The ‘Content Marketing Is Bullshit’ Hypothesis
This is not just my opinion. But a reflection of a whole school of thought on this issue.
What if it turns out that content creation through many forms of social and business media is just a well planned and well executed conspiracy for sites that run on content to obtain tons of it for free? I’m not saying that this is the case. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that it is.
Here’s a scenario for you to chew on.
Let’s say I was somebody who owned a big content based site….like LinkedIn. What would then be my course of action if I wanted to get my slice of this freshly baked bullshit content marketing pie?
1. Hire a writer/strategist to come up with a bunch of well reasoned crap about how content is the new key to reaching and creating customer engagement, because…
a) The customer has changed in terms of how they perceive traditional advertising, ie, let’s say, they no longer trust it, and…
b) This change means the old methods are no longer valid or at the very least can’t be counted on, so….
c) Anybody who wants to effectively reach their customers, or at least have a chance of reaching them, needs to start cranking out the content.
This content needs to demonstrate and dimensionalize expertise, make cogent arguments for your product or service vs your competition, and tell stories about how much your customers love you, how you go about making whatever it is you make, and how your employees are all fine upstanding citizens of the world.
Of course, none of this is quantifiable and we’re not actually selling it directly. We’re selling it to the digital marketing community and positioning it as a way for them to make big bucks by taking their clients into this brave new world at a tidy monthly fee-based remuneration.
2. Don’t forget to mention that this applies equally to B to B and B to C customers as well, because we really don’t want to close any doors by being selective about how we run this con.
3. Make sure that everybody out there running a major content dependent site understands what’s going on …so send them a copy of our rules so we’re all reading from the same playbook.
4. Support the digital marketers by keeping any promotion simple and vague. Promise without promising. Threaten without being menacing. Lure without showing anyone the actual worm on the hook.
Badda boom. Badda bing. In four relatively easy steps you have re-positioned the entire advertising business, and by re-positioned I mean, made it seem archaic and irrelevant.
Now all that’s left to do is the PR job that will separate the ‘old school’ advertising and marketing from new world of digital stuff.
And if we do it right, nobody will even notice that their effective reach has been diminished to an ungodly degree, and the amount of work they actually have to do to maintain this pathetic ROI has increased to an ungodly degree as well.
Yeah…that should get the content flowing just fine, and we’ll be happy to publish it and offer you all kinds of other stuff that will make you the kings of your universe, fully engaged with all kinds of people who have fallen madly in love with you thanks to the wonderfulness of your content. All 16 tons a month of it.
Why It’s Hard To Spot The Bullshit
Most of us are involved in many forms of social media and probably have been for quite some time. It’s innocent enough: we post pictures and talk about our lives and chat with old friends etc. But all the while, we are simply being trained to be good providers of free content to these sites.
It makes us feel good and it almost totally removes the burden from these sites to provide their own content. It also gives these sites a great sales pitch to advertisers who have also been bullshitted into believing that these are the places they need to be in the 21st century.
It’s all so elegant and innocent and people-focused that the last thing you would want to believe is that it’s some sort of big fat scam.
Las Vegas Comes To Mind
The thing about stepping up and voluntarily becoming a provider of content in this hypothetical gargantuan bullshit scheme is something that Vegas casinos call House Rules.
This means that no matter how skillful your efforts, and how diligent you are about tossing good content onto the table, your actual chances of winning are relatively miniscule. Probably about 1% if you’re lucky.
Sure it happens. I mean you have to have to have something to show for all your effort. But the big wins are few and far between, and frankly most of them are either in the digital realm already or, ironically, by brands who have the benefit of strong ‘old school’ marketing support.
If you are a small company, you become your own perpetual motion machine. This is fine if you’re a real writer, because you write all the time anyway. But if you’re not, it can very quickly become one of those things you hate doing. And as that hatred takes root in your brain, you do less and less and fall further and further behind the curve. And your precious 1% starts to shrink.
If you’re a big company, you have to pay big bucks to keep to this content flowing. And the digital marketer you hired to manage all this bullshit keeps chanting the mantra…”it’s a process, not an event.” But at some point you have to justify this expense to somebody, even if it’s just yourself. Hmmm. I have been in meetings where this has been challenged…it ain’t pretty.
The Reality That Nobody Talks About On Line
This is quite simple actually. Because the single most important thing about bullshit is that its a self-contained universe, that, in this case, has nothing to do with the real world.
The customer, the marketplace and just about everything else in the real world has not changed to anywhere near the extent that the digital marketing community would have you believe.
I was recently talking with an associate who is one of the smartest digital marketers I know, about what was important in the digital world and his answer was quite simple…SEO. The rest is all bullshit.
People still search for stuff the way they always have. Through search engines. That’s why the search engines are so big and generate tons of revenue. The social and business media sites are big too, but one could easily make the argument that they are not the land of milk and honey they would have you believe they are.
In order to understand that in a way you can relate to, just think for a few minutes about what all the effort you have been putting into content management has actually created for you.
Sure they tell you it’s a marathon. But how many people do you know can actually run one of those and finish it?
At The End Of The Day, It’s Just Marketing
I’m a marketer and I know good marketing when I see it. And if you believe you can fool a lot of people a lot of the time, hey, why not? The digital world, like any other marketing world, is just working to establish itself in the long list of media choices that we have today.
And if you look back through the history of marketing, anything new that showed up was usually based on some sort of bullshit. At least until it proved itself. And if it didn’t…well it just didn’t get to exist for very long.
I hope you enjoyed this little romp into the world of ‘what if ‘ as much as I did writing it.
Just be careful going forward, because a lot of the promises being made in the digital world at this point time are not based on anything a sane and savvy marketer would call real evidence of performance.
Maybe they will some day. We live in hope.
Jim Murray is a marketer, communication strategist, writer, art director and blogger. His partner, Charlene Norman is a business systems and operational analyst. Their collaboration is called Bullet Proof Consulting, headquartered in St Catharines, Ontario. Bullet Proof is designed to help companies change their thin king for the better, to become more productive, efficient better branded and successful in today’s highly competitive business world. You can get a very clear impression of how we think by reading our business blogs at www.bulletproofconsulting.ca/blog