Tuesday 2¢ – Shortcuts

As I mentioned last week, I’ve had some time over the holidays to catchup on podcasts and the stack of books I’ve promised myself I would read, and the topic of “shortcuts” popped up a few times, possibly pertinent as I look to grow my own business and Rockstar CMO – let’s face it, as we get caught up in the hustle, a shortcut would be a welcome relief, it’s human nature. 

We relaunched Rockstar CMO over the holidays and as we plan for 2019, we are inviting article submissions for upcoming  issues and as we open up a little to a few guest writers, we are considering our editorial policy. Most of our content has been written by journalists, long form, in-depth and each is a good read, but…

People want shortcuts

Listicle” articles are popular. As web content consumers we can’t resist the temptation to click on these, “get some shareable insights fast” links, even though they often deliver vacuous content.

Invariably as the page loads the intelligent part of our brain ponders that we are likely to arrive at a page where six of the “top 10 tips” we will probably know already and the other four will be absurdly obvious.

An experience that is quickly followed by us bouncing off the site, cursing ourselves on frittering away a few moments of a day so busy that it is driving us to look for shortcuts (oh the irony!).

Give them shortcuts

Having said this, in content marketing we need to realize that a proportion of our audience will be hustling, looking for shortcuts. The experience I describe may have given “listicles” a bad name, but there is no shame in short form. (This really is a note to self!).

That’s not to say we need to stop the long form content, we need to continue to write for the people who want to properly engage with both the content and hopefully with us and our brand, not just for those bouncing around looking for shortcuts, or for that matter the machines who also love these posts (although even the search engines are getting smarter about what’s good). 

If we create this kind of content, we need to think of the shortcut content as a teaser to the good stuff.

There is no shortcut to shortcuts

To create the crappy, vacuous stuff, that I mentioned earlier in the post, is a shortcut to hits, but it’s not a shortcut to engagement or usefulness for you or your audience, it’s a shortcut to a bounce. To my point last week about being useful, we still need to do the work.

I like this from Seth Godin, from back in 2005, when asked by a reporter about email marketing:

The reporter didn’t like the answer I gave her about how to build a email marketing list. I told her that the first step was to offer something in your email newsletter that people would actually want to read. That the second step was to promise people exactly what you intended to give them. And the third step was to create content that was so remarkable that people wanted to share it. I explained that if you take your time and keep your promises, it’ll build if it deserves to build. She wanted to know about shortcuts.

Seth Godin

As an aside, later in the same article Godin refers to the reporter wanting to know about how to build a list when your content is boring… sheeeesh.  

In life, a shortcut through the park, across a field or down a sketchy looking alleyway, is a shorter route to somewhere you want to go.

The shortcut you create in your content marketing needs to be a genuine shortcut, it has to taken them the short way to something useful, interesting or insightful.

You probably still have to do the same work as a long form article, just package it differently – and of course, publish or syndicate the long form article too. 

Maybe the machines will give us shortcuts as we train them to write our content, but that’s a rant for another day.

In the meantime it’s up to us to do the work.

If you want some help with doing the work or maybe you are interested in what we are doing at Rockstar CMO, please get in touch.