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Content strategy: does outrageous behavior reap rewards online?

For content creators and marketers – to paraphrase Charles Dickens’ book, Tale of Two Cities, now in the public domain – it is the best of times, it is the worst of times, it is the age of wisdom, it is the age of foolishness.

It’s the best of times for content creators because:

  • Google is rewarding sites with quality content
  • Quality content is shareworthy
  • Shareworthy content generates backlinks and social signals
  • Google’s ranking algorithm counts both backlinks and social signals as signs of quality

Easy, right? But it’s the worst of times because (Ready for this? Take a deep breath!)

  • As soon as you’re done creating one amazing, spectacular, remarkable and outstanding piece of quality content
    • complete with photos, illustrations and infographics
    • along with useful, helpful, authoritative, appropriate and relevant outbound links
    • with solid internal linking to related content posted elsewhere on your site
  • Your next step is to get started on creating another piece of content
    • so that content can be shared
    • so that Google can count backlinks and social signals
    • so your website can be appropriately rewarded

Furthermore, there is the shrillness of all of the virtual noise as writers and marketers push, punch, shove and kick to get their piece of content to the front of the line, hollering on Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and Pinterest and Tumblr and Instagram and niche social media sites and blogs and so many other places, both invented and not yet invented, shouting: “Look at me! Listen to me! Pay attention to me!”

Geez. How the heck do we get out of this absurd cycle? The truth is that I’m not sure.

How did we get into this mess?

This question, though, I can attempt to tackle. Let’s start with a couple of analogies.

Analogy 1: Think back to elementary school and picture the class clown. He was always the life of the party, ready with a smile, a joke or a prank. Probably all three. Perhaps your teacher initially tried to engage with him (or her!) to get him to stop disrupting the class. But, that only feeds into the personality of the class clown and so, eventually, the wise teacher realizes that this inappropriate behavior needs to be ignored and NOT rewarded, and so she (or he!) devises some sort of timeout consequence.

Analogy 2: Imagine a noisy party, with music playing, glasses clinking, doorbells ringing. In order to be heard, you talk a bit more loudly – and then a little bit more. Soon, there is so much shouting at the get together that only lip reading is effective – and, let’s face it. How many people are excellent lip readers? So, the wise person gently leads another person to a quiet corner of the room or to another room altogether or even outside. There, perhaps even a whisper can be heard.

Analogy 3: Remember the beginnings of reality television. In the early days, there was MTV’s The Real World, in which mundane events were recorded by the camera. Although that was fascinating at first, we soon craved more – more excitement, more astonishment, more horror. So, we then began to watch programs where contestants needed to eat maggots to win (vomiting can get you disqualified!) – or to climb into a bathtub full of revolting snakes or thick-bodied spiders or bloody entrails. Where is the wisdom here? Can you think of any better symbol for the age of foolishness?

On the Internet today, there’s a huge problem: timeout corners don’t seem to exist anymore and, if they did, we’d still need someone rational enough to send class clowns to them; nobody wants to speak softly to just one person in a quiet room when they can screech to the multitudes; and it’s hard to imagine re-attracting interest towards everyday reality when we’re accustomed to shock and awe hitting our guts six times before breakfast.

Let’s face it, people in 2014 want and expect – and sometimes even demand – bigger, better, faster, taller, wider and/or smarter today than they did yesterday. So, how long will it be before businesses will need controversy consultants so that they can grab the headlines without doing long-term damage to their company? I’m not speaking of public relations professionals who help to mitigate the effects of undesired controversy; I’m talking about companies feeling a need to effectively create controversy to get enough attention.

What are your thoughts?

We’d love to know what you think about our content strategy thoughts. And, here are three well researched reports that may be of interest to you:

  • What Makes Online Content Viral? by the Social Science Research Network; one conclusion is that “anger or anxiety inducing articles are both more likely to make the . . . most emailed list”
  • When, Why, and How Controversy Causes Conversation, also by the Social Science Research Network; the report includes this paradoxical conclusion: “More controversial things are more interesting to talk about and thus more likely to be discussed. At the same time, more controversial things are less likely to be discussed because they are uncomfortable to talk about.”
  • The Toilet Paper Problem by the Mathematical Association of America; don’t laugh! Ann Landers once called the problem of how to properly hang a roll of toilet paper the most controversial issue to ever appear in her column . . . and Wikipedia says she wrote her daily newspaper columns for 56 years.

So, what do you think? How can quality content break through the online noise barrier? Please leave your comments below.

2018-06-14T21:07:33+00:00January 21st, 2014|0 Comments

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