Content shock refers to the “shock wave” of content ushered in by the digital age and the challenges businesses face with the tactic of content marketing. In 2019, it’s all about winning attention.
Today people are marinating in content. We have more info and entertainment at our fingertips than we can handle.
One term for this is content shock. There is, literally, a shocking amount of content available.
Experts tell people to stop watching the news. We’re taking in so much it’s making us sick.
Twitter’s goal is “to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers.” But the lack of barriers also creates disorder. A new study finds using Twitter erodes intelligence.
This is the world you have to advertise in. You can create great content. So can anybody.
But how will you catch people’s attention? How will you get them to think like you? What will they remember?
How will you overcome the shock?
Marinating in Content
In a recent article in The Guardian, Oliver Burkeman posits the idea that it’s time for responsible citizens to start tuning the news out.
Burkeman lays out how a long-term historical shift has come to pass. We used to live in a world in which information was scarce. But now information limitless. What’s scarce today is attention.
It’s attention, not information, which is the valuable commodity.
Burkeman details how today many people “marinate in the news”. This, he argues, has a perverse impact, causing them to focus more on external events – that are beyond their control – than on the concrete immediacy of family and community.
This article gives context for what marketers describe as content shock. The term itself was coined by a blogger named Mark Schaefer in 2014.
In that post, Schaefer outlined what he saw as a pending inevitability. The sheer volume of content being published online was too much for human beings to consume. Most of the content published in this tsunami faced a grim fate: oblivion in the torrent.
Today everyone is vying for attention. When it comes to sharing information or distributing a persuasive message, the overwhelming challenge is to get noticed by a public that is, literally, marinating in the flood waters of content shock.
It’s often said today that people are “glued” to their devices. Hard to argue when this is a common site:
Or when this actually happens:
Mobile connectivity is the sauce in which we are marinating, but it’s also the avenue of opportunity.
It’s true that attention is scarce. But consider how much attention the guy who fell into the manhole is paying to his phone. He’s transfixed.
So there is an irony to the conditions of content shock. Attention may be much harder to get, but despite that, there are more ways to access it. And once you win attention, the right content can transfix people.
The challenge is that you need to be the content on the phone – and not the hole in the rode.
Find Your Niche
How do you overcome content shock? How do you win in the attention economy?
There is no easy to answer to that question. If there were, then successful content marketing wouldn’t be elusive for so many businesses.
But there are two keys to consider.
The first is developing a niche when it comes to your topic choices and idea generation.
The catch here is you don’t have a choice of any idea niche you want. Instead, you have to find one that’s unsaturated.
This connects to SEO, which is one of the main channels for informational content. Analyze the content saturation on a long-tail search query and assess how hard it will be to rank on page one for that search.
The strategy is to discover and unsaturated niche, then saturate it with your content. Own the searches for the topics and become the go-to authority.
Today, it’s likely that this niche will – at least at first – be more narrow than you’d prefer. However, it’s also the only way you’ll get a foothold with content that connects to your business.
If you step into the deep waters of content shock from the start, you’ll sink. Ranking on page 11 of Google is the same as ranking on page 11 million.
The other key to overcoming content shock is relevancy. Your content needs to be hyper-relevant, both in terms of topic and timing.
Consider relevancy with every type of content you create for each platform. From paid ads to social media, the only way to capture people’s attention with branded content is for it to be relevant for your audience at that moment.
The move to relevancy is certainly part of content shock. With so much content being thrown at people, being highly relevant is the only thing that gives you a chance to catch and hold attention.
But relevancy is also part of how technology delivers content. Today’s AI and algorithmic platforms target people using data on their behavior, interests, and navigation history.
This means people today aren’t simply in a tidal wave of content. Their in a wave of content that’s relevant, interesting, and entertaining for them personally.
In a way, this means the shock has doubled down. You’re not just competing in a wave of content, but in a wave that’s increasingly tailored to suit the interests of people’s personal tastes.
Big Ideas for Small Audiences
Content marketing is an immense challenge. You have to be relevant and enticing with perfect timing while fighting a competitive slugfest with other content creators.
So a couple tips to consider as you try to overcome these (almost) impossible odds.
First, define the smallest viable audience you can target with your niche idea. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Instead, find an audience that’s just big enough to give your movement some momentum, and focus your reach on them.
Second, don’t ignore the power of the big idea.
To overcome content shock, you need to develop ideas that are unique, fascinating, and exceptionally useful. You need high production values for all the content you create, from copy to videos.
Today, the only way you’ll really overcome content shock is to target a small, viable audience that you can turn into advocates so they’ll help your ideas spread. It’s all but impossible today to really own an informational niche just buying ads and owning rankings.
Your content must be strong enough that people want to share it with their networks. That’s how you move from informational marketing to brand domination.
It’s a difficult task, but maybe that’s a good thing. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Exceptional content that overcomes the shock takes it to a new level that few are willing to try.
Aspiring to that challenge is where the competitive advantage lies.