This is Not Content Marketing

I try and read … a lot. It’s obviously a great way to learn, and there’s no shortage of interesting and useful content online to read. (In fact, my Instapaper account is backed up with things I want to read but just haven’t gotten to yet.)

As we’ve talked about, content is a great way to sell. That’s the premise behind content marketing, or the idea that, by giving your potential customers the information and tools they need to make a more informed decision, they’ll look to you as a trusted advisor who has their best interest at heart.

When they trust you, they’ll buy from you.

It’s the perfect type of relationship; the vendor and the customer are both benefitting from the union.

But the other day, I saw a content marketing article so ridiculous that it’s been bothering me — big time. It was on LinkedIn, and written by Ryan Holmes, the CEO of HootSuite, which provides social media management services.

The offending article: “Need a Digital Detox? 5 Free Apps to Simplify Your Life 2014

I hope even in reading the title you realize the stupidity of this “content.”

Read the whole thing, but the gist is that Holmes describes five apps that can make your life a bit easier and simpler. Unsurprisingly, one of them is an app created by HootSuite.

Here’s why this article fails on so many levels:

  • The headline. The common sense answer if you need a digital detox? TURN OFF YOUR PHONE AND YOUR COMPUTERS. You can’t go on a digital detox by downloading more apps. You don’t feed an addiction with more of the substance you’re addicted to. Now, speaking as a former journalist, the headline is not always written by the author. But, at the end of the day, the author’s name is on the article, so he’s got to stand behind it.
  • The product placement. It’s beyond obvious that this is just a product placement piece, and not an article that’s really designed to inform or educate. Here’s the thing: if you list out five great resources, and one of them is yours — you’re just promoting your own stuff. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but be clear that’s what you’re doing. Don’t veil it in a piece packaged as informational content.
  • The comments. If you write a piece of content, and the most popular comments are all lambasting your article for not being useful at all, you’ve got a serious problem. You’ll always have some people who disagree with you, but if the popular opinion is that you’ve produced crap, then you have. Here’s a sampling of some of the comments …

Quentin Muhlert: Have an alcohol problem? Here – drink this whiskey.  Depressed? Try thinking about how sad your parents are!

Aron Blume: So let me get this straight. In order to get a digital detox, I need to get more (digital) apps? Seriously? What have we humans evolved into?

Doug Stephens: How about this: throw away the iToys and talk to people. There’s so much to learn.

But Kevin Oke, Lead Designer at Adrian Crook & Associates, puts it best:

The amount of insipid articles like this (content marketing with the thinnest veneer of value) that Linkedin promotes is just mind boggling.

At the end of the day, it’s about value.

Are you actually giving your users something that they can benefit from? Are they learning? Are they able to make more informed decisions? Or are you just promoting your own stuff under the guise of content marketing?

You can’t sell people crap and expect them to be happy with it. Give them value. Educate them. When it comes to content marketing, focus on the content, not the marketing.

Jason Unger
About Jason Unger
Jason Unger is the Founder of Digital Ink, the creative and digital team that builds brands and helps companies grow. Based outside of Washington, D.C., Jason has done it all, from website strategy, design, development, troubleshooting, maintenance, content and marketing.