One of the biggest marketing trends in 2016-2017 is Agile Content Delivery.
The dirty little secret among digital marketers right now is that the landscape is changing so fast that no one really knows what will stick.
Not the social media heads at Fortune 100 firms, not even luminaries in the space, like Gary Vaynerchuk or James Altucher — none of them necessarily knows which posts or videos will perform best.
Because no one has yet hacked virality with any consistency, the bleeding-edge answer for social media experts (and wannabes) is:
Agile Content Marketing
The premise is simple – since no one knows what content will be best received, it’s far better to streamline approval processes and push out several pieces of content quickly than to spend weeks (or months) developing a single piece of “killer” content – be it a white paper, infographic, or video.
In other words, speed and quantity matters in the content marketing game:
Test fast; fail fast; adjust fast.
And don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
The Lean Startup
Agile content delivery derives its main lesson from Eric Reiss’s seminal classic, The Lean Startup.
Published in 2011, The Lean Startup methodology rests primarily on iterative product releases.
That is, first testing the market with a “minimally viable product” (“MVP”), and then, improving on that product following customer feedback.
The thrust is that, in the classical construction, companies could waste years and millions of dollars on research and development crafting a product that potentially nobody wanted.
The better (“lean”) way is to develop a prototype quickly and beta-test it immediately, thus allowing for early customer feedback. Companies could then continually iterate, refining the product over time that thus optimized the chances of ultimately developing a high quality product that customers would pay for.
Blogger James Altucher applied this same concept to digital marketing when he advocated beta-testing Facebook ads for new products and services as a cheap way to see whether an idea had a broad enough market to yield robust sales.
Essentially, if you think of an idea for a new product (or book) a cheap way to test the market is to create and post a Facebook ad for it. Only after you tabulate the responses to that Facebook ad campaign would you determine whether it’s worth actually taking the time to write the book or create the product.
Crowd-funding platforms such as GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and IndieGoGo operate on the same principle. It’s easier, cheaper and (frankly) smarter to create a landing page on a crowdfunding site to gauge demand (and raise funds) before going into full production than it is to create the project or product and then try to sell it to the masses.
“Agile” methodology began years ago in the realms of software development and project management.
Agile Content Delivery follows these same basic principles.
As applied to content marketing, it boils down to: shortened timelines and clearer approval processes.
Put another way, quantity over quality.
The reasoning behind this, however, is the more interesting part:
Since no one knows what will “stick” with consumers (or go viral), digital marketers should have broad leeway to experiment. But to experiment effectively requires a certain amount of volume and speed.
So the answer is to accelerate – push out multiple pieces of content in quick succession to shorten their learning curve, see what sticks, and adjust accordingly.
In essence, this means that, in the Wild West of content marketing, quantity wins (to some extent) over quality.
You’re a new blogger? Great – Your goal should be to push out 50 posts as quickly as possible.
Only then will you have the sample size to see which posts were the most (or least) popular.
Case Study A: Agile Content Delivery
Practical application: Blogger A posts weekly, and builds a portfolio of 52 posts after a year. Blogger B posts twice weekly and builds a portfolio of 104 posts after a year.
After Year One Blogger B has literally twice the number of posts to analyze and see what topics, titles and formats, worked vs. what didn’t. While they may have made the same mistakes, as Blogger A, they likely made them sooner and thus improved sooner. In short, their learning curve is shorter.
Ditto for YouTube. Want to learn which videos elicit the most views and engagement from your target audience?
Shoot and release ten of them in quick succession.
Then see which were most viewed, or drove the most engagement, and adjust accordingly.
(There it is again: “Test fast, fail fast, adjust fast.”)
Case Study B: Legacy Content Development
The alternative to this is a slow and deliberate approach.
A large company hears that they need to get on the content marketing bandwagon, so they opt to write a killer 8-page whitepaper. After three months, multiple revisions and sign-off from legal they finally release a now-20-page whitepaper. Only to see it fall flat. So they go back to the drawing board and after a year have produced just four whitepapers.
That same firm then decides to do a killer introductory video.
It spends more than $10,000 and two months of professional editing and post-production to produce a killer six-minute video that showcases the firm, its capabilities, and features videos with half a dozen key executives.
The video is posted to YouTube and receives just 150-some views.
Clearly, the firm’s time and funds would have been better spent producing a series of shorter videos released at regular intervals.
To succeed at the content marketing game, it pays to think fast, short and pithy.
Produce content regularly to shorten your learning curve and build an audience, even if some pieces seem rough.
Only by experimenting, will you learn what works best for your particular audience and your needs.