All trends have a shelf life, from clothing to cars and music. This also applies to content marketing. We’ve all seen this happen—a new buzzword hits the market, it’s saturated and hot, then poof. It suddenly means nothing.
A few years ago, I spoke to an expert in content marketing. My company hired her to help our team expand our reach and create more meaningful content—content that our audience actually reads. She began our first conversation with an impressive display of confidence and expertise, but shortly after, the words out of her mouth became little more than sound. Simultaneously, my mind wondered if I was listening to a robot.
“As a subject-matter expert in marketing, I am keen on building SEO and keyword-rich content, incorporating best practices and proven strategies into everything we do. We are thought leaders in the industry, and I want the team to think outside the box. Go after the low-hanging fruit and make the paradigm shift.”
From this experience, I understood the importance of meaningful conversation. Word choice must be carefully selected, keeping in mind your goal is to be understood, not to fluff your words in an effort to impress. Too, it became clear to me that Harold Evans, author of Do I Make Myself Clear, was right—“Over time, buzzwords eventually lose not only their relevance but their meaning.” Let’s explore this further.
In the modern world of business, everyone, absolutely everyone self-identifies as a thought leader.
A term first coined by Joel Kurtzman in 1994, thought leaders were considered individuals with distinctively original ideas, unique points of view, and new insights that went beyond traditional methods. Today, anyone with access to the search engine Google can become a thought leader in their basement—probably overnight. A plethora of readily available content means we no longer crave information from subject-matter experts, but instead seek meaning, relevance, and engagement from that content.
This is the differentiator between actual thought leaders and thought followers—thought leaders take what they know and add additional value and perspective, make it applicable to the individual or audience, and seek engagement and collaboration to continue growth. A thought follower reshares content that already exists—totally lame.
Content is King
We’ve all heard this phrase—perhaps too many times to count. “Content is king” came from an essay written by the infamous Bill Gates in 1996. This was in summary to his theory that the future of making money on the internet would be entirely dependent on content, no different than how it was for broadcast—the real winners on this platform used content to deliver information and entertain. Since then, “content is king” has become the primary focus of every content marketing strategy.
Here is the problem with this buzzword—creating content for the sake of creating content is worthless. It only adds to the sea of spam in existence online. “But content is king,” you say. It is, but only content of actual value. The phrase we should be using (but not really because buzzwords kill growth marketing) is “audience is king.”
After all, producing content that accommodates the audience’s needs and makes them more intelligent and more engaged is likely to also make them happier. This results in more business and a greater return-on-investment (ROI).
Holistic +a Noun
What do you think of when you see this phrase? The word holistic comes from the Greek word holos, which means all. When stating that your company uses holistic practices or another variation, you’re actually saying that your company is the same as all the others. Where is the differentiation?
When you chime into the buzzword holistic, the intent is likely to communicate that you are qualified or trustworthy. Of course your team is qualified and trustworthy. Otherwise, why would consumers bother? There are more effective ways to do this while being authentic and differentiating yourself from others. What consumers really want to know is why you? What do you bring to the table that others don’t, and why are you worth their time, resources, and attention?
Answer these questions, and you’ll develop lasting loyalties.
Best practices mean following the industry standards, i.e., the status quo—what everyone else is doing. How boring.
This is truly no different than holistic +noun. It causes your company to blend and doesn’t actually identify your proposed solution and methods. It leaves your audience with questions instead of answers. That’s obviously a problem. Growth marketing must go beyond these generic, feel-good phrases and get to the actual explanation of what you can do, why you’re qualified to do it, and how you will help your consumer solve a problem or receive a greater ROI.
I’m sure you’re dying to find out what happened to the expert content marketer mentioned earlier. Well, three weeks into her role, she continued to share keyword-rich conversations, but, funnily enough, no actual plan. The team suffered through countless Ted Talks with no real point and certainly no execution. In her final moments, she continued to buzz about, saying nothing, doing nothing, and ultimately disappearing (*not actually, of course. She was fired.).
The goal of this narrative is to encourage you to avoid this mistake and the trap of buzzwords. While they are often used to growth hack and leverage sales, move the needle for your internal team, and make you come across as a highly consumer-centric workforce, they’re nothing more than clickbait.
- Do I Make Myself Clear by Harold Evans
- Peter Cook’s A Brief History of Thought Leadership.
- Content is King: Detailed Explanation
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