Wouldn’t it be great if you could just set a recipe for content marketing and people did exactly what you wanted them to do
-Beat humans and egg whites
-Cream sugar and 150 grams of generic event-based email content
-Add 2x 400px Getty images and bake for three and a half minutes on YouTube
-Serve with a side of 100 char tweets and a sprinkling of Pinterest
-Yields ten million dollars.
People would open emails, click on links, add credit card details and take selfies for Earth Hour. Your social media dashboard would spin up with ACTIVE CONVERSATIONS and you would achieve peak cloudscale double rainbow viral all the way across the sky. What's the ROI? You can't handle the ROI!
“We have a habit of turning to scientists when we want factual answers and artists when we want entertainment, but where are the facts about the nature of the self?
How’s that for a great line. Here’s another one from the same article in the New York Review of Books. I had to look up simulacrum.
“You are so limited! Bill Gates also makes things up. Is he a novelist? Science, it’s a process of creation too. Literature itself is a species of code. You line up symbols and create a simulacrum of life.”
Literature itself is a species of code. Marvellous. And then there's all the selfs and their natures and how they interact with your literary code species.
When you see recipe-style blog posts like this from Buffer The Ideal Length of Everything Online, Backed by Research giving instructions on paint by numbers tweet lengths and blog post times and things like that, remember to file it into the little ‘that’s interesting’ folder in your brain as a starting point for analysis but remember, this stuff is the cabbage soup diet of the internet and it's not sustainable for real results.
Why? Because your audience isn't a homogenous glob is probably the main one but also because there are lots of contributing attributes or ingredients in the recipe and it's what the people taste and respond to that matters. There is science but there is also the choice of language, the intonation of voice and the colour of Tyler Oakley’s hair. Content type, distribution method, time of day. Your marketing people know (or should know) this so don't frustrate them by minimising their work down to silly recipes like content length. It's super demotivating for your teams. Give them adequate time to explain their results and why they have done things the way they have. Let them experiment with different approaches and support average videos and blog posts because -I know I keep repeating myself-it's important to develop capability and learn how to make really great cakes not mass produced tasteless ones that your customers don't want to eat.
So we just ignore all content metrics and let people play art class on company time? No. We develop good processes for testing like simple A/B email subject line experiments. We motivate the team by encouraging them to try posting to the email from mobile, even if the image quality is a bit lower than usual. We encourage people to think and try and contribute. For example:
That’s interesting that the recommended blog post length is 1600 words. I like to read Seth Godin’s blog and his posts are usually around 150 words so what’s with that? Oh, he has developed a voice and a writing style that is unique to him and can communicate complex musings in little daily sound bites. He doesn’t use images. If I asked one of our salespeople to write a 1600 word blog post it would never happen. I don’t think they are strong enough at writing to pull off 150 words of cleverness like Seth can do. Maybe we give them 250- 300 words as an achievable target to get their blogging fitness up? And an image to make the post more newsy and engaging.
That’s interesting that the target YouTube video length is 3.5 minutes (which I used to stick to religiously) but I like Tyler Oakley’s vlogs and his are usually around 7 minutes. Look at his insane number of views and subscribes. He is very engaging and speaks directly to his audience. What else is different about what he’s doing with production values and content type? He does a weekly vlog and distributes it through other channels like Twitter and Tumblr. He's very engaged with his fans on Tumblr. We don’t have anyone as talented as Tyler Oakley (yet) around here but who else can we use to increase our engagement by using a real person? Peter in accounts is no oil painting but he’s good at explaining things. Our last video was 10 minutes and we can see the views falling off at the end so let’s get back to 3.5 minutes and see if that helps.
That’s interesting that the recommended tweet length and Facebook update lengths are 100 characters and less than 40 characters (the Facebook one is shorter than the Twitter one?). I read some other research that promotions and photos are the most important variables so how does that work? Maybe our hashtags are too long. We just need to make sure the quality stays up and we don’t start using text language because that is the worst thing in the entire world and would cause great shame to us and our families.
That’s interesting that the best performing email subject line length is 28-39 characters. The offer and the content type would have to matter too wouldn’t they? Plus time of day, I wonder if the research controlled for that? When I do the 9am send tomorrow I'll cut the list in half and do a short headline and a longer one to see if it makes a difference.
Many, many recipes flying around in the test kitchen to come up with results that will keep your customers coming back for more and asking you for the recipe. Empowered, happy, creative chefs who burn a few things here and there but can also turn out banquets for your customers, given the right conditions.
Spoon the content over the humans. Serves 6.