and stay there.
Last summer my daughter told me that some kids in her class kept calling her weird. Kids are idiots at times. I told her that it’s okay because I was always called weird in school. So were my friends. And that you know what? We were all weird together. We liked skating and music and books. We didn’t care for what we ‘should’ like and only what we did like.
Then I told her that the kids who get called weird are the ones who go on to do wonderfully creative things because they are not afraid to be themselves. And they are the BEST people to hang out with.
Since then my daughter has worn weird like a badge of pride. She does what she loves and doesn’t try to bend herself to what’s popular. As a result, she’s got a lovely group of friends who like the same stuff as her.
There’s a lesson in this for our content marketing and that’s what I’m sharing with you this week.
I’m using an example of one of the Thursday Brew readers. She has been warned in advance (although not that this email starts with calling people weird).
Let’s get a little weird
You don’t always know what your idiosyncrasies are until someone points them out as being weird.
Four years ago we moved to our lovely new home in Worcester. We invited family around for a housewarming party and it descended into an evening of playing our birth and death songs.
Birth songs are the ones that are number one in the charts on the day you were born. Likewise, the death songs are the songs you want to play at your funeral.
It’s this that seems perfectly normal and not in the least bit macabre to me (and most of the family) but on the outside can be a bit… strange. See this article in The Guardian to know I’m not alone.
I’m a big fan of the darker side of life. If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting me in person you’ll know I’ve got a bit of a monochrome wardrobe on the go (a polite way of saying it’s black). And I think that graveyards are some of the most wonderful places you can go.
To the point that a good friend and I are working on a creative podcast project about graveyards and burial sites. I’ll agree that on the surface it sounds grim but what makes us weird also makes us interesting.
It gives us a connection to other people who like the same strange things that we do. What one person finds odd, another person finds joy.
Embrace your weird
I love a good weird museum. We’ve been to some creepy places in Prague, explored local folklore in Crete and, my favourite of all: a working sewer in Paris.
Yes, it really was a working sewer. Yes, it stank, But it was a wonderful experience for all of €3 (the price has gone up somewhat in the intervening years).
I’m telling you this because sometimes the key to what makes good content lies within ourselves. In particular, it’s our weird likes and interests that don’t seem weird to us.
Bring people to you
Much of the advice online around digital marketing is to go to where your audience hangs out. But surely it makes sense to bring your audience to you. And you do this through those quirky little interests.
Take Kaye Jones, for example. Kaye is in no way more strange or weird than the next person. Yet, she’s built a business where her content attracts people to her (or at least that’s the impression from the outside - feel free to correct me, Kaye).
She’s done this by sharing her interests. Kaye freely admits she spends more time in Victorian times in her head than she does in the modern world (it’s on the podcast episode here if you want to listen). Her curiosity and interest in the overlooked stories throughout history bring people to her newsletter and, in turn, her business.
The way that she breaks down historical facts and tells their story through her social media and newsletter is impressive. It’s also because she has passion behind it. You can tell from reading that she is doing something she absolutely loves. She’s digging into her own interests to change the world. And she’s not ‘going to her audience’ but gathering them around her. Building something wonderful that makes an impact.
Building a following
Let’s pause for a moment and talk about the idea of building an audience or community around your business.
The premise behind content marketing is that you attract people to your business who like what you say and do enough to buy from you.
Businesses spend a significant amount of their marketing budget investing in social media to build a following in order to sell their products. It’s what we are told across social media by people who sell products that help you increase followers and likes. It’s worked for them so therefore must work for every business.
“Marketers often justify these investments by arguing that attracting social media followers and increasing their exposure to a brand will ultimately increase sales.”
Except research by HBR finds that when people are liking your page or following you on social media, it is not as impactful on sales as we may first believe. In fact, HBR argues that liking is a passive act that we put little or no thought behind, including when we follow a page or account.
Instead, we need to create content that people are intentional about. And use our social media to learn about our audience.
Social media is the market research
Content that requires action is what pushes people along their sales journey.
Although perhaps the most concerning part of the HBR research is this fact: “80% [of businesses] are unable to quantify the value of their social media efforts.”
Let’s take a second to question whether we can quantify the value of our social media efforts. This is not to say “don’t use social media”. It is one part of a bigger digital marketing offering which is in turn, part of an overall marketing toolkit.
It is to say, doing what everyone else does simply because they are doing it is not necessarily the best approach every time.
So if this research highlights that our audience needs to be intentional with their content interactions: what does intentional content look like? In the research, it was discount coupons. But you can use other means such as downloads, newsletters, or podcasts. It’s a way of getting someone to take some small action in your business.
Let’s roll back around to Kaye and The Herstorian newsletter.
Kaye creates content that is the poster definition of intentional. She is creating stories that make her audience stop and read. By having a clear format and being considerate of what she shares, Kaye is pulling the reader in to want more - i.e. sign up for her newsletter.
By using her interests and passions, she is building the audience around her not the other way around. An audience that is more intentional than passive about what they are doing.
Another great example is Nick Parker’s Tone Knob newsletter. It’s wonderfully written but takes Nick’s interest in how brands use language well and it attracts readers as a result. I’m willing to bet they are intentional readers as well.
Reducing passive content
What we can learn from this is that by reducing our passive ‘click, like, scroll on’ content, we can increase our connection with the people who are connecting with our content on a deeper level. We need to make that content more connected to ourselves to do this. Or if approaching from a brand-perspective, to make it about the brand’s idiosyncrasies (which is much harder to both say and do).
We need to use those curiosities about our world - like funeral songs, weird museums, intersectional history or whatever it is - and pull people into our worlds.
This is about building a community of ‘people like us’ so that we can create that connection. And from my experience, I know that you might not be selling or buying right now, but there are other great advantages to making connections in this way beyond financial outcomes.
There are people who read this newsletter that I’ve volunteered my time with, or I’ve been able to help with a recommendation. The same has worked the other way. I’ve had wonderful conversations that have sparked ideas and challenged my thinking. That to me is something I can’t buy.
How I help
I’m here to help you create better content so you can sell your product or service without it taking over your life.
That’s it for this week. I’ll be spending the weekend watching a half-marathon that I’ve trained for four times and still not been able to run (thanks Covid!).
See you next Thursday!