I get it. Digital and social channels, in which the “social proof” of one’s skills, reputation, and quality lie, have become a necessary marketing tactic for individual and business brands.
More followers, prospects, customers, and other stakeholder are continuing to choose the Internet as their primary source for decision-making data.
So, naturally, people and businesses that seek larger followings are increasingly turning to content marketing strategies to increase that social proof.
As more and more people turn out more and more content, across a greater number of digital and social networks, the competition for eyeballs continues to heat up.
We’re developing and sharing an astounding amount of content daily through blogs, videos, podcasts, presentations, memes, and social posts. In fact, according to WorldWideWebSize.com, as of December 21st, 2013, the Indexed Web contained at least 1.67 billion pages – and growing.
The race to track, measure, and analyze this data is also heating up. There’s gold in them there hills, or so we think; so we hope.
The Reality of Content and Marketing Intent
The reality is that the race for eyeballs and top ranking through content marketing has created an abundance of unnecessary, redundant, and often inaccurate, unchecked data.
We’re all guilty of it. Some of this superfluous and irrelevant content is unintentional, such as our “check ins” at local restaurants, cute cat pictures (dogs are way cuter) or Instagram-sushi.
Redundant content is a more difficult criticism to levy because we each have our own audience that may not have access to – or be aware of – others writing about similar topics.
Further, we each have our opinions and experiences, and provided that we infuse those into the content we generate, there’s value in producing content that others are also publishing.
What’s harder to accept is the lazy content.
Don’t be a Lazy Content Marketer
Social media marketers point to frequency and consistency as key tenets of content marketing success. Of course, frequency and consistency require both fresh ideas and a lot of effort.
Further, because of the variety of channels in which we now engage our audience (blogs, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, SlideShare, etc.) we must create unique content for each channel. At a minimum, the content created must be relevant as it’s repurposed across different social media networks, which brings us back to time and effort.
As most people and businesses are short on time, there’s a growing trend in the production of “lazy content.” Undoubtedly, there are as many definitions of lazy content as there are content marketers.
Some claim that curated blogs with nothing but snippets of other people’s content and link-backs is lazy content that only serves traffic-building and unscrupulous SEO fodder.
Others claim that brands which outsource their blogs to multiple authors are examples of lazy content because they do not represent the true voice of the brand. These can be – and are – debated often; however, there is one form of lazy content that has been debated at great length this year: The list blog.
You’ve seen them: “The Top 100 Marketers on Twitter,” “The Most Influential People in Social Media,” or “The Most Connected CEOs.”
In fact, there are many formerly-respected publications that are now turning to list-posts because they’re easier to read and often generate greater shares and comments. Yet, few are done well. Most are truly examples of lazy content.
One recent example is a blog post on Forbes.com titled: “Must-Follow Marketing Minds on Twitter 2014” which, after a three-paragraph introduction, provides nine web pages comprised of a bulleted list of individuals whom the author suggests we should follow on Twitter.
Are Lists Really Lazy?
I, for one, do not believe that a list-blog post is lazy by default. Lists are not lazy; lists can be a skillful tactic to help the reader compartmentalize ideas and increase the comprehension and retention of the information provided. However, fewer and fewer writers are skillfully crafting these lists, opting for the lazy option.
The Forbes article referenced above is a prime example.
The blogger introduces the list with the following paragraph: “Have a look and be inspired to think bigger in 2014 about marketing challenges and opportunities with the words of these inspired souls who offer up their ideas and fresh perspectives in the days ahead.” He then proceeds to list over 100 names and Twitter handles of those to whom we should pay attention.
What makes this an example of lazy content?
- It does not include (for most names) a hyperlink to the marketer’s Twitter profile, which shows a lack of effort and respect for those listed and the reader’s time.
- It does not include the rationale for why these people were chosen or what makes them unique among the multitude of other worthy marketers on Twitter, which calls into question the quality of the list.
- Does not include the job titles (or any point of reference) of those listed that would help the reader understand their area of expertise.
- It includes, among the names of people, the names of publications such as @WhartonFoA, @Wired, @PSFK, and others, which says something about the forethought and research that went into this post. How are businesses or publications considered “minds” or “souls” as referenced in the blog’s title and introduction? How relevant are they to the actual humans listed?
Respect Your Readers And Those You List
While I don’t know the blogger and I don’t know his true motivation for writing the post, at best it’s an example of lazy content. At worst, it’s an effort to link-bait those listed and others to share, link to, and comment.
The sad thing about this particular post – and others like it – is that many of the names on the list are truly deserving of the respect that comes from being ranked. If I were to produce this list, I would definitely include, as an example, Ms. Tami Cannizzaro (@tamicann) as this blogger did.
However, I would have referenced the fact that she is the Global Director of Marketing for the IBM Industry Solutions Division. Her knowledge, also shared on the Digital Age of Marketing blog, is gained from professional experience including her role as aresearch analyst on Wall Street and formal education, including an MBA from the NYU Stern School of business.
During her tenure at IBM, she’s held a variety of positions supporting the rollout and global launch of IBM’s Smarter Planet, Smarter Commerce, and SOA Initiatives. Tami also established the IBM IMPACT and IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit Conferences. And, as a result, the content she shares is incredibly valuable to both small and large businesses seeking a global marketing perspective.
The fact that the author chose the lazy-content route takes away from Ms. Cannizzaro, and others like her on the list, who are truly follow-worthy marketing minds on Twitter. Further, the author including his own name on the list, even if just in jest, as a “must-follow marketing mind,” also discredits the list and the value of the content.
Lists Done Right
Funnily enough, Forbes is known for producing content like “The Most Powerful Celebrities” and “The Richest People in America,” which are arguably lists done right. You can read the “full coverage,” for example, of the Most Powerful Celebrities, which includes a full description of each personality listed and analysis of their “power:” How it’s derived and how it’s wielded. Further, Forbes includes a link to the methodology used in ranking those presented in order to help the reader understand the justification for the selections. Don’t want the details? No problem, click the slideshow to view a visual summary. This is a great example of a list done right: Methodology, multi-content format, and analysis.
The point here is: Don’t be a lazy marketer. Consistency and frequency ARE key tenets of content marketing success, but then again, so are the quality of your content and the respect you show your readers. Quality cannot be compromised for the sake of frequency.
Lazy Content Marketing Or How Not To Write a List Post: What do you think?
- Is such a post considered “lazy content?”
- Is there a place for this content format?
- Can lists ever be done right?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego