Think back to your first job in content marketing. When you first started, you probably had some very different ideas, opinions, and plans for content marketing. As you gain experience and work as part of a content marketing team, your views naturally shift.
Whether it’s from to existing procedures, mentorship, or trial and error, you pick up different learnings on the job. There are certain things that can only come with experience – practicalities of the job.
A marketer one year in will be different than the same marketer five years in – and both will be different from that marketer twenty years in. Experience gives a marketer versatility, perspective, and, of course, tips and tricks.
Along a long career, a content marketer can also pick up some less positive qualities. Sometimes the realities of content marketing – job constraints, poor leadership, etc. – can lead marketers into some bad habits.
We’ll take a look at six of the most common bad content marketing habits and discuss how you can break each of these habits.
1. Creating Without an Identity
Content teams employ a variety of writers, designers, developers, videographers, and all sorts of other employees, contractors, and vendors. A given piece of content could have any number and combination of these resources involved. It’s no wonder that many content marketers struggle with consistency.
If you stripped the logos off of your content, would your audience be able to recognize it? If you haven’t established a (single) unique brand identity, the answer is no. This identity includes the voice in your writing and recurring design elements. These are the thing that makes content yours.
Creating content without that doesn’t contribute to brand identity is bad habit. Content that doesn’t line up with your brand only muddies the waters and makes it harder to establish your identity later.
Breaking the Habit: The first half of addressing this problem is to document the information that makes up your brand identity. Creating stylebook is a great way to do this. A stylebook will force you to consider factors like tone, grammar, shared definitions, citations, and the handling of headings, titles, images, numbers, lists, and so on.
Now that you have the rules of the road, so to speak, the other component is governance. A stylebook and other documentation does you no good if it’s not applied to your content. You need an approval step in your content creation process where inconsistencies can be caught and addressed before the content is published.
2. Getting Lazy with the Details
In content marketing, particularly web-based content marketing, there are a lot of small details to keep straight. These details, though important, aren’t usually public-facing and can easily go unnoticed by those outside of Marketing. That’s why a lot of marketers can let these details slip.
SEO information is a great example. To get the best possible results, marketers need to be optimizing page URLs, page title tags, headings, meta descriptions, image alt text, media titles, media filenames, and media descriptions. It’s a strenuous task to adhere to all the character limits and keyword guidelines for each of these factors. It’s doubly difficult when you consider the nebulous nature of SEO and the challenge attributing direct impact to these activities.
Breaking the Habit: As far as SEO goes, there are a variety of plugins and tools to help you to stay on top the details. At HiP, we use the Yoast SEO plugin (we’re a WordPress-based site) for this purpose. It has a simple and effective form-based interface, which gives you guidelines for each component and real-time analysis of your on-page SEO.
More generally, the best thing to do to remember details is to make a checklist of all the little things that needs to be done alongside a given activity. Use the checklist to work these things into your routine.
3. Letting Your Strategy Slide
Shifts in strategy are something any marketer will deal with. Sometimes, businesses circumstances simply force change. With a little bit of notice and proper management, there’s no reason these changes should break your strategy.
The bad habit here is failing to keep your strategy aligned with the needs of the business. Your strategy might have been airtight when you started, but, if left static, it become less and less relevant over time.
Even worse is making hazy or informal changes to your strategy. Any sort of ambiguity in the strategy and its execution will lead to misalignment across your content marketing activities.
Breaking the Habit: The key to keeping a content marketing strategy in order is making changes clearing and cleanly. Everyone on your team should know what’s changing and when.
This starts with having a well-documented strategy. Make sure the documentation is available to all stakeholders. From there, it’s easy to see the areas that be impacted by a given adjustment. Draw some attention to these areas (usually through a note or an in-person meeting) and set a specific date for changes to take effect. Finally, make sure any changes are represented in the shared strategy documentation.
4. Creating the Content that You Like
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your own content. In fact, it’s good to take pride in your outputs. That being said, you shouldn’t be creating content just because you get a kick out of it.
It’s probably a lot more fun to write about the cool new technology in your industry, but if your audience wants painstakingly-researched guides to stretching the existing tech, that’s the best use of your time.
Unless you’re one of the few marketers who happens to match the criteria of their own target audience, your content preferences shouldn’t be a factor. You want to create content for target audience – content that resonates with them, not you.
Breaking the Habit: It’s natural to prefer to working on certain topics or in certain formats. The key is not to let those preferences shape your strategies and day-to-day decisions.
Make sure you have a clear, client-focused reasoning for your content decisions. Constantly ask yourself, “Why does this matter to them?”
5. Anti-Social Sharing
Distributing your content through social media and other channels is important in giving it a jumpstart to success. Social does a great job providing low-cost impressions, starting conversation, and getting your content in the hands of the right people.
Despite its value, social can end up being a bit of chore. Most small to mid-size marketing departments lack a dedicated social media person. That means a team member or a combination of team members picks up these duties in addition to their other duties.
That’s why we see a lot of copy/paste social media posts and “fire and forget” blasts across networks. It’s easy to see how a non-dedicated team member would be tempted to copy and paste a message across all your social networks, check that box off their to-do list, and move on with their day.
Breaking the Habit: The ideal situation would be to create unique and optimized content for each social network. This isn’t realistic for all companies, but that doesn’t mean you should turn to generic sharing.
There are a couple of things you can do to stretch your social media resources. The first thing is to invest in a scheduling software for your social media efforts. At HiP, we use Hootsuite. Scheduling tools allow you to sit down and schedule days, or even weeks, of posts in advance. You can easily schedule a steady stream of sharing, without the constant interruptions.
The other crucial element of sharing is to differentiate your posts. Even if it’s just rephrasing the message, don’t post the same thing twice.
6. Marketing Beyond Your Means
The last, but not the least, of these bad content marketing habits is trying to do too much. Many content marketers fall into the trap of trying to explore all of the content formats. It’s common to see a competitor or an aspirational company do a great job with some content and want to replicate that success.
The problem comes when you combine a couple of these content projects with your existing efforts. You end up stretching your resources too thin. The new content projects get pushed off schedule or turn out as watered-down versions of the content that inspired them. Similarly, your core efforts – the things that set your properties apart – have a tendency to get toned down as well.
Breaking the Habit: You have a team of a certain size with a certain budget and a certain mix of skills. This gives you a fairly set amount of bandwidth and capabilities. It’s important to have a clear understanding of what your team can and can’t do.
It comes down to quality versus quantity. You’re far better off using your content marketing resources to excel in one area, rather than create some middling content is several channels and formats. As your team grows, you can add to your marketing mix while still maintaining the same level of quality.
Let us know what you think:
- Are you guilty of any of these bad content marketing habits?
- Do you have any bad habits to add to the list?
- What advice would you offer for breaking bad content marketing habits?