Book Review: “The Content Code” by Mark Schaefer
After shuffling through a few of the book choices for this report, I decided “The Content Code: Six Essential Strategies to Ignite Your Content, Your Marketing, and Your Business” seemed the most interesting, relevant and useful to my current educational needs. For those of you that wouldn’t consider yourself a “content marketer” just yet, don’t let the title shy you away. The book is an absolute must-read for student’s like myself, that are preparing to step into the PR and marketing world.
In short, the book dissects why content either ignites or languishes. For a year, Mark Schaefer engrossed himself in the science and psychology behind the act of sharing content. The research and data findings led him to believe there is a uniform process behind it all. He then wrote The Content Code to serve as an ignition content plan based on these six ideas:
- Brand development
- Audience and Influencers
- Distribution, Advertising, Promotion, and SEO
- Shareability embedded into each piece of content
- Social proof and social signals
In the introduction, Mark explains that each time he’s written a book, he’s tried to solve a problem and answer an important question. Here’s the question The Content Code set out to answer: “I’m a professional marketer working as hard as I can. I’m producing content, engaging on social media, and spinning right along with the revolving door of every digital marketing innovation and new platform. Why is my business not getting anywhere?”
The short answer to the above question is “because you’re living in yesterday’s world.” After reading The Content Code, I was fortunate enough to land an interview with the industry-leading author, Mark Schaeffer. I began the interview by asking Mark to elaborate on the answer above. He quickly explained that businesses are running their marketing based on what was reality three years ago. At that time, content was still a novelty, and it was easily discoverable. Mark declared, “Companies that are going to succeed today have to run their businesses based on what is, not what they wish for.” He goes on to explain that we are currently facing an “overwhelming wall of information density.” Meaning, content marketers need to adjust their strategies accordingly. Mark put things into perspective for me when he said, “Whether it’s a human system, an economic system or a factual system… when there’s too much stuff, there has to be an adjustment. If you adjust fast, you’re going to win.” I took note of the knowledge stated above because I was unaware of the changes that have happened and are continuing to happen in the realm of content.
After reading the book and interviewing Mark, one of the biggest takeaways I learned is that everything begins with content. As students entering this profession, we need to wrap our minds around this concept. People seem to think that content is the finish line. When in reality, content is the starting line. During the interview, Mark said he recently heard someone say, “Great content always rises to the top, period.” We both chuckled after he made this comment, agreeing that person is clearly someone who has not been working in marketing for long enough. Mark preached, “That statement is simply not true. You can create great content and if people don’t see it, if it isn’t shared and doesn’t spread, you might as well lock that content in a vault because the economic value is zero.”
I began to wonder, what are some of the mistakes companies are making when it comes to delivering content? According to Mark, the biggest problem is that “companies are creating content for the sake of having content.” He brought me to an understanding that at the end of the day, that’s going to be a huge waste of time and resources. Not creating content to be aligned with a metric and strategy is a huge problem in today’s marketing world. Mark admitted that he was a prime example of this mistake in his early marketing days. After about nine months, he realized all of his leads and business connections were coming from his blog. It took him nine months and proof to realize he should be taking the content more serious. He also admitted that it took about two years to find his voice and that he’s still finding it today. “My blog is different today than it was six months ago and in six months it will be different than it is today because my voice is still evolving,” he pleaded.
Another reason marketers are struggling to create successful content is purely mechanical issues such as not having share buttons, images, and headlines. Apparently Mark is well known throughout the industry for putting emphasis on the importance of social sharing, which brings me to my favorite takeaway from The Content Code. The book introduces the subject in chapter three, “Building Shareability into your content.” The chapter looks at the reasoning behind why people share content and how we can use that insight to ignite our work. I was already aware of the importance of social sharing, but Mark assured my thoughts on the subject with one simple statement, “The economic value of social media and content is sharing. The act of pushing the publish button does not create any economic value.” Mark stressed the importance of developing a strategy around transmission and social sharing explaining “It’s the new way to look at content and marketing.” There are statistical evaluations that you can do to your content that will give you a better chance of igniting the content. Mark has built a business around that principle, offering 51 statistical tests that you can do to help get your content moving. Here’s the basic moral of building shareability: If your content is stagnant it’s time to build an audience and build an emotional connection with the audience. Then when you create content, they are poised to ignite.
Shaefer quickly summarizes the book with this, “The Content Code starts where your current marketing plan ends, and provides the launch code for next-level marketing success. Unlock your business value, unleash your audience, and uncover the six digital strategies.” The book is packed full of ideas for businesses to use to improve content transmission. Most importantly, the book is not linear; these are ideas anyone and businesses of every size can use. In this report, I introduced and elaborated on my favorite takeaways. However, I wasn’t able to cover the entire code. To discover the rest of The Content Code, you’ll have to give the book a read. Well done, Mr. Schaefer.
To learn more, visit Schaefer Marketing Solutions here.