What is content shock?

The phrase “content shock” is creeping into our vernacular. It doesn’t sound particularly positive, and quite rightly makes even the most confident of marketers feel uneasy.Content shock

Here, we’ll explore exactly what content shock is and the steps you can take to overcome it. Let’s go!

Content shock: An explanation

Michael Schaefer was one of the first to describe the phenomenon of content shock. He came up with the theory about four years ago. He described content shock as:

“The emerging marketing epoch defined when exponentially increasing volumes of content intersect our limited human capacity to consume it.”

That’s basically a very fancy way of saying that there’s too much content for audiences to read.

Why has content shock happened?

Content shock is a very new concept and only came about because of huge changes in the way audiences consume content and the way marketers create it.

Improvements in technology have brought about a dramatic increase in content consumption. With more portable devices and better internet connections, articles can be accessed pretty much anytime, anywhere in the world!

Being able to connect with articles whenever they like, means that audiences want enough fresh and original content to fill their newsfeeds all day long. So, as an industry, we’re creating more content than ever before! We’re even hiring more people to do it; in 2016, 42.5% of companies increased their content marketing staff levels to keep up with this new demand.

Technology (such as WordPress, Squarespace and LinkedIn) has also made it easier for people to create and share their own content. There’s no entry barrier, which means that even more content is being made!

How have things changed for the consumer?

In the 1920s, audiences consumed, on average, two hours of content per day. Nowadays, according to Neilson, that figure has risen to 11 hours. It’s even increased by two hours in the last three years!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I work for eight hours a day, so if I add 11 hours in for content consumption that leaves me five hours to sleep. That’s nowhere near enough – I get very grumpy when tired!

Let’s admit it; some of that content consumption is during work hours (approx. half, so five and a half hours). That leaves you with another five and a half hours of content to get through after work. Add in eight hours for sleeping and that means you only have five hours left for other activities. That includes the basics such as cooking, cleaning, showering etc AND the fun things like going to the pub or taking salsa classes!

Add in your commute (if you have one) and there’s hardly any time left at all! It seems like content is taking over our daily lives!

Now, this much screen time can’t be healthy … but it’s indicative of another problem; there’s too much content for readers to consume in a day. So, what are we going to do about this?

Customers have reached their limits

There’s now a huge disparity between the amount of content being created and content being consumed. Content production is now considered un-economical because, ultimately, it won’t be read.

[Economics of content image]

*Courtesy of business2community, The Economics of Content

Content supply exceeds demand. In normal business, this would mean product prices would fall. However, as the cost of content to consumers is already zero, we can’t do much here. Schaefer suggests that we’ll soon have to start paying our followers to read our content – hardly a viable or sustainable business model!

So, what happens next? The phenomenon of content shock is simply set to get bigger as our industry grows. Some marketers are already starting to pay to ensure their content gets seen, through tools such as Facebook boosted posts. Are we all going to have to do this in future?

How to combat content shock

Do not despair! Content shock does not signal the end for content marketing! In fact, it might only be the beginning. Here are some great tips on how to deal with content shock!

1. Use it to your advantage!

If everyone’s creating lots of content, you should too, but use it to build up your domain authority.

Google rates your site on several factors to determine how much of an authority you are. The search giant’s a bit vague on the details, but we think these include:

  • Website age
  • Number of pages
  • Quality of links (inbound and outbound)
  • Relevance of content
  • Keyword matches and density
  • Content consistency
  • Regular updates

Build on all these factors, and you’ll soon overwhelm your competitors and nab the top spots on Google. How good does that sound?

2. Aim for quality and promotion

To stand out in the sea of other content, yours needs to be the best out there.

Both Google and your visitors will recognise and appreciate a steady stream of radically different, exceptional content. This might require some investment, and multiple content types, but it’ll be well worth it in the end!

Content shock also calls for you to crank your targeting up a notch. It must be incredibly specific for you to reach your target audience.

The best course of action is to follow the major players in your field. They’ll have done lots of research about the best platforms for their market, and you can profit from this. You could also try tagging them in posts, using similar hashtags and sending them content directly to raise your own profile.

Really get to know your audience, and create highly relevant content that resonates with your users. That’s the best way to combat content shock this year.

3. Build a strong brand

Your brand voice and identity should be recognisable and consistent. This will help build a trusting and loyal follower-base that may even share your content with like-minded souls. Eventually, users will actively seek out your content and ignore everyone else’s. Result!

It could also help to consider partnering with bigger brands. You could try guest blogging or content syndication to get your name out there and take advantage of other brands’ existing audience pools.

4. Don’t be scared!

Content shock will make our jobs a little more difficult. However, confidence and a clear strategy will see you through.

Many markets face this pattern, so don’t be put off. Content marketing will adapt and evolve to facilitate content shock. Improvements in marketing software will help you cut through the noise and reach your audience – you’ve just got to be ready to embrace this!

Content shock is very real and could undoubtedly affect your marketing strategy. However, if you’re aware of it and its implications, you’ll get by just fine. Good luck!

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