If something is to be considered a great piece of content, it must be able answer tough questions. Favorites are: Is it good? Does it actually say something new? Does the audience truly need to know the information? Really, though, do they?
About ten years ago my friend Tomas was auditing brands’ social networking and blogging capabilities. He’d identify the strongest internal candidates, build teams, that sort of thing. The clever ‘extra’ he bolted on, though, was to also assess whether or not they benefitted from being active on a particular channel in the first place.
As he said at the time (I’ll paraphrase because it was a while back): “If you can’t do something well, should you even be doing it in the first place? That’s the thing, all these people race to get on Twitter or whatever, but they don’t have the bandwidth or expertise to do it right.”
Don’t create channel static
This observation really struck a chord with me. When Tomas said it, I was working with all sorts of global brands who wanted sophisticated solutions, but weren’t able to commit to supporting them beyond the first iteration. Our recommendation at the time was almost always to do one thing well, and in breaking new ground, not to be too self-conscious or ‘down with the kids.’
We see brands stumbling on social from time to time. The reality is that some types of business just don’t suit a custom Snapchat filter or a bubbly Twitter persona. Either because they’re not a natural fit for the demographic, or because they struggle with the demands of consistently programming that much content and keeping it original (and good), or both.
And that’s fine. It’s okay to screw up (within reason), and so long as you learn from it, you ensure it brings about a positive change and your shareholders don’t string you up too high. But Tomas’s tough questions work for mainstream tools, too. For me, the main contender is the humble newsletter.
Scourge of the inbox, serial ignorer of a gazillion ineffectual ‘unsubscribes’, a persistently dull newsletter only has its own template to blame. Instead of being encouraged to discover amazing things and share them when they have something new to say, the poor creators/editors are often obliged to find ten stories to fill it each cycle and send it out, and do so religiously, less they miss their KPIs.
It’s not a recipe for success. And it’s not a sure fire way to ensure standout.
Weighing in on customer experience
This week I used a web form to arrange a session with a personal trainer at a new gym. Instead of a confirmation email, instead I received a “thank you for subscribing to our newsletter” message, which I immediately unsubscribed from.
During a follow up call, the conversation went like this:
Gym employee: I see you unsubscribed from our newsletter.
Me: Yes, I don’t really want to get one. Sorry if that comes across as blunt, it’s just I already get so much email I’ll never read it.
Gym employee: Well, to be honest, it is a bit upsetting.
Me: I am already trying to become a customer, so you don’t need to sell to me.
Gym employee: But there’s lots of nutrition stuff in it.
Me: I appreciate that but I’m happy with my nutrition and I just don’t want another newsletter.
Gym employee: It’s not just a newsletter though. It’s a series of emails that count down over time to your first appointment.
Me: But my first appointment is tomorrow.
Gym employee: Well, we can talk about it when you come in.
Me: I want to get confirmation emails from you. I just don’t want the newsletter.
Gym employee: We’ll talk about it when you come in.
Suddenly it is as if I’m embarking on a service where between reps I’ll be made to feel guilty for not reading stuff I don’t want to read.
And of course, by the time you’re reading this, I’ll have had that first session, and either had to mansplain my way through my negative attitude regarding newsletters, or sit there awkwardly and do my best Hugh Grant apology. I like the team, I think it’s a really cool operation, and I want to give it a good go, but it’s not the sort of experience I’d want a new customer to have.
It’s tricky to stand out, especially for small and medium businesses, but when there is a personal relationship involved, it’s worth considering the purpose and identifying an easily managed cadence.
Far better to send out a quarterly update with the occasional extra announcement than a biweekly newsletter that runs out of steam.