Sometimes knowing too much can overcomplicate the basics. For a start I have a background in both advertising and journalism, so you might think it would give me a decent foundation in content marketing, right?
Well maybe, maybe not…
I was given a lesson in how to produce and promote content by my nine year-old daughter. She uses a programming language and online platform developed by MIT called Scratch. Effectively, it teaches programming through the use of graphical blocks to build loops, conditionals and all the other things you get with a typed language. It also allows you to draw basic graphics. Users can create a profile whereupon they build and share games, animations and other front-end applications.
One day I discovered that my daughter had 300-odd followers on the Scratch platform. Needless to say, she has no access to Twitter or Facebook and has never built a social media following. Here’s how she did it… without even trying.
One of the things I noticed was that she always had something on the go in terms of projects – and these are frequently shared up-front. Rather than spending too long on one idea she develops lots of them. Some are big, many are smaller, yet all are finished to a large degree. For her it is about getting it out there, seeing what people think and working on from that point.
Be known for something
She actually has a number of profiles. The most popular is for producing interactive animations based around stories and music. Another day she built an arcade game based on the Ant Smasher mobile app – and called it Fruiti Ant.
After a morning’s coding, I noticed she was about to send the program using a different profile with far fewer followers. Slightly perplexed, I wondered why she wasn’t publishing it under her main profile – the one with most fans.
“No,” she said. “That has the wrong brand.” People will criticise if they are delivered content you aren’t known for, she explained patiently. Oh yes, of course, I nodded – and suitably chastened slunk away.
Building a following for the sake of achieving a big number is an exercise in vanity metrics. Better to have 100 followers who are extremely interested in what you do rather than 999 out of 1,000 who aren’t.
Another element of Scratch is the ability to pull work in from numerous sources into one single project. In this way, young would-be Mark Zuckerbergs from around the world are able to get together and collaborate on different projects. Crowdsourcing in this way also helps reach out to a new audience.
In the real world, there is scope for brands to work together. A good example is this tie-up with Coca-Cola and Microsoft. For it, Coca-Cola approached Microsoft with a request to adapt its Howoldareyourobot site to tell the age of any Coca-Cola bottle.
Listen to feedback
One major aspect of the Scratch community is the fearlessness with which kids push games and comment on others. Criticism is usually constructive and, crucially, allows you to create a better game.
Feedback from your target market is essential to evolving your content, whether you are a kid developing games or Eric Ries advising you on building an MVP. Moreover, be prepared for criticism. If you’re not breaking things along the way, you’re not innovating and your content is not being seen.
Fundamentally, you can get ahead if you hit all of these points. Yes, they are basics… but basics often get forgotten.
In short, put the work out there. Listen to your audience and be clear and consistent about what you are doing.
But if you create something people like, you can build a relationship with them. If you do that and those people know you will continue to deliver that content, you will succeed. Simple as.