What makes some content marketing virally successful while other, very similar efforts go virtually unnoticed? In his very timely digital marketing newsletter, Christopher S Penn recently pointed out the correlation between some research done on unpredictability and the seemingly random success of viral content marketing. The experiment involved dropping 28 million single grains of sand on a table one at a time and looking for patterns in the avalanches and cascades that occurred as each grain was dropped. Over time, some areas began to exhibit a more volatile nature, like fault lines, such that even a single grain would cause an avalanche.
How Viral Content Marketing Works
Chris points out that content marketing is a lot like that. It wasn’t that any one particular grain was special – it was the cumulative effect of that many grains of sand that created system-wide instability in the sandpile that caused avalanches. In the same way, a steady stream of content marketing, like the grains of sand, creates a greater likelihood of producing a larger impact online; IE: the audience is gathering around your campfire. If all you want to do is get people to pay attention to you, then mission accomplished right? But this is where most of the tools that measure content marketing influence fall down: There’s more to influence than just authority. The tools available fail to provide consistent results because they simply doesn’t tell the whole story.
The Pathos and Logos of Content Marketing
Beyond the cumulative effect of regular posting of good content, there are other factors that need to be a part of any successful content marketing effort: As Chris points out buying decisions are not just based on popularity. The Pathos or emotional appeal and the Logos or logical reasoning are also a big part of what persuades us to take action. In other words, the best author can write all day, every day, but unless something they say resonates with you and your brain tells you that it’s the right thing for you to do then you are not going to be persuaded.
This is where it gets interesting. Most buying decisions are influenced by many factors that are beyond a seller’s control. Knowing this results in a constant effort to reduce the risk and increase the likelihood of finding that ideal target customer, at the right time, with the right message and closing the deal. It’s a daunting task, but the more data we can gather that correlates our actual efforts with the responses of our customers, the closer we get to efficiency and higher returns on our content marketing or selling campaigns, but…
We Will Likely Always Need Humans in Sales and Marketing
Some things, as Chris points out, are “fiendishly hard to quantify.” Which is one reason I vehemently disagree with those who somehow have been convinced that direct sales is going away. There are too many factors in a buying decision that simply cannot be replicated and automated by machines. By all means, automate where you can and trust in tried and true patterns, but despite their quirky and upredictable nature, humans are still the best ones to market and sell to other humans, because we too have a sandpile in our heads.