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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