By Jay Baer published June 26, 2013

Why Creating Content That Consumers Want Isn’t Enough

creating content-youtilityToday’s consumers are staring at an invitation avalanche, with every company asking for “likes,” “follows,” clicks, and attention. This is on top of all the legacy advertising that envelops us like a straitjacket. There are only two ways for companies to break through in an environment that is unprecedented in its competitiveness and cacophony: Be “amazing” or be useful (which I prefer).

I call this useful alternative to traditional marketing “Youtility.” Not “utility,” because a utility is a faceless commodity. Youtility is marketing upside down. Instead of marketing that’s needed by companies, Youtility is marketing that’s wanted by customers. Youtility is massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long-term trust and kinship between your company and your customers. 

But one of the most critical elements of Youtility — and of creating content marketing overall — is making sure people know it exists. You know what happens when most companies launch a new, branded mobile application or other content-rich marketing program intended to effectively combine information and promotion? Nothing. You’ve heard the saying, “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” The same logic works in these scenarios: “If you create Youtility and don’t tell anyone about it, does it even exist?

You must market your marketing

When you launch an app, or commence blogging, or begin answering questions, you have not reached the finish line; you have merely reached the starting line. Too many businesses break out the champagne just because something new was created. Remember, Youtility is all about being useful, which literally means “full of use.” The objective is not to make information. The objective is to make information that customers and prospective customers will use.

However, because content marketing and creating Youtility are often inexpensive propositions when considered in the context of the overall marketing program of a company, these efforts are viewed as relatively minor and, thus, don’t receive dedicated promotional support, even at launch. Instead, they are promoted alongside the regular flotsam and jetsam of the brand’s communication: a link here, a mention there. This dramatically curtails exposure — counteracting the entire premise of Youtility.

Content is fire, and social media is gasoline

You can, and should, utilize social media to create awareness and usage of your Youtility. You cannot devote every social media communication to information, because there are, of course, other priorities fighting for attention internally. But being useful, interesting, and relevant needs to be what your brand is known for (at least partially), now and into the future. If you’re creating content that’s interesting, useful, and helpful, your customers and prospects will do more of your marketing for you, helping your company work less arduously and expensively on interruption marketing in its various guises.

Use social media to promote your useful information first, and your company second

This concept of using marketing to promote your marketing also presents the best possible case for using social media, which far too often devolves into self-referential inanities that career employees wouldn’t even care about, much less casual customers. This frustrating scenario of brands talking, talking, talking in social media but never saying anything of value other than “We’re great, you should give us more of your money,” is all too common.

Remember, companies of every size, shape, and description are competing for attention with real people whom we know and love. It’s not about keeping it real; it’s about keeping it relevant. If your social media informs more often than it promotes, you’re on the right track.

Would you like to ask Jay a question about Youtility or content marketing? Post your questions in the comments below, and look for Jay’s answers to selected questions in a future post on CMI. If Jay answers your question, we’ll send you a free copy of his new book, “Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype.” 

Editor’s note: Today’s post has been excerpted from Jay’s new book. Visit the YoutilityBook website for more information and additional resources. And don’t miss Jay’s presentation at Content Marketing World 2013. Use coupon code CMI100 for a discount when registering.

Author: Jay Baer

Jay Baer is a hype-free digital marketing strategist, speaker, and author. He founded Convince & Convert in 2008. This is the fifth marketing services firm he’s started or managed. Jay has consulted with more than 700 companies on digital marketing since 1994, including Caterpillar, Nike, California Travel & Tourism Commission, Billabong, and 29 of the Fortune 500. He was named one of America’s top social media consultants by Fast Company magazine, and the Convince and Convert blog is ranked as the world’s #1 content marketing resource. He’s co-author of "The NOW Revolution," and "7 Shifts to Make Your Business Faster, Smarter, and More Social," (Wiley, 2011) a leading book on social business. His new book, Youtility was recently published by Portfolio.

Other posts by Jay Baer

  • Dan

    Well written post. I am a new blogger and I use twitter a lot. However, unlike others who post just their own content. I like to retweet any content that I think my readers and followers will find useful even if it is not my own. I like to keep a ratio of 3:1 or 2:1 (2 other and 1 my own)

    This is in regard to Youtility…. so I guess i am doing it good

    • shopletpromos

      I love that approach to social media. “If your social media informs more often than it promotes, you’re on the right track.” It’s easy to get lost in JUST promoting your brand using Facebook or Twitter but that’s not the only thing people want.

      I’ll have to try that 3:1 or 2:1 ratio and see how well it works for us. Thanks for sharing!

  • Pontus Staunstrup

    Jay, great post! My question is this: how do we find out what type of content is really useful to our customers? And is challenging them on solutions part of being useful?
    Thanks, Pontus

  • Arnie Kuenn

    Hi Jay – I just need to add an additional point. Social sharing metrics don’t always tell the whole story either.

    We offer a free content editorial calendar template on our website. It has been downloaded thousands of times, but looking at the social metrics for that page would not indicate that.

    We have heard from a few people that they have downloaded it, but will not tweet, like, share it because they viewed it as a competitive advantage and did not want their competition to know about it. So here we have a great piece of Youtility, but it might not get “shared” as much as we would like.

    BTW – as I was writing this, our shipment of Youtility books was literally brought in to my office! Pretty cool.

  • Adam

    It’s just good salesmanship. A well informed consumer is much more likely to purchase your products or services than a consumer who is repeatedly nagged (through promotion) to purchase.

    It’s a case of selling them something other than what you really want to sell them. In this case, providing information for free (initial sale) with the ultimate aim of selling your product or services.

    Question is, how long before consumers realise this and start to reject, discredit or ignore the useful, interesting content you create? Seeing it as yet another persuasion tool?

  • James Perrin

    Really good post Jay. I sometimes think that Content Marketing gets over complicated. If we look at what you’re saying, then it’s effectively looking at your customers and understanding what they want/need. It’s an old cliche, but creating solutions to problems works well. Once that’s in place, then it’s all about promoting that content via the right channels. You mention social media – and for me this would be a starting point. Listen to what your audience are saying, create, and then promote to that audience.

  • Nicole Keleher

    Great post, thank you. We are in the processing of redesigning our blog to make it more user-friendly for our customers. I love your idea of launching great content. My question is, what ideas do you have to launch our redesigned blog?

  • Craig Badings

    Jay I like your word Youtility. Don’t you think we should also change the word consumer. Two years ago I coined the term “contsumer” – after all that’s how the buying process has changed. They first consume content then they buy, hence contsumer.

  • Adnan Qaizar

    Jay, I love your headlines.

    You must market your marketing
    Content is fire, and social media is gasoline
    Too awesome, I believe these heading makes the article very interesting. This is rare!


  • Mrunmayee

    Hi Jay, I agree with your point. A content cannot be enough unless it reaches the target audience effectively. My question is that “How should we use social media in a relatively new and small market like India, if niche target audience is not that active on social media? Thanks.


  • Rupendra Thapa

    I agree that it is hard to grow your social media following, but I have had much success using in the past” .A content cannot be enough unless it reaches the target audience effectively.I sometimes think that Content Marketing gets over complicated. If we look at what you’re saying, then it’s effectively looking at your customers and understanding what they want/need. It’s an old cliche, but creating solutions to problems works well

  • Bob Bly

    For over 30 years, I have been in direct marketing, a medium often cited as hype marketing. But we too use content to generate leads and sales. I love Jay’s idea of “marketing the consumer wants.”

  • Gerard

    Jay, First ….THANK YOU! I could not agree with you more. I have been telling exactly what you are saying to my clients for years now. THANK YOU! Finally, someone else can validate this point.

  • Ishan

    Hey Jay thanks for the great post. Love the term Youtility.

  • Jessica

    Thanks Jay. Could you share some ideas for making basic website content more Youtilitarian?

  • Lisa Dougherty

    Thanks Jay. Nicely written article. I love your style! My question is this: Is a type of person a Youtilitarian who creates youseful content and then advocates it? (Also known as Youtilitarianism)

  • Adnan Qaizar

    I’ve implemented these strategies on my site and it’s good. Thank you.