Latest posts by Ken Carroll (see all)
- How To Get The Content Advantage - December 11, 2015
- Why I’m Buying Jay Baer’s New Book Even Before I Know The Title - December 10, 2015
- The Managerial Class Sucks At Content And This Is Your Opportunity - November 19, 2015
There’s a new Jay Baer book out soon and I know nothing about it.
But as soon as it comes out I plan to pony up and buy the thing, anyway.
So, before I explain that logic, a question.
What is it that drives content?
Well, it turns out that what drives content - and what drives me to buy this piece of content - is the same thing that drives brands, businesses, even organizations.
And understanding this driver came to me while reading Jay Baer’s last book - Youtility.
In fact, the revelation was so significant to me that I think it’s reason enough to buy the new book - almost regardless of the title.
One Big Idea
Different readers take different things from different books, of course. But I’m still developing ideas - and one big idea in particular - I got from Youtility.
It’s still influencing my work almost daily.
And I read the thing over two years ago.
Since then, I’ve grown the idea, morphed the idea, changed the idea to some extent.
But let me reveal, by way of a distinction, what the big insight was.
And let me try to answer the question of what drives content (and all other media) while I'm at it.
So, first, let’s see something that does not drive content.
On one hand, content marketing is a set of tasks, requiring a set of tools.
In fact, there's no real way for us to get the job done, on-time and on-budget, without the tools and the task-management.
But it seems to me that content-as-a-task-to-be-completed is what most managers mean when they talk about content marketing. And for a good many of them, the tools become the center of their world, almost like an end it themselves.
So, while reading Youtility I realized something about the tools/task-focus:
It's necessary but not sufficient for success in content marketing.
Here’s why. It’s not the tools, the tech, or the productivity that drives the content. Those things facilitate the content but do not in themselves drive it.
You see, the task focus is concerned with only one part of the equation: The marketer's side.
To be task-focused is to be focused on us, on ourselves - our sales funnels, our widgets, our analytics, our efficiencies, on our timeline.
And the audience doesn't give a spit about our reasons for acting.
But they do care about something else: They care about why they should act.
And this insight points to a whole ’nother dynamic at work.
The Human Dynamic
The human dynamic contrasts with the task dynamic. It’s less to do with how the tasks get done and more to do with why audiences act.
It's the dynamic of the viewer, the reader, the customer - The People On The Other End Of The Content.
Because it’s the dynamic of how content is noticed, processed, acted on.
By looking through this lens I began to ask more questions about them - about their needs, their drives, the things that animate their behaviors, in their good time.
And I asked if my content was really designed around the true motivations of The People On The Other End Of The Content.
I looked more deeply at how the audience experiences the content - at what goes on in their heads and hearts, at what it is that makes them react when they see it.
I was answering the question of what really makes content go.
And Youtility had the answer - at least for me.
The book - in my interpretation - was recognition of the audience, a recognition of their basic humanity, in ways that I hadn't grasped till then.
It was a recognition of the way that Actual Human Beings really are: Instinctive.
And it convinced me that content 'goes' when it touches on those instincts.
The behavior of of your audiences online is driven primarily by fundamental instincts.
By the survival instinct, to be precise.
The audience may not think explicitly in those terms but it wants useful stuff. Stuff that helps them, lifts them up, improves their lives - helps them survive life’s challenges.
The drive to find utility is deep and instinctive. It drives most of our decisions throughout our lives.
And this was the message of Youtility. Make yourself useful. Be a Youtility. Because that, more than anything else, is what will get your audience to respond.
Over and again, it pointed to how their instinct, their very nature, is to look to solve problems, get out of trouble, make life better in some way.
For themselves. For the tribe. For the win.
Online behavior is subtle, fleeting, almost unconscious.
And it's all driven by a sublimated form of that survival instinct.
Did You Get That?
The tools, the tasks, and the pixels allow us to show up. But after that we play by the rules of human nature.
Instinctive wants, needs, and desires are the real drivers of behaviors.
And the shift in perspective - from us, to them - is huge. Yuge, even.
The pixels, the software, the widgets, the platforms. Those help us show up but they don't in themselves drive audiences to actually do anything.
It’s the survival instinct, for the love of all that is heilig, that makes people act.
What This Means
Without a thought. Literally.
And no amount of marketing will save the content.
Either it has inherent human appeal or it does not.
Because… human instincts.
This, I learned from Youtility.
That’s the way I think about this now.
So, why (finally) am I driven to buy Jay Baer's new book? What is it that motivates me to act in this case?
Well, if I get half of what I got out of Youtility, I’ll still be talking about it in a year. So, it's a good deal.
But most of all I’m going to buy the book because I think ... it's probably going to be real useful.