many times it’s repeated, there are still marketers out there trying to force sharing by tacking the words “social media” onto every piece of content they create. It may work a time or two, but readers will quickly get wise to the tactic, and then good luck getting anyone to take your content seriously.

Forget the shortcuts. Do the work. Create good content, and the shares will follow. Social media is important, but it’s not everything.

Targeting the Wrong Audience is Easy — And All Too Common

I’ve noticed a lot of advice posts will tell you that you should be doing something, but they don’t tell you how to do it. When people write about creating content, they tell you to gear your content toward your audience. Again, I’ve said the same thing myself. Sometimes you can learn how to do something by acknowledging what not to do. And when it comes to targeting your audience, what you don’t want to do is assign the wrong persona to your reader.

For example, say you’re creating content for a client who sells cars. Their goal, then, is to sell cars, and to get potential buyers interested in the cars they sell.

Before you begin creating that content, you must ask yourself, what does that potential buyer want to know?

If you don’t put yourself in the audience’s shoes, you run the risk of completely missing the mark with your content. The success of the client’s last social media campaign may be interesting to you as a marketer, and it’ll probably be interesting to other marketers, and maybe to other businesses who also sell cars and want to know how they can reach more people.

But to the potential car buyer? Not so much.

Think about it — when you’ve bought a car in the past, did you care about the car manufacturer’s latest ad campaign? Sure, a commercial might have gotten you into the dealership, but it was most likely because it mentioned things like mileage, features, and dealer incentives. Those are the things car buyers care about.

The number of people who saw an ad, or retweeted it, or shared it on Facebook is immaterial to the decision to buy a car. That doesn’t get you better mileage, a lower APR on your loan, or any kind of reduction in price.

So don’t create that content as a marketer — create it as a consumer. What helps you decide to buy a car, or whatever product or service your client provides? What’s important to you when making that decision? That’s what your content needs to cover. Leave the marketing case studies for your corporate blogs and conference presentations.

Creating Just Another Ad Can Backfire

Make no mistake — content marketing is a form of advertising. But content marketing is very different from traditional advertising, not only in format, but in engagement and results.

The biggest content marketing blunder you can make is to forget your medium and create just another ad.

Traditional marketing and advertising have always been a one-way street. Television commercials, newspapers ads, or mailbox circulars only allow for outbound communication, and there is no definitive way for businesses to gauge the success — or failure — of their campaigns.

I get a lot of those flyers in my mailbox. I gotta be honest with you, most of them end up in the recycling bin. And I don’t know about you, but when I do watch TV (which isn’t very often), I mute it during commercials because, for the most part, they’re just annoying.

Advertisers have no way of knowing these things. They keep airing commercials and sending out circulars, hoping that their end-of-year sales figures will make all that time and expense worthwhile.

A huge advantage to content marketing is the immediacy of it. Want to know how many people your content reached? Take a look at your analytics to see how many page views it got. Check your social metrics to see how many Likes/shares/tweets it garnered. Check your social media monitoring tools to count up the retweets. Read the comments people left on the piece (and don’t forget to respond to them). Then you can check all those things against your sales and revenue to calculate, or at least estimate, the return on your content marketing investment.

Just don’t forget that in between all those metrics and formulae are the most essential part of your content marketing campaign: people.

If you want people to click your links, like your content, and buy your stuff, then you’d better be giving them some good content. Throw a traditional ad at them, and the comments you get will likely be less than complimentary.

And there’s the key. You want to build good will with your audience by giving them something of value, something they want to share. Try posting an ad on your Facebook wall, and watch the negative comments pile up. Your audience may share it, but it will probably be to point out how obtuse you are, or how you’re just trying to make a buck off them. Despite what you may have heard, bad publicity is just that â€” bad. Don’t create an online reputation management problem for yourself when you can just as easily create content people can use or will like, and earn their business organically.

Like many things, a lot of content marketing really comes down to common sense. But sometimes, we get so caught up in trying to do so many things, we can lose sight of the simplicity of what works.

And the simplest tactic of all, before you read hundreds of blog posts, spend a lot of money on research, and delve into complex analytics is to ask your audience what they want. The information is there for the taking. You just have to be willing to listen.

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Join the Discussion


  1. Excellent article! I especially loved the second point about connecting with the right audience. Sometimes I see bloggers who are writing from both the consumer and the marketer sides, and while this may be good if they focused on one, they’re alienating both groups by trying to reach them both.

    Finding that appropriate niche is really what’s going to set you apart and help you connect better with your readers.

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      Thanks, Caleb! I couldn’t agree more. Trying to be everything to everyone all at once can come off as phony. I fully believe that tailoring your content will yield better results all around. Thanks for commenting!

  2. The best kind of content, the kind that may actually get shared in social media, is the content that actually helps target audience members. Write a blog post or create a video that actually tells them how to do something or how to solve a problem. Content that simply promotes will largely be ignored.

  3. Jen Stout says:

    Great points! Quality content is so, so important that it’s actually surprising that so many are willing to post generic content and tack a “Share this” at the end, expecting it to go viral. If you fail to produce quality content, you’re not going to go anywhere great with it. People share content that they are excited about and they want others to know about, too. And that should be the main focus, along with your second point of targeting the right audience. Speak to the people you want to engage or buy your product in your content. Target the people you really want to target. It’s not a difficult concept. It just requires a little bit of extra effort and thought put into it. But, it can go a long, long way in making your content more shareable.

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Jen. I would add, though, as I mentioned, that people will share content they find lacking in some way, but it will be with a negative comment attached to it, and can then spiral out of control.

      The last thing you want is a bunch of people sharing your content saying, “Look how bad this content is! I can’t believe they even published it!” Make sure you’re known for the good stuff, not the bad.

      Thanks so much for your comment!

  4. John Arthur says:

    This is one of the most interesting articles I’ve read about internet marketing. Congratulations and I hope you keep writing articles as interesting as this.

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      Thanks, John! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  5. Hi Michelle,

    Great article. I definitely agree with what you said. I also have something else to add it. Here’s my 2 cents for what its worth.

    Really knowing who your audience is and what they want will really carry you a long way when it comes to writing quality content. You have to know what THEY like, not necessarily what you as the writer thinks they like.

    A good way to find out what your readers like is to survey them, or find out what your target audience is talking about in forums, on Facebook, etc.

    The more you can get inside of their head, the more you can create content that resonates with them. The social shares will be automatic after that.

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      Hi James! Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more. As I said in the last paragraph, just asking your audience what they want can save you a lot of time and money, not to mention missed opportunity. Conducting surveys is definitely one of the most effective ways to do that!

      I also think that asking your audience what they want shows them you’re interested in them, which goes a long way toward generating good will and a loyal base. People like feeling included, and like someone cares what they think or want.

      Thanks so much for leaving such a great comment, and continuing the discussion! :-)

  6. Joel says:

    Totally agree with your point about targetting the wrong audience. It can be catastrophic. You invest so much time, money and energy and it can end up all being wasted. Failing to plan is planning to fail. It would be wise to invest more in your market research than on your actual campaign.

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      I do agree investing in market research is important, but I’m not sure about spending more–time or money–on it than your actual campaign. You don’t want to get stuck in analysis paralysis, either. I think doing market research on a regular basis is a good idea, as your audience may change over time. Continuing to cater to an audience you no longer have will make you appear out of touch–which will be the truth. Thanks for your comment!

  7. Megan S says:

    I loved your post. Especially “Creating content as a consumer and not a marketer” It is something to keep in mind before writing every post. Thanks

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      Thanks so much, Megan! I’m glad you enjoyed it. :-)

  8. Dave Wedge says:

    Thanks Michelle,

    Thats a good article with a lot of well made points. As part of my working life I build websites for my clients, many are tradesmen or simple one man bands. Very often I have to write content for them, they just don’t know how to approach it and simply freeze. This can be a problem, trying to write quality content on subject matter I know little about (eg specialist carpentry) is not easy.

    This is part of the problem, many people are not confident at writing and just do not understand what is meant by good content, neither are they likely to research online and learn. But as I often tell my clients, this plays in to their hands as most of the competition in the majority of markets simply will not do this well.

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      Excellent points, Dave. The thing is, not everyone is a writer, and that’s okay. It keeps people like me employed. ;-)

      Seriously, I think if those who aren’t skilled writers, or who don’t have the time to maintain their site as well as their business seek out writers or designers to help them, they’re making a smart decision. They can continue to focus on their business, and let a professional take care of the rest. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Joe Romito says:

    I was just thinking about properly targeting content today, and your point about thinking as a consumer was spot on. It’s too easy to get bogged down in keywords and metrics, and lose focus on writing holistic informative content. All of this is of course predicated on the quality of the writing that is going into each piece, which is important to maintain. I like to think about how my friends would react to ad, and that does give me a good base line I think for consumer reactions for most services. Thanks again for writing such great piece.

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      You are most welcome, Joe! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment! I think considering how your friends might react to content is a great tactic. Anything that puts you in the mindset of your audience, and gets you to–just for a little while–stop thinking like a marketer.

      This is why reviews are such an effective selling tool. Of course a company is going to say their products are the best–they’re trying to sell them. But when people who have no vested interest in a product recommend it, that’s a much more powerful statement. Thanks again!

  10. Wally says:

    These are great tips. I think the overall use of “social media” is just too much these days anyway. I see so many large companies trying to “get into” social media, and they just plaster ads everywhere and it’s not interesting.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      You just said a mouthful, Wally! Companies that are still trying to “get into” social media are a bit behind the curve already. But they also need to understand the difference between content marketing, social media marketing, and traditional advertising. Companies that try to stuff the wrong kinds of content with CTAs and logos will most likely see a backlash from both existing and potential customers. Thanks for commenting!

  11. Sam says:

    I agree with all of it. It seems to me the key to all of this is to write about things you are
    passionate and knowledgeable about without worrying about if it is acceptable to others. With correct grammar and spelling of course because to me that does make a difference.