Content Marketing Failures – A Cautionary Tale

Content Marketing Failures a Cautionary Tale“Content is king.” By now, you’ve heard this probably a thousand times. It’s the mantra of the content marketing movement. But what this simple statement fails to convey is that not every king is an effective leader. Being king doesn’t mean the people will automatically listen to you. And it’s the same with content. Sometimes campaigns go awry and fail to measure up to their brands’ expectations. Here are two such examples.

Last year, Facebook launched a campaign to branch out from social media into the realm of content. Not at all a bad idea in and of itself, particularly since the two fields are so closely linked. So they launched Facebook Stories, a separate site whose tagline was “People Using Facebook in Extraordinary Ways.” They hired an experienced and prestigious editor to run the site and encouraged users to submit tales of how they were using Facebook to do extraordinary things. They also collaborated with popular news sites like The Huffington Post to compile pieces of interest.

Did it work? Well, have you heard about Facebook Stories lately? Have you used it? Chances are, you haven’t. They’re still providing content, but it generates little buzz for the brand. Their prestigious editor left in March, wondering publicly why he had been brought on board in the first place.

Around the same time Facebook Stories began, the popular blogging site Tumblr attempted a similar campaign: Storyboard. It was a blog run by Tumblr in-house, which shed a spotlight on independent content creators who hosted their content on the site. This was also ultimately a failure, and the blog was discontinued in April, less than a year after its launch.

So what happened? How did these two giants of social media fail to make their own content a success? The problem was that their campaigns lacked a clear objective. They lacked focus. They both made very definitive and public decisions to join in the content game, but no one was sure how to direct that content or what to do with it once it was up. Who was their target audience, and why? Even the editors in charge seemed unsure of what their superiors wanted them to do with these content platforms. The media wasn’t sure either, and voiced their confusion over what the focus of the sites actually was. With the purpose of the projects left so ambiguous, it became much more difficult to bring in the people they needed to make them successful.

In any content marketing endeavor, the first thing you need is a battle plan. You need to have clearly defined, thoroughly documented goals for who you want to reach with your content and what you want to achieve. And you need to be able to communicate these goals, first to your own content team, then to the media and finally to your target audience itself. Your goals may be revised and refined as your campaign goes on and you get a better idea of what works and what doesn’t. But without a concrete plan, your campaign will be useless and ineffective. Your content may be king, but unless it can wield its authority wisely, it would be better off abdicating.

Inbound Marketing 101