I had an interesting experience last week that made me rethink the rules of content strategy when it comes to business objectives. I wrote a wildly popular blog post that received double the traffic than one of my typical blog posts usually receives.
Most bloggers would be thrilled. And I was. The only problem? The blog post had nothing to do with my business or my typical blog topics. I “broke” my own rules, and yet I received double the traffic. So now, I need to ask myself: Are my rules right?
I have a business blog called Online It ALL Matters and I stick to a strict editorial calendar. I publish once a week, on a Monday or Tuesday about four different topics: content strategy, healthcare digital marketing, mobile or analytics and Web writing. Those are the four “pillars” of my business, Aha Media Group, and I follow my own advice as a content strategist in terms of keeping to a consistent messaging and publishing schedule.
Last week, I published a guest post by one of my writers on Monday about being sensitive while writing healthcare content. It was a healthcare content week and I wanted to find a topic that would stand out for healthcare marketers. I had already posted for the week when Marissa Mayer announced that she would become the CEO of Yahoo! Then she announced she was pregnant.
The story resonated with me as a working mom, a CEO and an IT professional. What I could not believe was the media’s response to the story and how they chose to cover it. I felt so compelled to share my feelings on the issue, I wrote this blog post: From One Professional Mom to Another: 7 Pieces of Advice for Marissa Mayer. As you can tell from the title, the post does not cover any of my business pillars.
However, within one hour that personal blog post had more than 100 views. Two days later, the post had amassed double the traffic I typically receive on one of my business blog posts. As always, I run analysis on all my posts, looking at comments and views, trying to understand how to better give my audience what they need. In this case, I have three theories as to why this blog post resonated:
- Authenticity: I really let my personality and opinions fly in this blog post. However, I feel like I always do, even in my business blogs. However, the audience for my blog is narrow -- how many content strategists or healthcare digital marketers are there out there? Which leads me to one of the other reasons I think this post got so much attention:
- Timeliness: How timely are my blog posts? Most of them can be read later when you need information I’m talking about -- like how to create a great style guide or how to write great healthcare content. The Marissa Mayer issue was on everyone’s mind -- and that is one of the reasons the traffic to it was so high. David Meerman Scott recommends this tactic: write about the things that are on the top of people’s minds, that they are searching for, in order to increase visibility for your blog.
- Facebook: I tend to keep my Facebook “friends” to people I truly know, where I will use Twitter and LinkedIn more as professional networking tools. I posted the blog on Facebook -- on both my personal profile and my Aha Media Group page and it got tons of attention. Was it that my friends were more interested in what I had to say as a working mother? They shared it with their friends, while clearly my blogs on content strategy are not as interesting to them -- they are not content strategists.
In any case, it makes me feel that I should build my Aha Media Group Facebook following in order to increase my reach to my target audience.
Rules for Breaking the Rules
Content strategy has two major rules:
- Content should support business objectives
- Content should support the user in completing tasks
My blog serves two purposes: to help other content practitioners and to attract potential clients. You could argue that the content in my Marissa Mayer blog post did nothing for my business objectives. Or, you could argue that I increased my reach -- by sharing an off-topic blog with people outside of my network, I may have increased the possibility that I touched a potential client.
More importantly though, I shared how I really felt about an issue -- I let my true passion shine through. The positive comments I received both on the post and on Facebook gave me tremendous confidence to publish off-topic a bit more often. What the experience demonstrates to me is that sometimes breaking your editorial calendar and publishing rules are okay.
What are your thoughts? Do you think publishing off-topic blogs is okay sometimes?
Editor's Note: To read more by Ahava Leibtag