By James Scherer published February 19, 2014

5 Ways to Optimize Your Social Media Content to Combat Content Shock

image-combating content shock2014 was barely underway before Mark Schaefer’s Content Shock article put a bit of a hitch into our year’s content marketing plans. Those who have been content marketing for a while were all gung-ho for the new year, and reading Schaefer’s theory definitely caused myself and many of my peers pause.

In light of the article, a few of us were scrambling for the most straightforward, teachable strategies for combating this wave of content. This article is what we came up with.

Here, I’ll dive into optimizing your social media content, and will discuss why I believe doing this better than your competitors will be the most reliable way to stave off both audiences’ potential content fatigue and any resulting decreases in content marketing ROI.

What is content shock?

The idea of content shock was first theorized by Mark Schaefer on Jan. 6, 2014 (so, in online marketing terms, about a year and a half ago).

He defines content shock as, “The emerging marketing epoch defined when exponentially increasing volumes of content intersect our limited human capacity to consume it.”

Basically, the idea is that content marketing is, increasingly, becoming standard practice. It delivers, per dollar, three times the leads as traditional marketing avenues, costs 62 percent less, and has been ranked as the single most effective strategy for SEO. As a result, we’re all doing it.

Because of its success, content marketers are creating an ever-increasing amount of content (27,000,000 pieces per day), doubling (depending on who you talk to) the entire amount of available web-based information every 9–24 months.

And our readers are only human. They can only absorb so much information. The battle to be first, to be more comprehensive, to be read more, seen more, respected more, is becoming quite a significant war.

Every article you write has either been written before or will be published 5 minutes before you do.So what do you do? How can you hold back the tide and keep your content marketing ROI floating?

An introduction to SMO

Social media optimization is an idea that’s been around for a while, but has really come into popularity since Google’s Hummingbird Algorithm was integrated into search in late August.

For me, the most important factor of that algorithm change was a new focus on social activity for SEO. Traditional SEO, as you likely know, focuses on link building (links to your content are seen as, essentially, votes in that content’s favor). The more links you have to and within your content, the higher it’ll appear in a search.

Now, however, the all-important link has been replaced with the Google +1. If anybody is surprised that Google has made its own social network’s endorsement the most important factor for SEO, you really shouldn’t be…

Google has also hugely increased the value of social endorsements of all kinds. Yes, links are still incredibly important (please do not take away from this section that you can stop link-building), but important also is the Facebook “like,” Twitter’s tweets, LinkedIn’s shares and Pinterest’s pins.

What this means for content marketers and content shock: In the coming years, content marketers will need to fight tooth-and-nail to make our content more shareable, endorse-able, tweet-able, pin-able and more “like”-able than anyone else’s.

5 Strategies for combating content shock with SMO

1. Make your content shareable and engageable

Create awesome visuals: You’ve probably read a few 2014 prediction articles that have argued that 2014 will be the year for visual content. Visual content gets better engagement on social platforms than text-based content. It performs better in your newsletter and marketing emails, and it communicates information faster.

My recommendation for developing visual content is to collate the most appealing statistics from your blog research and create an infographic or SlideShare presentation. Put time and effort into these (yes, you may have to learn InDesign). This strategy, of reusing statistics from your blog for an infographic, is the best for a solid ROI. Your time is valuable. Use it intelligently (more on this later).

Make it bite-sized: While the long-form blog isn’t going anywhere, bite-sized content is becoming more valuable. Because of the deluge of content we’re immersed in, you need to offer easy-to-read snippets (witty, anecdotal, fun) as well as comprehensive articles.

My favorite form of “palatable” content is the SlideShare presentation. If you’re unfamiliar, SlideShare is a free presentation-sharing site that puts your content in front of millions of viewers. Upload your presentations and SlideShare generates an embeddable code for your blog site and has its own social-share toolbar. Slideshare also gives you extremely competitive lead generation options (no, I don’t work for them).

wishpond image-why visual

Encourage social shares: You absolutely have to be promoting your content on social platforms — you know this. Even more important is to encourage people to share your content themselves:

  • A social share toolbar within your blog site can increase virality by up to 700 percent. This simple step can have a huge influence on your blog’s performance, and if you’re not doing it already, get on it.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a share or “like.” As long as you do it gently (don’t push a “Like this Post!” banner down your reader’s throat, please), there’s nothing wrong with a request to share.
  • The same goes for asking for comments. Do this subtly with a question at the end of your articles and then say, “Start the conversation below!” or “Have you experienced ___? What’s your story?
  • Each of your pieces of content should have a call to action (CTA), whether that’s to download an eBook, sign up for your RSS feed, share — or all four — is up to you.

2. Focus on being social 

Putting the individual into your content: This is, for me, the most important factor for making your content pop. As social media has worked its way into every nook and cranny of our society, internet users have become increasingly attracted to brands, bloggers and personalities who have, well, personality.

Put more of yourself, or your brand personality, into your writing. Those articles that read like you and I are having an informed chat about content marketing best practices do far better than those articles where I stand at the front of the classroom (metaphorically, of course) and read from a textbook.

How to encourage content engagement on social media:

  • Make your blog header images appealing and eye-grabbing.
  • Make your infographics engaging and your eBooks more visually exciting than traditional (especially if you’re going to advertise them on social).
  • Write in a conversational tone that connects with your demographic.
  • Use personal pronouns to increase the sense of the individual in your writing.

social sharing buttons-circle

Making your header images eye-catching (something like the above, which was for an article focused on which social media platform is right for your business) is essential. This is because when you tweet or post a link to your article on Facebook, you should be using an image. Images get far more engagement than straight links on social media. They attract the eye better and get your message across faster.

Tip: I recommend you come up with two blog titles — one optimized for search and one for social media:

  • Use the first title for your article and the second for posting the article’s link on social platforms.
  • Test social media titles on Twitter (posting one phrasing around 9 a.m. and another around 11 a.m.) and use the one that received the most engagement on Facebook, Google+ etc.
  • Remember that shorter posts, with verbs, adverbs and the words “you” and “please” have better engagement.

Why this is important: An emphasis on long-tail search was also one of the changes made by Google with the Hummingbird algorithm update — but they don’t generate as much engagement as a shorter, catchier title on social platforms.

Checklist for social media engagement:

checklist-social media engagement

3. Engage with influencers

Influence marketing is awesome. Creating a relationship with thought leaders in your sector not only opens doors you never thought would open, it also increases your brand profile.

You can’t really understand the influence that some of these awesome individuals have until Mari Smith tweets a link to one of your articles to her 263,000 Twitter followers and your readership goes up 1,000 percent in a day.

Influencers aren’t scary. Most of them got to the position they’re in through networking and being genuinely intelligent, personable individuals. They don’t bite.

Here’s how to find them and start a conversation:

  • Check out the top three social influence metric sites: Klout, Kred, and PeerIndex for those individuals in your sector with the greatest online reputation and influence.
  • Before engaging, make sure they’re engage-able: Are they active? Do they share other content, or only their own? Do you share followers? Are your competitors following them?

the best content marketing blog posts Once you’ve found a few influencers in your sector, try these tactics:

  • Follow your influencer’s blog articles through an RSS feed and comment on them.
  • Create a “best-of” post with an influencer’s article included.
  • Compile a list of best resources for your sector with them included.
  • Make a blog post summarizing an influencer’s comprehensive article, and give a shout-out to the experts who wrote it.
  • If their business (or they themselves) has a blog, offer to contribute a guest article.
  • Once you’ve had a few exchanges on Twitter or blog commenting, make an overture for an interview or Q&A.

4. Reuse content to combat a decreasing ROI

Content SMO is also about being smart with your social media content marketing. One of Mark Schaefer’s main points in his article on content shock is that the influx of content means that we have to spend more and more and more time making our content amazing. Only with “amazing” content (he argues) can we earn the same content ROI we would have earned from “good” content a year ago.

Rather than devote your entire life to making a single blog article that shines like the sun, my recommendation is to reuse your content intelligently. Work smart, not hard! (Though you’ll still have to work hard…)

Consider your well-researched, long-form blog article as a glacier. From that glacier you derive any number of rivers and streams: SlideShare presentations, infographics, blog commenting (on Influencers, if you’re smart), social media post ammunition and, once you have four or five articles on the same subject, an awesome eBook.

5. Make your content unique, engaging and different

I recognize this is quite a straightforward way of saying something that is a daily struggle and takes up the vast majority of a content marketer’s time.

So here are three concrete strategies I use (I’d love for you to add your own strategies in the comment section below):

  • Use Evernote: Evernote is an organizational app. It works on tablets, computers, and your mobile devices (and you can share content among all of them). It makes sharing with colleagues, peers, or influencers simple. You can tag and organize your thoughts, content ideas, news stories, etc., and once you’re done, you can file those tidbits into an archive for later perusal (but also so you don’t have to scroll through old stuff to find something you need now).

There are also (of course) a bunch of awesome plug-ins for Evernote, my favorite of which is the LiveScribe smartpen, which allows you to take notes (on your pant-leg if necessary), record audio, and transmit information easily to your Evernote app the next time you connect to Wi-Fi. The pen remembers what you write or hear and transmits it to your device for later.

  • Read everything: Subscribe to Feedly, ensure you have the Flipboard app on your phone. Read everywhere, all the time. Content marketing is not (at least for me) a 9 to 5 job. I am a content marketer everywhere, all the time. I read articles on transit on the way to work and bookmark quotes, news items, and random facts to use later.

Here’s why this is essential: With content shock coming for us like a fast-moving train, we need to keep ridiculously up-to-date on the developments in our field. Is there a case study coming out on Pinterest ROI for B2B? Shelve the article you had planned and write on that the moment it comes out.

  • Do Q&A’s and interviews: You’re trying to be unique right? You’re trying to get exclusive information? Are you doing interviews or Q&As with thought leaders in your field (or even one of your peers who has interesting insights into… whatever!)?

Not only is this content exclusively yours, but if you’re interviewing an influencer, you’ll increase your brand profile as they’re guaranteed to promote it as well.

Of course there are more strategies for writing awesome content that is unique, engaging and gets read. What are some of yours?

Find more best practices and rules of engagement for working with today’s top social media platforms. Read our Content Marketer’s Guide to Social Media Survival: 50+ Tips.

Author: James Scherer

James Scherer is a content strategist at Wishpond, a platform which makes it easy to create complete marketing campaigns from a single tool. Connect with him on Twitter.

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  • Lexi-Web Copywriter

    Hi James, you made plenty of good suggestions here. I’d like to add that the possibility of content shock makes it all the more imperative for us to create content that’s relevant to our target audiences. Casting a wide net by creating content that appeals to everyone is a waste of time and resources. We may reach a smaller audience by being more laser focused on our content, but they will be the RIGHT audience. What’s the use of having 1 million blog readers a month if most of them would never be interested in your product anyway?

    I’ve seen people saying things like “Don’t worry so much about relevance in your content marketing,” and I find that advice to be very disturbing! It goes against a basic tenet of communication, which is to get clear on your target audience and create content for them. What are your thoughts on this?

    • James @ Wishpond


      Awesome comment, and I completely agree with you. One of the tactics I wish I’d had more time to discuss in this article is the idea that finding a niche market and honing in on them may very well be the best way to avoid the content wave. Essentially, you’re hiding in an alleyway as the horde of zombies sweeps past (weird metaphor I admit, but go with it!)

      Some brands use content marketing exclusively to generate awareness, others use it to generate sales. I feel your own content strategy should be somewhere between the two. Create content that your target audience wants to read, but also create content that gets your brand seen (this can drive a reader – who may not even know they should be your customer – to become one).

      I’d be concerned that if you’re only generating content for a laser-focused audience you’d pigeonhole yourself into that market, that readership. What if you wanted to expand in the future? Do you think you would have a harder time doing so? Image Steven Seagal doing a romantic comedy and you have some idea of my concerns.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Clay Morgan

    A few years back, while still in the newspaper industry, a presenter at a trade conference made an interesting point. He said we weren’t competing against digital news sites, radio, TV or other media. Rather, view yourself as being in competition FOR a reader’s time.

    That’s what it boils down to, isn’t it? Your suggestions here are meant to help a reader find the content he or she wants as quickly as possible. It’s a time value. Good stuff.

    • James @ Wishpond


      That’s an interesting way of looking at it. I think you’re right, my suggestions here are meant to help a reader find your content as quickly as possible, but it’s also about encouraging them to share that content with their own social circles. Otherwise we’d just be talking about SEO, and content marketing is so much more than that.

      Creating content that’s relatable, fun, informative and inspires sharing is – for me – the best tactic. Absolutely making your content as visible as possible is essential, but developing loyal readers is just as important.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Laura Click

    James – This is an excellent roadmap on how to get more out of your content. I think this is especially helpful for people just getting started.

    I think your last point about being different is really where it’s at. I wrote a similar response to Mark’s piece and focused on how to differentiate. New delivery methods (podcasts, webinars, videos, etc.), narrowed focus, becoming a destination through brand journalism, etc. Much of what you’ve shared here is the foundation for doing this right. I think you might have to take it even further to stand out and get noticed in a crowded, noisy world.

    • James @ Wishpond


      Absolutely new delivery methods are essential. Theoretically, though, every other content marketer is trying as hard as possible to utilize those same new methods. I think in order to stand out from the crowd we need to combine best practices (webinars, videos, influencer relationships, etc) with our own personalities. If another (competing) content marketer and I are both following the same best practices, it really comes down to which of our personalities our audience prefers. This is why I’ve started to put more and more of my own personality into my content creation. Have you tried something similar?

      • Laura Click

        James – I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I mentioned “showcasing your personality” as another way to stand out and get noticed in a noisy world. After all, people want to connect with people – not some stale corporate content.

  • Jeremy Swinfen Green

    This is a really useful article for lots of reasons (it’s really practical) but I love the idea of “content shock”. You only have to look at Twitter to get an idea of what this means. If the average Twitter user, I’ll call him Robin, follows around 100 people, all of whom tweet around 5 times a day (rough stats and sorry I don’t have the source to hand), that means Robin has around 500 tweets to read a day. But he is only on Twitter for around 5 minutes (again, sorry, no source). He is not going to be able to take in more than around 100 tweets during that time. Content shock, indeed!

    • James @ Wishpond


      Great point – Twitter is an excellent example. Too much content and too little time to disseminate it. Twitter also has similarities to content creation as marketers try to grab onto the wave of what’s trending – resulting in a flood of content created as fast as possible without real consideration. What do you think is the solution? Thanks for commenting!

  • Hashim Warren

    “the all-important link has been replaced with the Google +1. ..Google has made its own social network’s endorsement the most important factor for SEO”

    That is not accurate. Google Engineer Matt Cutts clarified:
    “If you make compelling content, people will link to it, like it, share it on Facebook, +1 it, etc. But that doesn’t mean that Google is using those signals in our ranking.”

    Google’s recent updates stopped many sites from using link schemes and low quality content to rank for search terms. However, a link from a high authority site is still the best off-page ranking factor for Google.

    • James @ Wishpond


      Thanks for contributing, and you’re absolutely right that this point has met with some controversy. As I understand it, nobody is 100% sure (despite Matt Cutt’s clarification) that +1s have a correlative or causal relationship with Google’s SEO.

      In fact, in the very source you gave us in your comment, they quote MOZ’s article (we’re agreed that Moz is a solid authority on SEO, yes?): “Now in 2013, there’s strong reason to suspect it’s different [from Facebook Shares in 2011] with Google+, and that the relationship between +1s and higher rankings goes beyond correlation into the territory of actual causation.”

      Either way, you’re absolutely right that a link from a high authority is one of the best off-page ranking factors. For content marketers however (not all of whom are SEO-gurus), I think focusing on creating socially-responsive content is an essential tactic for 2014.

      Whether social shares have a causal relationship or a correlative one with SEO is actually beside the point, as both sides of this discussion can agree that encouraging social engagement is vital to online marketing. And my article hopefully gives people some strategies on how to do that.

      Cheers, and thanks so much for getting involved in the discussion!

      • Hashim Warren

        pointing out the ranking correlation to social activity correlation is fine.

        Stating “the link has been replaced” and a plus 1 is “the most important factor for SEO” is inaccurate, according to Google’s employees.

        I hope you can edit out that part, because it mars the rest of your advice, which is strong.

        For the sake of not getting into a back and forth, I’ll leave this as my final word.

  • Brittany Huber

    Very good advice, much obliged for sharing. I wonder sometimes whether the early days of SEO where many were so focused on cramming keywords and only vaguely relevant links into every page precipitated the shift to social sharing, somewhat. Not that people don’t trust Google, they obviously do, but I think more and more people became aware of how search results can be manipulated, making them more inclined to pay attention to things shared by people they know.

    • James @ Wishpond


      Great point – and you could very well be right. I know from my experience with Facebook Advertising that people respond far, far more to brand promotion when it comes ‘through’ a friend who Likes that brand – and your idea is similar to that development.

      I’m not convinced this is because people are aware of how completely search results can be manipulated (that manipulation, to be honest is working pretty fantastically) and are turning against it. I think, rather, that social shares are the new ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing – something which has always worked exponentially better than anything we can do to manipulate the system.

      What do you think?

      Thanks for the insightful comment!

      • Brittany Huber

        You’re likely right, most people probably aren’t away of any manipulation. I suppose what I wonder really is whether (and this is going back a ways) coming across pages on search results that were totally irrelevant and just had a ton of links and keywords jumbled together to get a high page rank has gotten to people a little bit. I’m probably slightly biased as an early adopter with some specialized interests who ran into weird pages more than is probably average, though. 😉

        Social shares are definitely the new word-of-mouth, I think you’re spot on about that. It’s very much the same way that user reviews carry a lot of weight relative to a company’s own description or claims about their products.

        • James @ Wishpond


          Product reviews are a great example – you’re right. As far as the jumble of keywords goes, I totally remember that as well, though I think you’re also right that it’s died down substantially. SEO is a far more complex creature than it was 10 years ago and Google’s algorithm is far more active in penalizing keyword spammers.

          It’s that complexity which is why I champion a focus on social engagement for many content marketers.

          Thanks again for getting involved in the conversation!

  • Dara Schulenberg

    Great overview James. To your checklist for social engagement I would add that you’ve adapted the introduction of the content to align with the unique qualities of the specific network you’re posting to. Tone, culturally accepted CTAs, time of day and other specifics of social sharing vary dramatically by channel. We need to work together to reduce the volume of random acts of social posting and set-up our content for success.

    • James @ Wishpond


      Absolutely true – the specifics of content marketing are endless. What I love about it, though, is the difference in analytics between marketing today and marketing ten years ago. I love being able to prove to myself and my colleagues that a strategy we’ve implemented is working in concrete terms.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Vincent Messina

    So if I am a CPA and I write an article about the latest tax updates for individual tax returns, and the other 10,000 CPA’s in the US write the same article about the same updates, is there shock? OR, more accurately, is it true that in MOST industries, there is room for everyone, like there has always been, and will always be?

  • Stacey Mathis

    1. I’m so glad to finally here someone else agree that there is or can be value in bite-sized content.

    2. In addition to Flipboard, there’s Alltop, another online magazine rack.

    • James @ Wishpond


      Thanks for your comment.

      I think we can all agree that content should be prioritized based on ROI (this is business, remember). And I’ve often found that the time I have to devote to create bite-sized content is less than that of a blog article – especially if I re-use content intelligently. In fact, it’s not infrequent that a bite-sized piece of my content spreads farther and gets more engagement than a full-length article.

      Have you checked out It was recommended in a comment below but I’ve yet to take a look.


      • Stacey Mathis

        And, I meant “hear,” not “here.” Jeez!

        • James @ Wishpond

          Thought I’d stay polite and not call you out… 🙂

          • Stacey Mathis

            Thanks, James. Also, I just signed up for theSKimm. Thanks for turning me on to them.

  • Dennis Shiao

    Great article, James. Lots of useful tips that content marketers and social media marketers can put to use right away.

    To date, much of the commentary around content shock has focused on improving and differentiating one’s content. I found your piece valuable because you looked at a number of angles adjacent to the content. Your “Work smart, not hard” quote is quite apt.

    For brands working their way towards 50,000 blog subscribers and 100,000 Twitter followers (but not there yet), Social Media Optimization is a “must have” in order to expand the reach of their content (adding an outbound element to their inbound marketing).

    All in all, it’s a fun time to be a content marketer.

    • James @ Wishpond


      Thanks for reading and commenting (and for connecting on Twitter!).

      Jay Baer’s focus on differentiating and improving the quality of content is completely legitimate, but not very exacting. I thought giving three concrete strategies that I know have improved the quality of my own content was a useful thing, so I’m glad you noticed.

      And you’re right about it being a fun time to be a content marketer. If anything, I think the whole idea of battling content shock is kinda fun as well. Do you agree?

      • Dennis Shiao

        James: yes, I agree that it’s fun to combat content shock. If you can do so effectively, it gives you job security as a content marketer. Long live shock-resistant content.

  • Anoop Srivastava

    James, you have cover good tips for social as well as content marketing. 2014 is the year of social media and content marketing. Thanks for your post.

    • James @ Wishpond

      Cheers Anoop! Thanks for taking the time to give it a read.

  • Akash Agarwal

    Very useful information for the online marketers and social media marketers. It’s a great post. Thanks for sharing with us.

    • James @ Wishpond

      Thanks for reading Akash! Glad you enjoyed the article.

  • James @ Wishpond


    Awesome comment. You’re absolutely right that content marketers are the people most exposed to content shock. As with anything, it’s all about time management: determining that you’re devoting an hour and a half to read in the morning, half an hour to comment on blog sites and 15 minutes to determine if you’re scrapping what you were going to write that afternoon in favor of something you’ve read.

    Or, to be more accurate, trying as hard as you can to do that and instead finding yourself working through lunch…

    My only issue with short-form content is it doesn’t get into exactly what we’re doing right now – the conversation. I love a good infographic or Slideshare, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something to be said for the comment section and the discussions that happen there.

    I’ll be sure to take a look at, sounds great. And thanks for commenting!

  • James @ Wishpond

    Just signed up for theskimm. Thanks for recommending it. Very cool idea, though I imagine the compilers, editors and writers must get up very early!

    • Nisha Salim

      Up with the lark, I’m sure :). It’s run by just 2 gals, from what I’ve seen on their About page.

      Glad you found it useful, James.

  • Angela Booth

    Love the “content shock” idea; the amount of content flowing online each day is incredible, and not a little frightening. I fall down on asking people to share — I need to do more of that. Thanks for the reminder, and the comprehensive article; great advice all around.

    • James @ Wishpond


      Thanks for the comment. It’s often the littlest things that get overlooked. You’d be amazed how often I have to remind clients how influential social share toolbars are, and, if they do have them, how important it is to make them visible and clickable.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Vincent Messina

    You are hearing my tone properly.

    If you want to make your article more interesting, and worthwhile, you should answer the following questions:

    1) Who is this article being written for and the advice in it meant for?
    2) What are the purposes of content, generally, and specifically?

    First, content is not a generic category. It is a high level category with a crap load of sub categories. You cannot, and neither can Mark Schaefer warn of a pending doom, and not take into consideration that content is not a coffee bean.

    Also Content is NOT only used to get found, build awareness or get social shares. It is also used to BUILD Relationships with people that already know who you are.

    Many businesses, particularly local accounting firms, get their business from referrals. But what happens when a referral is given? That person goes to the accountants website, in MOST cases.

    If the article about tax updates is there to greet them, then BOOM, a relationship has begun. They do not care that the article is similar to 10,000 other accountants. It is called a tax update, and is useful no matter how many times it is presented.

    Note also, according to you and Mark, if we dont adhere to your advice, and create an awe inspiring report on tax updates, then PWC is going to take over the accounting world, and leave the little guy behind.

    Simple NOT POSSIBLE. Why? Great question.

    Because people dont demand the article. They demand the accounting services. And not everyone needs or wants PWC to do their tax return.

    See, content marketers want to believe that content is the root of a strategy. Nope. Content is a tactic. Like any tactic, it has multiple uses in different industries for every phase of a particular demand model.

    Further, your example to create more social shareable content means what to who? Why is shareable so important? I know what you are going to say. And your answer largely comes from the fact that you believe the entire world is in competition based on their awesome content. Not true.

    Content is just one thing, but can serve multiple purposes. Your advice is a bit generic, and watered down because it doesnt help me take action.

    Also, your advice is not a revelation. We ALWAYS have to make sure we are standing out, so that we are chosen. Content shock has nothing to do with that need.

    So, my argument is that there is no such thing as content shock, primarily because Mark Schaefers argument is not founded in any study that has proven humans have reached a limit.

    No, we already filter, because we are gifted that way. That doesnt mean we dont need content, and will not need content in the future.

    That the content is socially shareable is really not relevant, unless you are only concerned with vanity metrics.

    All I want to know is that my content helps people that I serve do what they do better. It doesnt have to be socially shareable to do that. And ultility will NOT be affected by your earth quake.

  • Vincent Messina

    Chew on this for a moment. Much of the content that is being shared is really not all that shareable. What? Am I crazy? NOPE.

    People are told to get to the influencers. How? By stroking their egos. How? By sharing their content and telling the world it is worth while.

    THEN what happens next?

    Great question.

    The influencers, in a “you scratch mine I will scratch yours” now share someone else’s drivel because, as behavior science has proven, reciprocity is a social norm. PLUS, the influencers ego has just been stroked.

    So, what do WE get in return. Really, take a look around. We get a whole bunch of content that is being shared to gain favor, not because it is deserving of the share.

    I have personally interviewed some people who I have seen share garbage, asking them why they shared the garbage. Their response, generally, to win favor of the influencer.

    So, before we go off and follow the advice to create more shareable content, we need to stop and really observe what is or is not being shared, in large part, and by who.

    Content quality does not have much of a correlation to content shareability these days. I have seen it from both sides. It is a tradgedy because we are endorsing content for our own personal gain, not because the content has earned the endorsement.

    So my advice would be this. Don’t create content that is shareable. Create content that your audience will find useful. If they find it useful, they will share it. And if they don’t, who cares, you will still be useful, and you will stand out. Because your competition will be focused on creating shareable content, while you are serving the needs of your customers.

    • Vincent Messina

      Also note, I think what I am saying applies to big brands as well. I worked for a few pretty big brands. Almost as a rule, if we were not providing useful information, we were not winning deals. One other thing, now that I have calmed down a bit, is that you dont mention, unless I missed it, that your content needs to START with the buyer. Creating awesome visuals I think is advice that has us headed to the content shock you are concerned about. Because an awesome visual doesnt tell me anything about aligning the visual to the needs of my buyer. So most take that advice, and go out and try to create an awesome visual, or a viral video or some other masterpiece that serves absolutely NO business purpose whatsoever. In fact, I think big brands are doing more of this now than ever before.


    • James @ Wishpond


      Thank you for your insight. It’s always good to hear opposing points of view.

      I think the primary place we seem to disagree is that you have a far more black and white approach to content creation than I do. I feel that content marketing is a field in which every strategy should be tried, every tactic explored throughly.

      For instance, Influencer marketing is, in my opinion, a far more circumspect practice than you seem to think. In my experience with it, sharing an influencer’s content does not in any way necessitate a reciprocal share. In fact, influencers are some of the most picky social sharers on the web as they get petitioned to share content so often.

      We also disagree in that I believe creating content useful to your audience (this pertains to your comment below as well) is a huge part of creating shareable content. The two are in no way mutually exclusive. Awesome visuals often align perfectly with the needs of my buyer. Just this morning I published a Slideshare of Facebook Ad Terminology: 28 professional, beautiful slides that are downloadable and referable – something I feel is very useful to our target market, visually appealing, and shareable with their peers.

      Anyway, I won’t continue or address every point you’ve made but simply leave it with a couple responses. Thank you again for getting involved in the conversation and have a great weekend.

      Best wishes!

      • Vincent Messina

        very good my friend. appreciate the back and forth.


    This article is very informational and inspiring. Thank you!

    • James @ Wishpond

      Thanks Azure! Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Sue

    Did I miss the part of the story where we make the content about our readers and prospective customers? The deal with content shock is there is too much content out there and as these bloggers, companies, etc. jump on the content marketing bandwagon, it is only going to get worse. There is a huge distinction between doing content and doing content well. Combating content shock is doing content well and to that we are all just scratching the surface. Getting influencers to talk about us is one piece. That’s the earned part. We need to focus on the owned part and distribute it. Creating truly great content means truly getting our prospects’ pains and helping them solve those pains, and that requires getting into our prospects and customers hearts/minds. Getting into our prospects and customers hearts/minds is tough work and takes a long time. Until we take time to do that, we’ll be in an infinite content loop.

    • Vincent Messina

      Sue, my point may have been hidden behind the cloud of frustration. But point is very much aligned with yours.

      As for the “shock” side of things, Mark Schaefer presented HIS opinion that was not backed up by research. The actual research suggests that as we evolve, our ability to FILTER is enhanced. What that
      means is that when we need useful information we WILL find it and consume at the time it’s needed.

      Making content shareable has absolutely no foundation in the concept of utility, as a general piece of advice.

      Sure, useful content could be shared. BUT it doesn’t have to be shared to achieve an objective.

      To me, this entire conversation is way too general. The advice given is meaningless because it doesn’t provide a useful context.

      • Sue

        Hi Vincent.

        Thanks for the reply. I think the more content options that are out there, people will feel overwhelmed from the “data dump” and abandon it for a while. People are doing their own research. And if the right content isn’t there for the right target at the right time, it is a lose-lose situation. That’s why we have to focus on the prospect. And the self-entitlement society that we are in makes us lazy. And that laziness translates to bloggers, companies, etc. not feeling they need to go the distance to deliver to the prospect/customer. I’m saying that content creation takes an investment in time and these people need to get with it or they will lose in the content game.

        • Vincent Messina

          I wrote a fairly lengthy article somewhat criticizing this entire discussion. In that article, I actually made the point you just made.

          Putting that aside, while I don’t have the research to back this up, my sense, or opinion, is that people are taking the advice to create more shareable content, thinking shareable is the end goal. Now, we are stuck having to sift through all this wonderfully shareable content that has absolutely NO utility…because it wasn’t created to be anything BUT shareable.

          So, advice to make content fun and shareable is actually contributing to the very problem it is suppose to be solving. Ironic.

    • James @ Wishpond

      Sue (and Vincent),

      Thank you both for contributing to the conversation. At the heart of your point, Sue, you mention that ‘combating content shock is doing content well and to that we are all just scratching the surface.’

      I absolutely, 100% agree with you. But I can’t help but feel that goes without saying.

      Vincent has mentioned a couple times throughout this discussion that a focus on utility is the answer to content shock: focus on your customers, delivering quality, informative content that they can use in a concrete way.

      Content marketers that aren’t already doing this (those who, as you say are too lazy ‘to go the distance to deliver to the prospect/customer’) are going to fail no matter what. Delivering quality content that your reader/prospect/customer can use is the most basic step of content marketing, and, as I said above, should go without saying.

      What does need saying, and this is where Vincent and I disagree, is that I believe making content shareable absolutely has a foundation in the concept of utility. The ability to put your content in front of your reader (essentially, yelling louder than your competitors) is an incredibly valuable skill, and something that many (if not the majority) of content creators struggle with.

      And I think this article has given content marketers concrete, actionable ways to do this. Vincent says that the advice i’ve given is meaningless because it doesn’t provide a useful context. But isn’t the context of this discussion inherent? We’re talking about a field in which we are competing on a daily basis with thousands upon thousands of other pieces of content. Are we actually confused as to how actionable strategies to yell louder fit into this context?

      I mention concrete strategies, like specific apps I’ve found useful. I talk about creating two titles for content, one that is optimized for SEO and another optimized for SMO. I talk about 7 specific tactics to communicate and engage with influencers and another 7 part checklist to ensure your content is seen by as many people as it can be on social.

      You concluded (Sue) that ‘getting into our prospects and customers hearts/minds is tough work and takes a long time.’ I agree. But in order to get into your prospects minds they have to see your content first. You can’t solve their pains unless you’re close enough to shake their hand.

      Thanks again for being active in the conversation.

      • Sue Duris

        Hi James.

        Thanks for your response. There are two areas that I have to challenge you on.

        1. The comment about doing content well and we’ve just scratched the surface goes without saying. First, we as content marketers always have to make the following mantra part of us: I deliver the right content to the right person at the right time. That being said, I believe we have to communicate the message that content marketers have to do content well, the reasons why and tips to do content well constantly because we never know who is listening and when. There are new content marketers out there as well as seasoned content marketers who need to be educated. We have to educate our content marketer audience by teaching them that throwing content out there for the sake of having content is the wrong strategy. The right strategy is to deliver content that is thoughtful, relevant, engaging and thought-provoking and emotionally elicits the reader to act somehow.

        2. I disagree with doing content first to get into peoples’ hearts and minds. The first thing is research, then listening/observing on social channels, live events, online communities, etc., then engaging and developing relationships. Then, you can create the content. Otherwise you will be unsuccessful. I have always stuck to the “no marketing is better than bad marketing” any day of the week.

        • James @ Wishpond


          Thanks for responding. Writing for your audience is also a huge part of content marketing, as you well know. Given the readership of CMI, I felt I was safe assuming a level of basic understanding. Also, there are hundreds of articles on the web which describe how to create awesome content (and hundreds more being written every week). There are fewer which give concrete, actionable tips on encouraging the spread of your awesome content.

          As far as your second point goes, I’m not so sure you have it right (but love that we get to disagree so cordially!) I think that once you know who your market is – which should be before you have desks in your office… – you should be creating content for that audience. Content helps to spread awareness of your business. It helps with engaging and developing relationships. It helps to be active on social channels and online communities (all of which you’ve said you should do prior to content creation).

          Content backs you up. Being able to refer people you meet (both online and off) to well-written, knowledgable content can be a huge boon for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Having quality content means people don’t have to take your word for it. They can read, or view, for themselves that you have authority and knowledge about your field. Of course you’re right that content has to be good. But as I mentioned in the comment above. Are there actually successful content marketers who are creating bad content and having it succeed?

          Every tip I’ve given in the post is built on the foundation of quality content. I apologize that I didn’t make that as clear as I could have in the article.

          I’m going to have to leave it there as content has never written itself! Thanks for reading and commenting!

          • Vincent Messina

            OK James, so if content does all those things, how then, given our need to make informed decisions, can content shock be attributed across content marketing as a general concept?

            As for actionable, what industries might the aggregation of blog statistics might not actually matter to creating a better experience or reality for the buyer?

      • Vincent Messina

        James, to be clear, I think socially sharable is important, but NOT as a generic tip. Content marketing is a tactic not an industry. As such, helpful tips about tactics need a context for the tip to be actionable but more important MEANINGFUL.

        Content created to be sharable tells me absolutely nothing about a buyers experience. You are saying that shared content gets you found. OK. Found by who and where and what are they going to do when they find it?

        Also, because you are making the tip generic, your ignoring , as I said, that content has many purposes. I gave an example of using content to create a credential for a professional that gets an offline referral. In that case, the content does NOT need to be unique sharable OR dazzling. It actually just needs to be what the propsect expects.

        To that point, all of your advice is from the seller marketer side of the table. Well, dont know if youve been paying attention, but we are NOT in control. Buyers are.

      • Vincent Messina

        and why put me in parenthensis??? LOL. I dont agree with you but im not being overtly mean.

        ok, lets be friends here.

        Answer this… what industries and categories does social sharable content NOT matter?

        And this… Is it your belief that content is only to be used for SEO and or link bulding associated with SEO?

        Also, is it your opinion that viral always translates into economic gain?

    • Samantha Winchell

      I completely agree – Our prospects (viewers) are looking for answers. I’m tired of seeing content for the sake of being content. There’s nothing more frustrating than reading a blog post, and not learning anything from it. I think as marketers, we need to remember this.

  • Rahul Gupta

    Hey JAMES SCHERER, it is rightly said content marketing benefits big time in seo and also in generating quality leads. We at TangerineDigital, a content sulution provider works on the same principles everyday.

    • James @ Wishpond


      Thanks for reading and commenting. You’re absolutely right about the SEO benefits of content marketing. Cheers!

      • Rahul Gupta


  • Dr. Anthony C. Edwards

    Thank you, James, for writing this article. You really lay out how brands big and small can focus on consumers and how they consume information rather than how we are used to providing content. Also, while some people use search engines to find brands, others use social networks to search for information.

    • James @ Wishpond

      Thanks for the comment Dr. Edwards. I’m glad you enjoyed and found value in the article – and you’re absolutely right that social media platforms have become a new way to find and interact with businesses. Cheers!

  • lisa Smith

    thanks for sharing the master piece.

  • John Wilson

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