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How Mark Schaefer Made a Splash with Content Shock (And What You Can Learn From Him)


This post was originally published on the DNN Software blog.

Insights for Content Marketers

I consider 2014 “The Year of Content Shock and The Conversation that Ensued.” Mark Schaefer is Executive Director at Schaefer Marketing Solutions, where he provides marketing consultation to businesses. He’s the author of the {grow} blog, along with a number of books.

Photo: Mark Schaefer on Twitter (@markwschaefer)

Shortly after the New Year, Schaefer published a blog post, “Content Shock: Why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy.” The post received 400+ comments, along with thousands of tweets and hundreds of articles. This week, Schaefer followed up with a new blog post to address all of the dissenting opinions.

My Quick Take on Content Shock

Content Shock
Image via Mark Schaefer.

Too many dissenters took a “black and white” view of Schaefer’s piece. Either content shock will doom us all or it won’t. In fact, this was my original interpretation. As Schaefer’s follow-on piece notes, however, we don’t live in a world of absolutes – there’s grey matter in between the black and white.

As a content marketer for a “small” brand, you’re not doomed to hopeless failure. In fact, if you’re a small fish in a big pond, Schaefer prescribes the following:

“If you are facing a possibility of content saturation in your market, you need to be thinking of ways to change the game.”

Mark Schaefer’s Winning Formula

Mark Schaefer
Image via Schaefer Marketing Solutions.

Schaefer Marketing Solutions operates in a highly crowded space. First, consider their direct competition: individuals and agencies who offer similar consulting services. They’re blogging and publishing books, too. On the agency side, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of agencies with far bigger budgets.

Next, consider the “indirect competition” – the rest of us who are publishing related content. Whether it’s social media marketing or content marketing, Schaefer competes with HubSpot, Marketo and KISSmetrics for attention and readership. It’s not a zero sum game, but it’s competition nonetheless.

So with the two blog posts alone, let’s consider how Schaefer combats content shock for his own business.

Find a Timely Topic

While some trace “content marketing” back to the age of cavemen, it’s hard to avoid the fact that the discipline and the term are getting a lot of buzz in 2014 (and, earlier in 2013). We’re all talking about “content marketing” – but more importantly, brands are putting serious dollars behind it. I’ve worked with journalists in past jobs and many of them (today) are heading up content marketing at B2B brands. So January 2014 was a good time to introduce “content shock.”

Take a Well-Reasoned Stand

Taking a stand garners attention. Taking a well-reasoned stand gets attention, but also drives dialog and conversation. If you wrote a blog post about “Why World Peace is Overrated,” you’re taking a stand, but you’ve lost credibility with most people in the title alone. Schaefer presented a well-reasoned argument that combined with a timely topic and a little controversy, generated a firestorm.

Side note: a search on Google shows that the original Content Shock piece has 12,500 inbound links pointing to it!

Be Open, Inviting and Genuine in Your Interactions

If he had enough time in the day, I bet Mark Schaefer would reply to every single blog comment and every single tweet. If you look at his blog posts, he gets rather close to doing just that. It takes a lot of time for Schaefer to respond to people.

blog comment

But consider his competition: other marketers, agencies and vendors like Marketo and HubSpot. They might have bigger budgets than Schaefer, but some of them do NOT interact as much – or if they do, they don’t do it in the inviting and genuine style of Schaefer.

Advantage: Schaefer.

To combat content shock: having a plan in place to genuinely engage with the readers of the content you produce. Schaefer, “predicted” all of this (in a sense) with an earlier post  that he published, “How to beat Hubspot at its own game.”

Follow Up

Sometimes, it’s not enough to reply to comments and engage with your readers (and dissenters). If you were fortunate enough to have your content spark a conversation, then take the time to carefully review all of the input (both in favor and in opposition of your stance) and follow up. Your follow-up should summarize the dialog, then provide your response. Just like Schaefer did.

Conclusion

So how can smaller fish survive in the larger content pond? Consider what Mark Schaefer did:

  1. Find a Timely Topic
  2. Take a Well-Reasoned Stand
  3. Be Open, Inviting and Genuine in Your Interactions
  4. Follow Up

What are you waiting for? Go do it!

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