Break Through Your Content Marketing Rut with These 3 Tips
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Break Through Your Content Marketing Rut with These 3 Tips

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I have a confession to make: I only read articles about content marketing if I, or somebody on my team, wrote them.

I know that’s sacrilegious in many ways. It also sounds pretty self-obsessed, and I accept that. But I know you’re feeling awkward right now—either because you’re curious as to why I don’t read others’ work and it makes you uncomfortable, or because you’re the exact same way.

I’m here to tell you: It’s okay. We’re all stuck in a content marketing rut. Like hamsters on a wheel in a cage, we’re spinning around in circles touching the same content over and over again. Because of extraordinary social intelligence tools like Sysomos, marketers can easily see which topics are trending within their professional circles and create content to jump in on the ongoing conversation.

From a business perspective, this allows a brand to participate in timely discussions with its target audience on topics that people already agree with. We take those ideas and spin them around before publishing fresh content to our media properties. When visitors come to our sites, they click into the content, read it, and share it, but they don’t learn anything new. The conversation does not get pushed forward. We do not nurture relationships with people because we’re simply acknowledging a belief they’ve already formed on their own.

So here’s where the content marketing rut begins. By writing on topics your audience already cares about and has formed opinions on, you’re essentially removing yourself from a place of authority. Your prospects will see you as a company that aligns with their beliefs, but doesn’t have anything to offer other than what’s already known and accepted.

When I visit business blogs about marketing, I see a lot of the same topics written about over and over again. I have even written those types of articles myself. Overall, I don’t feel there’s much to learn from many sites.

Oof . . . What Now?

We’re being programmed to embrace repetitive content. Apps like Flipboard grow smarter over time, serving you articles based on your personal preferences. Technologies like Netflix, Pandora, and Rdio do the same thing with other forms of media.

Fractl ReportAnd data backs up the theory that we want personalized content above all else. We want content that pertains to what we already know and believe. Janrain’s 2013 Online Personal Experience study found that 74 percent of consumers become frustrated when content isn’t immediately about their interests. Google found that 61 percent of mobile users quickly navigate from a website if they don’t find what they’re looking for right away. SAP SE found that 69 percent of Americans want personalized information about products from brands.

What’s more, Fractl found in a recent report that 84 percent of people say their relationships and friends are the most important factors when deciding on what to share on social media. Forty-four percent of people rank entertaining others as the most important motivation behind sharing a piece of content (see graph at right). The survey also found that the most entertaining content is also the least personal, pertaining mostly to shared experiences. That’s why we love BuzzFeed—everyone relates to memes.

To me, in the business world, this means we’re all more likely to share content that makes us feel validated and like we’re doing everything right.

No, It’s Not the End of the World

I know, it sounds like I’m telling you to never write about your industry and what you’ve learned through on-the-job experiences. That’s not my point. Rather, I want to help you get out of your content marketing rut so you can discover what else is out there in the world. Stop writing about what others have already stated better. Instead, connect with people through new experiences. Form relationships over discovery. Collaborate to define and explore what unfamiliar ideas mean for you, your industry, and your customer. Do something wildly different, and do it today.

Habits are hard to break. You have your audience and your ROI. Doing something different takes courage. Here’s how I’ve gone about breaking out of my content marketing rut:

Do what you love1. Focus on Your Other Passions, Even While at Work

In a fantastic meeting this week with Skyword EVP Darryl Gehly, my team and I turned our computers off to talk about creativity, transformation, and who we are as people. We didn’t bring up SEO, ROI, MQIs, or SQLs. What did we talk about? Design, music, our professional insecurities, our fears, and our motivations.

Marketers are interesting people. We’re emotional and creative, but we’re also process-oriented. Most marketing content focuses on processes and systems, not art, design, music, and everything else we care about as people.

Think about it: You just met me. Would you rather read a best-practices guide for SEO or about a new artist I’m listening to and how those songs have sparked my creativity?

2. Download Random

I stumbled across this mobile application the other day called Random. It is the exact opposite of those news readers (think Flipboard) you love so much.

When you download Random and open the app, you’re presented with a grid of keywords such as “Paris” and “Superfood.” These keywords refresh every few seconds without you touching them, and there’s no way to customize what you see.

In a recent interview on PSFK, Random’s developer and designer Jarno Mikael Koponen says the app’s algorithm is different than what powers a lot of other content discovery engines.

“We use [a] combination of human curation and algorithms to remix the perspectives. This is crucial. To break the filter bubbles, the system cannot be fully algorithmic or it cannot be fully human-curated or social.”

He continues by noting that when we use Twitter and Facebook, we’re more likely to visit links that are posted by like-minded people. Random does the opposite by presenting topics without the help of social media, thus introducing new, trending topics from other types of people.

As for me? I wanted to learn something new, so I clicked on “Steampunk.”

3. Change Up Your Routine

A friend of mine sent me an article from Fast Company that talked about the common traits of successful people. A lot of what was shared I agreed with, but there was one point I couldn’t quite accept: Have a routine.

When you go about your day in the same way, visiting the same websites and stopping at the same coffee shop, you become numb to the nuances of life. You miss opportunities to discover new shops, new ideas, or meet new people.

As a content marketer, you’re a hybrid individual—both systematic and creatively spontaneous in what you do. Profound stories don’t come along through iteration; they’re written only after you get out there and try something for the first time.

Routines help a lot of professionals in their careers. In marketing, routine is more likely to hold you back.

Analytics from the Content Standard showed that the highest volume of traffic comes from these five cities: Boston, San Francisco, Houston, New York City, and Chicago. I asked five random people on Twitter what the “must-visit” place was in town. Here’s a routine-breaking list of suggestions:

  • Boston: Cocoanuts Boston, a store offering gourmet chocolates, candies, mixed nuts, and popcorn from the New England region. (Source: Me)
  • San Francisco: Local Edition Bar, an underground lounge with a vintage newspaper theme that offers an extensive cocktail menu. (Source: @TheNextCorner)
  • Houston: The Menil Collection, a museum housing the 17,000-piece art collection of Houston philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil. (Source: @DamienFranco)
  • New York City: Green-Wood Cemetery, an historic park founded in 1838. (Source: @dberkowitz)
  • Chicago: Vanille Patisserie, a European bakery in the heart of the city. (Source: @HiltonSuggests)

How are you going to break your content rut? Let me know in the comments below.

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