We live in an over-communicated society.
Everyone writes these days (myself included). We no longer respond to the content the way we did just 3–5 years ago when the content marketing concept was just starting out, and only the elite marketing teams could afford it.
There is just too much content, too many blogs, too many whitepapers, too many studies, too many 5-Step-Strategy-to-Achieve-whatever, and too much marketing noise in general.
We all have become information junkies. Exposure to more information gives us a positive feeling of acquiring more knowledge, getting ahead, or confirming our beliefs or strategies.
We aren’t reading anymore… we scroll our feeds, we scan bullet points, and we teach writers in our marketing departments to keep content short and sweet. We make catchy titles for our post to generate clicks.
Some publications have become factories for “me-too” or junk content.
Even major publications have become factories for producing short video-mercials, lists of top CEOs under 25, and things-successful-people-do-before-entering-conference-room. Take Business Insider, a respectable publication at one point, now a production line for junk content (and I have to admit that I’m one of those people who is occasionally caught by a seductive article title).
As Ev Williams highlighted, just like fast food, this type of “me-too” content is efficient but not very nourishing (read).
Another easy target is Techcrunch, which I recommend you quit reading. If you are an entrepreneur, it only makes you feel inferior because it seems like we live in the world that only has super successful overnight startups. Trust me, you won’t miss anything by avoiding reading Techcrunch. As an addict, you will have a certain tension the first couple of weeks of not getting your startup-y newsfix. But after this period is gone — you are free.
Thankfully, some take a different approach to journalism and reporting. The Information produces great content and analysis, driven by quality and not by clicks or advertisers. They do charge a premium but in my mind, the cost is worth it. If I spend my time reading something, I want to ensure a certain quality of content. I’m willing to pay for discovery or professional curation.
Digital detox gains popularity.
Some people fight over-communication with digital detox strategies. Tim Ferriss in his book The 4-hour Workweek recommends a complete digital detox. Many founders and startup guys go to Vipassana Meditation retreats where for 10+ days you have the opportunity to completely clean and reset your mind. (I have completed a 10-day course, and I plan to do another this year. I recommend you try it as well).
Me-too content strategies become a default approach to marketing.
This tendency of creating content just to generate general interest but with no real value or engagement can also be seen in marketing departments. Me-too content strategy kills companies’ marketing budgets and ROIs, and they don’t even realize it.
Do you still research top keywords before you start creating your content?
Marketers still use old strategies of researching popular keywords and then designing content around them. We still go out creating lists and bullet points on topics that are either too wide for your target audience to be meaningful or were covered by competitors.
Do you still outsource your blog posts?
We all know you can buy articles with $50 to get your blog started. Why are we surprised when no one shares our content on social media? Do you think readers, prospects, and customers do not realize the quality of content you push down their throats?
I’m guilty of using both of these strategies. I have seen them fail.
This me-too strategy in content marketing leads to the imitation of success. Marketers see an increase in vanity metrics like clicks and search engine traffic, but the needle hasn’t moved a bit in more meaningful metrics like user activation numbers or leads.
Sure, if your company is a content producing factory from top to bottom, like HubSpot, you can get away with occasional me-too pieces. With the sheer volume of content that they produce, they can’t avoid me-too content. There aren’t enough topics to cover.
Early days in startup can be a good excuse for generating me-too content. And honestly, I consulted a few companies at this stage to at least start with me-too content. After you develop product positioning, messaging, and possibly industry expertise, you can easily move to better quality content.
Why do so many companies produce me-too content?
Well, I think it is a combination of things. Producing great and unique content is incredibly hard. Me-too content makes an illusion that company goes along with content marketing trend.
We get to the point that companies produce case studies with no real problem or pain description. Mostly it boils down to — Company A needed X, we provided X. Company A says we are super awesome. Who cares about your perceived awesomeness?
I have yet to find a company that publishes a case study where the customer isn’t happy. The point of the case study is to relate me (the prospect) to the problem. We get it — this particular customer thinks you are great, but the problem and how your team solved it is what makes a difference. Prospects want to know details, numbers, and processes.
In essence, the me-too problem in content marketing is a positioning problem.
If you don’t have a clear positioning for your product, you don’t have a clear understanding of your content strategy.
Let’s look at the positioning problem that outsourcing companies face. There are so many outsourcing companies out there that it’s no wonder it becomes even more difficult to pick one when needed.
All of them promise quality and a competitive price. To some degree, this is slowly becoming a commodity business. But do you have a clear expertise that customers recognize? Can you position yourself as an expert in UI/UX design? Or are you a team of experts in scalability? Do you specialize in messaging apps or hotel management web interface? Find something…
And the best way to start is to interview your existing customers and notice whether you have solved similar problems for larger portion of them. If, for example, you find that 40% of your customers are coming from the gaming industry with a clear need for in-game mechanics, this is a perfect candidate to explore creating content on this very specific topic.
Now, when you position your outsourcing company as a leader in in-game mechanics, you can create a content strategy that will support your market position. Over time, if positioning is done correctly, you will dig deeper into the topic of in-game mechanics, and you will generate a sizable number of case studies to provide evidence of your expertise.
Me-too marketing content is a direct result of unclear product positioning or generic value messaging. Me-too marketing content leads to failure as it only contributes to marketing noise overall without providing additional value to sophisticated consumers.