Six Surefire Ways to Fail at Content Marketing

|Sharon Hurley Hall

Ready to dive into content marketing? While some people do it effortlessly, others don’t quite get it right. One reason some people fail at content marketing is because they are egotists. Here are six of the key mistakes egotists make and how you can avoid them.

Mistake #1: Be Selfish and Self-Promotional

On every social network — and offline too — you meet people who start every sentence with “I”.  Every single item they share is about something they have personally done or created. If you look at their Facebook page or Twitter

stream, you never see a link to anyone else’s post.

Some content marketers make the same mistake.

Compare that behavior with content marketers that share. Look at their social media profiles and you’ll see great items from other people, with comments giving them kudos.

Which content would you rather read?

The golden rule? Share other people’s stuff. Avoid falling into the egotist’s trap and make sure at least half the items you share give props to others; your audience will thank you.

Mistake #2: Ignore the Audience

Sometimes it’s not just about the items people share, but about how much and how they share. Think about it. Haven’t you ever come across someone who filled your Google+ Circle or Twitter stream with a constant barrage of content? What happened? It’s a sure bet that at least some of the time you ignored, deleted or skipped the content or unfollowed the person altogether.

If you want people to see view your content as relevant (rather than annoying), take advantage of tools that allow you to segment your audience. Use Twitter lists, Facebook and LinkedIn groups and Google+ Circles to divide people by areas of interest and then take the time to share selectively. You will get a much better response.

Mistake #3: Too Much SEO (or None at All)

OK, it’s not only egotists who make this mistake. Any Web search will generate pages where it’s obvious the author was thinking of search engine optimization (SEO) more than readers. On social media, you can spot the updates that are so riddled with keywords and hashtags that they are virtually impossible for the audience to read. You definitely can have too much of a good thing when it comes to keywords.

At the same time, the person who thinks he’s above needing to think about SEO is also wrong. If you want your content to have shelf life then you need to make it easy for people to find it. And you know where they’ll be looking, don’t you? Via search engines.

The lesson in this is that when you craft your content, pick a topic and use the keyword a couple of times. If you’re sending a tweet or posting on Google+, limit the hashtags so you have space for a meaningful comment. If you can’t pick two major topics, then start again, because your audience won’t know either.

Mistake #4: No Strategic Planning

Egotistical content marketers may think that it’s enough to push out updates and everything else will follow, but that’s not true. Can your audience see what’s in it for them or only what’s in it for you? Like any campaign, a content marketing campaign must be planned. You must have an idea of what you want to share, what its purpose is, who you are hoping to target, when is the best time to make an update, which are the ideal channels where your audience hangs out (more on that in a moment) and why anyone should care (I’ll come back to that one later, too). If this reads a bit like the 6Ws in journalism, (who, what, when, where and why … and how?) that’s deliberate. Cover the 6Ws and you have a story worth sharing. Omit them — and you don’t.

Mistake #5: Lack of Distribution

A “post it and they will come” strategy just won’t work; there’s no point in creating content without being able to use it effectively. That means getting to grips with distribution.  It pays to do some research and find out where your audience is and how best to reach them. Maybe your audience wants you to tweet a link to information on your blog or perhaps they’d prefer a lengthier update in a LinkedIn group. You won’t know until you try and this piece of knowledge is crucial.

This might mean experimenting a bit with different channels and types of updates or adding targeted related content to blogs in your niche. Get distribution right and your content will find people where they hang out.

Mistake #6: Be Irrelevant

Finally, I said I’d come back to the issue of why anyone should care. People won’t care just because they follow you and you send an update. People won’t care just because you give away a freebie in exchange for their “like.” People will only care if your content answers this question for them: What’s in it for me?

Your content has to help your audience in some way by solving a problem or providing information on an issue they need to know about. If not, why should they care? Maybe you’re providing answers to questions they didn’t know they had, but you still have to make it clear why it’s important. Focus on the benefits for your audience and the rest will follow.

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional web copywriter and blogger. Her career has included stints as a journalist, academic writer and ghost writer.

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Sharon Hurley Hall

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  • Anne Wayman| April 10, 2012 at 7:19PM

    strategy… I wish I understood more about strategy.

    • Sharon Hurley Hall| April 11, 2012 at 6:06AM

      I bet you already have a strategy, even if you haven’t got anything in writing, Anne. Mine is to share things that I’d be happy if someone shared with me and to add value with comments or context. I use a couple of tools that suggest good times to post, though I haven’t been as efficient with those as I could be. For example, using Crowdbooster in conjunction with Buffer should ensure more attention for tweets.

  • Annie Sisk| April 14, 2012 at 12:12PM

    Good post, Sharon. The biggest “fail” to me from this list — that I see with my clients at any rate — is the lack of planning. I’d also add, though, that the lack of understanding WHO they’re writing FOR is just as dangerous.  For some reason, this is particularly true with my lawyer clients. They keep wanting to write for *other lawyers* – and if they’re doing it as part of a referral marketing program, that’s one thing, but most will tell me they’re “blogging to get more clients”! Well – then, you need to write FOR the prospective clients. Understanding audience is key. 

    • Sharon Hurley Hall| April 14, 2012 at 4:16PM

      Absolutely, Annie – there’s no point in creating content without a clear picture of the audience, otherwise you’re just wasting your time.


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