By Jason Miller published June 23, 2013

Creating Content: How Much Is Too Much?

how much is too much-content creationIs there such a thing as having too much content? Marketo customers often ask me this question, so I thought I would pose it to a few experts to get their perspective.

I consulted with Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs; Joe Pulizzi, CMI’s own Content Marketing Evangelist; C.C. Chapman, renowned storyteller, explorer, and humanitarian; Joe Chernov, VP of Marketing at Kinvey; and Marketo’s own Co-Founder and VP Marketing, Jon Miller.

Here are some of their thoughts, as well as my own, based on our collective experience with best practices and processes for creating content:

Aim for epic

Ann Handley believes — and I agree — that quality always trumps quantity when it comes to content. “I don’t think how much is the right question,” she challenged. “It’s more about how effective your content is. Focus on whether it’s meeting your objectives: Is it igniting conversations? Is it enabling relationships? Is it sparking business?”

Producing information carelessly just to build your content library won’t help your marketing efforts. In fact, that practice will only dilute your core points and distract your audience. Posting more thoughtful pieces less frequently is a strategic way to both control and spread your organization’s brand message, while keeping your reputation as a thought leader in check.

Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi also backed up this opinion in his recent post on the fallacy that more content is better: “Content volume is important. Enterprise organizations need lots of content in many different forms and multiple channels,” he said. “But quality cannot be sacrificed. To break through the clutter, content must be epic.”

Epic content marketing might seem like a daunting expectation, but if you aim for content that’s original, imaginative, and sometimes even a little provocative, you’re already halfway there. So, don’t obsess over a content quota; instead, supply your audience with content that offers substance that they can’t easily find elsewhere or produce on their own. (Like a blog that summarizes four different experts’ opinions on a particular topic. You’re welcome.)

Keep it short and compelling

In addition to focusing on the frequency of your posts, pay close attention to word count and significance. How long should each piece of content be, ideally? C.C. Chapman knows how to tell a riveting story, so I wanted his feedback on this content conundrum. “My philosophy is to follow the miniskirt approach: enough content to cover the essentials, but still keep it interesting,” was his advice.

In other words, your content should include relevant and timely information that’s concise. Don’t drone on! People are busy, and their attention spans are short. Help them skim your content by grouping it with subtitles. Use callouts to focus their attention where it matters most. And instead of trying to say everything in one place, include links in your pieces to information that backs up your point. Linking to content from your own archives will keep your audience engaged with your marketing platform and bolster your credibility at the same time.

C.C. believes that there’s an art to timing and keeping audiences engaged without ever boring them: “You need to produce constantly, because if you go silent, your audience might look elsewhere. And when that happens, it’s hard to bring them back,” he cautions. “If you are not creating and sharing information at least once a week on one of your channels, it’s not enough.”

It’s all about being a “baller of balance,” Marketo’s VP of Marketing, Jon Miller asserts: “The challenge is maintaining a high bar of quality; if your content is not relevant and useful to your target personas — in other words, educational and entertaining — more content might actually hurt your efforts. Buyers are already overwhelmed by brands competing for their attention; don’t make it worse with irrelevant content.”

Measure what works

The marketer’s job isn’t only to produce content, but also to use analytics to identify the ideal volume and frequency. I asked Joe Chernov — who, by the way, was named as the 2012 Content Marketer of the Year — for his sage input on finding the right balance of quality and volume.

“The balance comes from the right amount of testing against what the overall objectives are,” is what Joe told me. “The audience — not the publisher — determines content quality, and the same holds true for content volume. I’ve cut content output by 20 percent and I’ve still seen all KPIs increase because I [had been overproducing] the content.”

I was thrilled to hear him mention testing, because it’s such an important component of content marketing. With marketing automation tools, you can fine-tune your content output to what your audience engages with most, based on the metrics you see after each post.

Like all marketing activities, your investment into content can exhibit diminishing returns. Doubling your investment might only return 40 percent greater results. But be realistic here. As Jon Miller says, “Most companies are at the low end of the content curve right now, so small incremental investments in additional content could yield large incremental returns.”

“My advice,” says Jon, “is to keep investing more while you move up the curve (perhaps taking funds from other marketing tactics — like trade shows — and moving them down the curve) until the marginal return of your incremental investment is at the same level as your other tactics.”

Here’s a quick visual to illustrate Jon’s point:

diminishing returns-creating content

Doing more without investing additional resources? That sounds like the “right” amount of content for your budget to me. When you keep a close eye on metrics that pinpoint where your marketing efforts are on the curve, you’ll know exactly where to optimize your marketing investment.

The content takeaway

It’s important to have a regular cadence of content to “feed the machine.” But the experts’ consensus is that balance comes from focusing on quality over quantity, staying consistent, and using metrics tools to measure audience engagement. Once you find the perfect content rhythm for your blog, email marketing, and social channels, you just might discover that less content is bringing you more success.

Looking for more expert advice on the best processes and procedures for creating quality content? You won’t want to miss this year’s Content Marketing World conference. Register today.

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Jason Miller

Jason Miller is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at LinkedIn, leading the content marketing and social media strategy for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. Previously, he was the Senior Manager, Social Media Strategy, at Marketo. He led the company's social media efforts by increasing engagement, optimizing for lead generation, and driving revenue. He also played a key role in developing Marketo’s content strategy by developing many of the top performing resources and most viral visual content pieces. Before Marketo, Jason spent more than 10 years at Sony Music Entertainment, developing and executing marketing campaigns around the biggest names in music. When he is not building campaigns, creating remarkable content, and tracking the ROI of social, he is winning awards as a concert photographer, singing 80's metal Karaoke, and winning at Seinfeld trivia. Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonMillerCA.

Other posts by Jason Miller

  • A Sutherland

    “Like a skirt, keep it short and compelling”? Speaking as a heterosexual woman, I’m not sure I’m really compelled by any length of skirt.

    If your message was that I’m not the target audience for this post, congratulations on a job well done.

    • http://www.blog.marketo.com/ Jason Miller

      Thanks for the comment. To single out that one analogy takes away from the bigger picture here. My hope is that the message as a whole connects with the ongoing challenge of how much content to produce as a marketer.

      • A Sutherland

        The analogy caused me not to want to engage with the remainder of the message. I stopped reading; I have better things to do with my time than to check whether an obnoxious analogy is a one-off or a pattern.

        As (among other things) a technical writer, I know that if 99% of my content is appropriate and 1% is offputting, I’ve still failed to communicate appropriately. Obviously, marketing is different; perhaps the reader isn’t king in the same way.

        I’ve commented here only in case it might be of use for honing your approach in the future; I don’t intend to become a regular reader. As I said, I don’t think I’m your target audience, even though I do produce content for a number of websites, both for pay and in my own time.

        • Michele Linn

          Just wanted to chime in on this as well. The subhead was pulled directly from C.C’s quote and post and was meant to call out a key point. It was certainly not meant to offend in any way. That said, thanks for your perspective as we really do value what our readers think.

        • really, sutherland?

          A Sutherlands reaction is feminism at it’s worst. The analogy was sound, it made sense, and it adequately conveyed the point the author was trying to get across. However, because “1%” of the population takes umbrage with it, the message is now diluted for the 99% of us who aren’t going to take cry over a simple analogy . So know what you have is a 1% reader who self admittedly doesn’t intend to become a regular consumer dictating the moral compass and content of a post because it didn’t jive with her thin-skinned set of feminist morals. Well done.

          • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

            Point taken, but we received a few comments so we simplified the subhead. The rest of the article — the the point C.C. was trying to make — remains in tact.

    • michellegoodall

      I have to agree here.

      I was going to tweet a link to this article but didn’t. A really lazy sub-header. Casual sexism is the worst form and I don’t expect to see it on this website.

      • Michele Linn

        Thanks for the comment, Michelle. Of course, we never meant to offend — and I think this is taking away from the larger point of / conversation around Jason’s article, which is a solid one — so I have changed the sub-head.

        • michellegoodall

          Thank you Michele.

  • http://acooze.co/ Cameron Upshall

    What a great article. I have always liked the notion of doing more with Less. Thanks Jason.

    • http://www.blog.marketo.com/ Jason Miller

      Thanks for the kind words Cameron. Very much appreciated!

  • http://www.agrotising.com/ Chris Agro – Agrotising, Inc.

    Great insights from some of the best in content marketing today. Nice article Jason!.

    • http://www.blog.marketo.com/ Jason Miller

      Thanks for the comment Chris! This was a really interesting one to put together.

  • technoledge1

    Great post, Jason. I think we all agree that quality trumps quantity, but even quality content becomes a deluge when you’re bombarded with it. Interesting that Joe Chernov conceded that he used to produce too much content – other content marketers would do well to follow his example.

    As I show in this post, even Mozart’s finest scores begin to sound like elevator music when you hear them all the time:

    http://blog.technoledge.com.au/2013/06/20/content-marketing-the-deluge-is-already-here-please-stop-flooding-my-inbox/comment-page-1/

    • http://www.blog.marketo.com/ Jason Miller

      Thanks for the comment and sharing that post. Interesting approach indeed.

  • http://charmingoo.com/ Josh Brancek

    Jason, I would say that you cant never have too much great content!!! When your content is pure awesomness, go ahead and post it!!!

    • Owen Rampha

      My take on this..from a radio perspective that is, is that mediocre content will always sound voluminous to a listener..when it lacks “pure awesomeness” as you so awesomely put it Josh, it will always sound like its too long and monotonous, even if its a 2 minute link on air.. where as the opposite will always sound too short..because its so great, so awesome..the audience will always want more..content that is “awesome” within a 7 minute on air link will feel like 3 minutes to the audience

      I couldn’t agree with you more Josh

  • http://indispensablemarketing.com/ Patrick McFadden

    I take two things away from this post: First, there’s a new gate keeper in determining who wins today and that is “the people.” Secondly, the cream always rises to the top. Great quality content wins over quantity.

  • http://www.onfiremediaonline.com/ ‘TC’ Teresa Clark

    Jason,

    Keeping it short and compelling is a must when creating content. I also have some techniques that I use when creating content.

    I keep consumers in the buying part of their brain. This is particularly critical when using methods of indirect marketing, such as websites, an advertising piece, email blast, social media or blog post. Creating content that is so good that it becomes ‘forward-able,’ meaning it is so good they will forward it to friends or business associates that may become future clients. This will alleviate some of the stresses a consumer feels when ‘being sold’ on a product or business.

    Thanks,
    T.C.