Is Content Shock A Real Threat Or Urban Legend

Is Content Shock Risky Business?

  Wow! What an incredible ride content marketing has taken. If the rumors are true, content and content marketing has gone from one extreme and may now be approaching the other. Like a roller coaster with all its ups, downs, and loopy-loops, marketers and freelance writers have seen it all.

Content Marketing

From One Extreme

Marketers and writers who have been in the game since the 90s know what that first extreme was like. The fight to produce quality content while stuffing keywords into it, made good writing difficult. Later, we worried about keywords and links like there was no tomorrow. For almost two decades, writers and marketers struggled to find some kind of common ground that would please both. It was not until Google’s Panda reminded everyone that the content should be about the consumer and then changed the rules to make it easier that things began to settle down and get exciting simultaneously.  

The Prince and the Panda

When content was still but a prince and the Panda, just a glean in the Google machine’s eye, many professional freelance writers had already given up and amateur hour writers crawled out of the woodwork. The Panda helped… but it was not until everyone began to realize that social media could be so much more than a simple source of brand exposure that things began to really improve. Three things happened that turned content marketing on its ear in a good way.
  1. Social Media became the single largest potential customer pool the internet has ever known. Not since the television explosion of the 50s and 60s have marketers been so excited about the possibilities of having so many potential customers in one place.
  2. The Panda burst upon the scene weeding out black hat SEO abusers and placed the crown firmly upon the content writer’s head.
  3. Despite large corporation’s attempts to keep the social media scene to themselves, small and medium sized companies with hungry content marketers found the way to social media’s heart. They did this, in part, by losing amateur hour writers and hiring writers with marketing backgrounds, freelance journalists, or writers with creative writing backgrounds in order to give the public what it needed: customer driven content that touched hearts and lavished educational information upon them.

The Other Extreme

The Hummingbird pretty much sealed the deal for freelance content writers and marketers. The incredibly smart Google Hummingbird algorithm was like the final handshake that takes place the moment the contract has been signed. If only someone had put a voice to the fear that was locked deep within writer’s and marketer’s hearts. With more content pouring through blogs and social media than in any other time in history, just how much is enough? More importantly,how much is too much? It was only a matter of time before someone finally breached the gap by coining the phrase, “Content Shock.”  

Is Content Shock Real?

Is the current positive trend in content marketing and social media too good to be true? We seem to be heading in the right direction but we could also be following a pack of lemming. If there is a line where too much content will begin to work against us, we need to find where it is and post some warning signs. Before we can even begin to plan for content shock, we have to know if it is real or just a phrase derived from a writer’s whim… an idea born of a writers desperate grasping for an original idea about which to write.  

Content Shock is not a New Concept

The term content shock might be new to us, but the actual concept is an old one. Author Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute and writer extraordinaire, shed light on the subject in his post by pointing out that there are biblical references on the subject. A latter day Roman rhetorician called Seneca the Elder (Think a more recent times Ronald Reagan) had concerns that too many books were a distraction on the public’s ability to think for themselves. That obviously panned out to be completely erroneous.  

What is Content Shock?

It is described as the point at which the reader reaches his content limit and can handle no more. Over the years, what we call content shock as been dubbed with numerous other handles such as “Attention Crash” and “Information Overload”, not to mention the disco era’s version, “Brain Drain.” In the 90s, it was called a “Data Overdose” and usually occurred after the second or third double espresso.  

Where is that Other Shoe?

So why are so many marketers and writers becoming worried about content shock when there are so many examples in recorded history that prove the concept cannot gain traction? Part of it may be the “Other Shoe” affect. The merging of Content Marketing with social media is, quite literally, a once in a lifetime, gold mine find. Such an occurrence rarely happens in marketing. It is only natural that people, when faced with something too good to be true, are waiting for the big catch 22. (Especially marketers who are a worrisome bunch by nature) We have to wonder… is the gift that is social content marketing a one-legged amputee or is there another size 14 steel-toed boot just waiting for the chance to fall? History indicates content shock in all of its forms never proved to be a real threat. If, however, you are not ready to take history’s word for it, there are several pretty convincing reasons to believe content shock is just the same old paranoid animal harmlessly rearing its ugly but toothless head once again. Here are a few of them. [custom_list style=”list-1″]
  • Not all content will be read. Let’s face it, content marketing is just like any other competitive venue. Only the very best will be consumed by the majority. With seemingly every single company on the planet throwing their hats into the ring, the cream of the crop should not take long to rise to the top.
  • If social media has proven anything, it is the public’s ability to consume massive quantities of inane subject matter in ever increasing increments. In other words, the more we give them, the better they become at digesting it.
  • The shift in social content marketing is towards consumer based content, which is to say that the more content that is of, for, and about them, the more they like it.
  • Google is making it far easier with the introduction of the intelligent Hummingbird algorithm and the improvements that are yet to roll out. By giving the search engine using public exactly what they want almost right off the bat, they eliminate the amount of content the user has to wade through to get to the good stuff.
  • Marketers and writers are beginning to get a far better understanding of the kind of content readers want need. (Or perhaps, both) When television first came out, the majority of programming literally sucked. In fact, much of it was local talk or radio… filmed. It was not until marketers realized what the public craved that television sales took off with shows like, “I Love Lucy” and that wonderful family problem solving couple, “Ozzie and Harriet.”

Who is Right and Who is Wrong?

Looking at both sides of the fence, you have those that feel the public has an insatiable desire and indomitable constitution for content, and those like the infinitely wise Mark W. Schaefer, who has posted an incredibly convincing argument in his “Content Shock: Why Content Marketing Is Not A Sustainable Strategy.”  Both make a great case and  make sense.  

The Evolution of the Content Loving World

It could very well be that content shock turns out to be more of a content rash or Content Mere Annoyance, with consumer’s evolving psychic abilities that allow them to sniff out only those posts that they would enjoy and leaving the rest to flounder about on the banks of the river Google Search Engine; like catfish when the dam is closed. There is also the possibility of new technologies and content strategies that take content shock out of the equation altogether. (Think Smart Content that is geared towards individual groups of like-minded people)  

The Calm before the Storm

One thing is for certain; At this moment, social content marketing is experiencing a massive run of extraordinary success for those who know how to do it right. The beautiful thing about today’s social content gold mine is that it has leveled the content marketing playing field. It is no longer about who has the most money for marketing. Instead, it is about who can post the best, consumer-driven, value riddled, compelling content of which our current public simply cannot get enough. Whether this is the calm before the impending storm remains to be seen.