There's a lot of talk about "mindfulness" these days. Everyone from corporate leaders to Washington politicos is touting the benefits of meditation and mindful awareness on health, stress levels, and the bottom line. Even Silicon Valley visionaries are looking for ways to detach themselves from the onslaught of interruptions they themselves helped create.
As content marketers, it can be hard to know what to make of this reality. How do we reconcile our audiences' need to unplug and find a meaningful daily focus with our own drive to generate a buzz of comments, likes, shares, plus-ones, and retweets? Were we better off when those social signals were not around to serve as a barometer for our content?
The answer may be found by asking these questions: How much of that buzz is actually coming from specific prospects? Is your content helping people and leading to actual sales? If not, you may benefit from a little centering, yourself.
Take a deep breath, and let's focus on letting go of some egocentric habits that could be getting in the way.
1) Content Marketing: The Ultimate Anti-Selfie
The idea that sometimes it's good to step aside and listen to your audience, rather than persist in wowing them with your personal brilliance, is as old as marketing itself. But social media has made listening mandatory.
When you create content, it should reflect the composition of the community you're trying to reach. You are the snapshot-taker, not the subject. So before you even begin, know the answer to these questions:
Who is your audience?
What does it care about?
Where does it get information?
That way, your content has a chance of contributing to your audience's conversations, solving its concerns, and getting noticed.
As Lauren Vargas at Aetna has said, "Go beyond the ego search." Don't look just for what people are saying about your company. Look at topics people are congregating around, and figure out how you can make a difference in the conversation.
2) Forget personal opinion. What do the numbers say?
Marketing 2.0 is a numbers game. If you're not testing your assumptions, testing new channels, and studying the metrics available to you at each stage of the sales funnel, you're missing opportunities. Yes, you may have years of inbound marketing experience and a good feel for what works and what doesn't. But to hack your way to the top of your industry, you need a broader, more objective viewpoint.
Here's a simple example: Headlines. They're all-important -- everyone knows that. But even the most experienced content writers can't always tell the difference between a good headline and one that will go viral. So what do you do? Run a quick A/B test. You can do it on Twitter, in an email, using PPC, in a survey -- wherever. Find a clear winner, then launch. Your writers will thank you when you share the results with them, so they can be growth hackers, too.
3) Be willing to tolerate discomfort.
No one likes sleeping out in the cold, but let's face it -- sometimes, that's the only way you get to the top of the mountain.
Dave Kerpen has a great post about starting his first business with his wife. In it, he talks about how difficult it was, and how they risked their very relationship and had trouble meeting payroll, getting loans, and managing cash flow. It's not a pretty story, but it's an authentic one. Authenticity, as he says later, "breeds trust, and trust breeds business."
People can tell immediately when you're afraid to confront a really tough topic, but they invariably become inspired and engaged when they see you're taking a risk, showing them something they haven't seen before, or tackling a nearly unsolvable problem. To succeed, you have to let go of the outcome your ego is fixated on and trust that you'll be able to handle whatever happens next.
4) Tell a story that's bigger than you.
Ann Handley said it perfectly in her post about Chipotle's "Scarecrow" video: "Your story is not about you; it's what you do for others." When you go beyond the sale to offer content that makes a difference for the world as a whole, you have a good chance of striking a chord that will resonate with current and potential customers for a good long while.
Are you telling a story that will still be inspiring long after you've left the blogosphere, long after the trend of which it speaks is ancient history? If so, you may be getting somewhere.
5) Let your content live! Don't let fear steal its thunder.
Sometimes, letting go of ego actually frees you to promote yourself. Think about the last time you gave a presentation to your boss or stood up to speak in front of an audience. Sometimes you have to just exude confidence even when you feel completely uncertain of yourself, right?
The same goes for putting your content out there. After you've done your best, gotten input from your team, and produced a great blog post, video, or SlideShare … let it live! Post it in places your target audience will see it, make sure you've targeted appropriately and, by all means, put some paid promotion behind it. That way, you extend your content's life beyond your immediate circle of friends and followers. You have nothing to lose but that sense of feeling safely and solidly unknown in the world. And that, my friend, is another form of ego.
I'm just beginning to explore this mindfulness business. What are your thoughts on the intersection of Zen mind and content?
Originally published Feb 7, 2014 11:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017