Every generation has someone who steps outside the norm and offers a voice for the unspeakable attitudes of that time. I represent everything that's supposed to be wrong, everything that's forbidden.
- Sam Kinison
Ok, before you start, I am not by any measure comparing my irritated ramblings to the late, Sam Kinison. For one, I'm not shouting and for the other, I'm not funny.
However, when I came across the quote it occurred to me how strange it is that so very few people are prepared to go against the grain, especially in marketing.
And when a 'new' way of doing things does very sporadically appear - content marketing, for example (yes, I know it's really been around for decades, but most probably wouldn't know it) everyone leaps upon it and starts to follow bad advice in order to not fall behind what EVERYONE else is now doing.
Incidentally, here's a great piece on content marketing.
Marketers (like humans) are seemingly creatures of habit.
We like best practices, and how-to guides and words like 'Insane', 'Guaranteed', 'Hacks', '10 this...', or '30 that...'
Which is exactly the reason you should completely reject all of this.
Would you put your head in a hot oven just because someone told you it was the right thing to do? Or jump off a cliff because the rest of the lemmings were?
Of course not.
So why do the same things; why say the same things everyone else is?
I'm not telling you what to do.
I don't have all the answers - I'm searching for them myself - but surely it's our duty as marketers to try and find a new and unique way of doing things, of disseminating information in a way that doesn't follow the typical pattern.
Of course it's not easy, it's downright nearly impossible!
But does that mean we just give up and follow the same pattern as everyone else for little or no reward?
When I decided to stop writing how-to posts and other generic nonsense, it was because I was sick-to-death of spending hours pulling together stats and struggling to write - for it is not my forte - a post I was proud to publish, only to have no one read it.
Not a soul.
And the reason for that is because at precisely the same time there were probably hundreds, if not thousands, of similar posts being published.
And if that's not dispiriting enough, there's algorithms and the general ephemeral nature of social media to contend with.
Plus those with budgets to promote their content, ensuring it's viewed way before mine.
And so I was fed up. Irked. Downright peeved.
So I wrote a complaining post lamenting the fact that no one reads my posts.
And then a strange thing happened.
Someone read it. And they tweeted me to say so:
@elancsnetworkin - read it, liked it, agree with it, shared it! Know what you mean re content. Stuff I think will blow folks away doesn't.hey ho!
And then another:
@supposeiam - Nope! You are not doing anything wrong! Welcome to the club. Tell you what - you guest post for me and I'll return the favour.
And then another:
@tori_spratt - I have often wondered this myself. And, before you ask, I read all the way to the end of your post before replying!
Now, I'm not for a moment pretending that I went from zero to one million clicks off the back of a single post.
But get this.
I tried something a little different. I stopped posting what I thought people wanted to read and started posting stuff that I wanted to read. Stuff that bothered me, and therefore, I figured, bothered other people too. Stuff that it seemed no-one else was talking about.
I was finding marketing content on social media a bit 'happy clappy' anyway, so it felt cathartic to question the consensus about being helpful, sharing good stuff, following best practice and all that crap in order to drive traffic, boost engagement, and so on.
Besides, what traffic, what engagement if no-one is reading it?
The major difference, apart from the tone, was that I was being honest and completely transparent.
I don't pretend I'm an authority on marketing, but I've spent enough time as a marketer to have accrued some knowledge and see plenty of 'best practices' and accepted wisdom that I feel strongly enough about to make comment on.
These are not sacred cows and we can, and absolutely should, criticise and question.
And you know what? If what I write annoys a few people who swear by best practices and they come back at me, then great.
At least they'll have engaged with me. Because I made a few comments when no one else is willing to - which I find quite strange, as I can't be the only contrarian!
And if you feel strongly enough that what you read or practice in marketing is wrong, you should say so too.
That'd make two of us.