There is no recipe for success in the realm of content marketing, but there are a handful of qualities that popular, highly visible posts have in common—and one of them is innovation. Innovative content, regardless of its medium or goal, will always outperform its run-of-the-mill competitors. So why are there so many businesses that never break out of the 'decent' content plateau, and what can you do to drive more innovation in your own content marketing?
Playing It Safe
According to Single Grain, video content ranks only seventh on the list of most-used content types, despite its position as the highest-engaging type. At the top of that list are social media content, case studies, blogs, and e-newsletters.
Why are these the most common content types, despite being less effective than some of their counterparts? The simple answer is because they’re easy. It only takes a few minutes to write a new social media post. Writing a blog demands less research, prep time, and production than creating a video. Brands want to invest as little as possible in their content strategies because they’re afraid of failing, but the irony is that approach ends up sabotaging their potential.
The same can be said of the actual content, rather than the content type. Companies tend to produce the same genre of posts, over and over, such as listicles, how-tos, or news roundups. These are reasonably effective in their own right and can be important staples of a long-term content marketing strategy, but they’ll never go viral or become popular outliers in your campaign.
Why Innovation Drives Success
So why is innovation so critical for a piece of content’s success?
- Attention. Content is abundant online, so it’s hard to stand out in the crowd. According to ACI, by 2014, we were creating 211 million pieces of content every minute—and that number has surely climbed since then. Innovating in the form and function of the content you produce instantly earns you more attention from your target audience, which helps you beat the first barrier to content marketing success: getting noticed.
- Respect. Innovation also makes you an independent thought leader—even if people don’t agree with what you’re saying or don’t like what you’ve done. This is crucial to understand, as most content marketers who fail to innovate refuse to innovate simply because they’re afraid of failing. Even in failure, there are benefits; your brand seems more confident and differentiates itself from the crowd.
- Shareability.Finally, innovative content is oftentimes more interesting because it’s surprising, rare, or otherwise uncommonly valuable. Surprising, valuable content is far more likely to be shared, which at once makes it more visible, more capable of generating links, and more engaging for its target audience.
Tips to Create More Innovative Posts
You can’t just conjure innovation out of thin air, so how can you work to make your posts more innovative?
- Embrace new ideas, anywhere you can. Don’t rely on your old methods of brainstorming and collecting new ideas; it’s still a good idea to see what your competitors are publishing and pay attention to industry news, but try to get information from new sources. Talk to your coworkers and your peers, and see what types of innovation are being pursued in other industries. Inspiration can strike anywhere, so jot down any promising ideas and explore them without prejudice.
- Strike controversy. According to Unbounce, controversial content—despite the unease associated with it—is a viable strategy for driving more engagement and attracting more followers. Picking a side on a controversial issue may alienate half your audience, but the other half will only be more loyal because of it—besides, the attention you generate from the ensuing discussion will be well worth your effort.
- Surprise your readers. Do what you can to surprise your readers. That might mean publishing an unexpected statistic you found in your research or creating a video with a twist ending—surprises are valuable, so limit the predictability of your posts.
- Play off type. Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you usually focus on written posts, consider investing in infographics and videos. If you usually do an interview every week, consider doing a monologue. These occasional breaks from the routine are the only way you’ll know for sure whether a new tactic isn’t worth pursuing after all—or if it’s a hidden gem you would never have discovered had you kept to your basic plans.
Follow these tips, and make an effort to add more creativity and ingenuity in your own content campaign. You’ll bear a higher risk of failure, but you’ll also gain a disproportionately higher chance of outstanding success. Over time, your innovation will be recognized, and you’ll see more value from your campaign than you would have from playing it safe.