Everything’s coming up garbage: how to contribute online meaningfully

by | Nov 17, 2016 | Good Content

We have a new favorite word at SCS Creative: garbage.

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Other words we like: trash, dumpster, and trashy dumpster fire.

We aren’t the only people using  “dumpster fire”-like idioms to explain a whole host of problems: the weather, the current political climate, the year 2016.

After the U.S. presidential election earlier this month, these dirty descriptors have been liberally applied to online content of all kinds. Facebook in particular has gotten a lot of flak for what’s perceived to be loose vetting standards, if there are any vetting standards at all. In fact, toward the end of the election season, more fake news was shared about the election than legitimate, verified stories.

In a recent Facebook post, CEO Mark Zuckerberg he stated that the site’s “goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful.” As content marketers, we know that what someone sees on Facebook is based on the pages they already like, the services they already follow and who their friends are. That perfect storm can put quality content at the forefront of someone’s feed, or it can put “KewlNewz.Biz” front and center. “Meaningful” is in our hands, not Facebook’s.

Putting the exhaustion over the election aside, it appears that the tides are shifting regarding content: people are fed up with having to filter out garbage trash dumpster fire content from valuable and meaningful information. Facebook and even Google heard these complains: they recently announced that fake news sites are being banned from their advertising networks, striking a blow to the paid spread of false information.

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We all make this face while viewing fake headline after fake headline.

While Facebook and Google’s decision is not related to how most businesses operate (unless you’re a fake news business, in which case, sorry, we can’t help you), it teaches a valuable lesson about what a business should be composing and releasing for consumption. While your goal is not to spread false information like these targeted sites, you do have a responsibility to contribute meaningfully to the online discussion.

How you frame your content is just as important as the content itself

Your content is not just what you write — how you frame what you write and deliver the entire package is important, too.

After the election, this blog on the Huffington Post on the power of social sharing made the rounds online. Its point is powerful. However, by demonstrating its own point, this post engaged in some very irresponsible behavior: misleading the public.

While the author of the post can’t control how people are going to react, the author had significant influence on shaping how the audience will react. Clearly, this is the response it intended to solicit, particularly because it preyed on the frayed nerves on some of its intended audience. But was it a good idea?

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So many frames to choose from. Which is best for your content?

Our own blog has engaged in similar tactics to make a statement. When composing that particular blog entry, however, we made sure that what we put together was not of consequence, like suggesting the president-elect could be replaced by a contender for the opposing party’s nomination. The vague nature deliberately did not call anything into question, to avoid the risk that someone might fall for something misleading. We guarantee that there are several people out there who think there’s a way Bernie Sanders can win the election. Isn’t that just adding to the problem?

If this wave of rebellion against garbage trash dumpster fire content indicates anything, it’s that people do not want waste their time anymore. What does that mean for a business? Engaging in such behavior could damage your reputation.

Consumers, even decision-makers, are more sophisticated than we think. They want to learn something, not sift through word rubble to find fragments of what might be truth. 

What does this mean for businesses with blog entries to write or articles to assemble? There’s no need to go back to the strategic drawing board — these moves are simply indicators that the information produced by your company should be of value and full of meaning.

What does “contributing meaningfully” mean?

In sum, contributing meaningfully means being conscious of what you’re putting out into the world and how it impacts your readers. Is what you’re writing a waste of their time? Does it have the potential to be misleading? Does it offer sound advice that motivates the reader to action? What is that action?

Contributing meaningfully is about producing less quantity if it means you will produce more quality.

Contributing meaningfully is about less surface-level observations and more intelligent insight.

We’ve seen an uptick in inquiries for high-level content from businesses, marketing departments and product managers. Some of them feel that most content they read doesn’t serve their current customers or their potential partners. They exhibit the same frustration as the Facebook audience being fed false, misleading and ultimately useless information. They want to read content of quality and consequence and they wish to deliver the same to their audiences.

Put into action, contributing meaningfully means different things to different industries. For some, that may involve showcasing success stories. For others, that may mean presenting a problem and how the product or service solves it. It could just simply be advice that highlights your expertise and capabilities, or a recap of the newest developments in this particular industry.

There’s plenty of flexibility within those parameters as well. Not all content needs to be a 2,000-word e-book. Creative infographics and informative video clips can help deliver good content. Fresh takes and fun spins can be very effective as well.

Indeed, a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. But the medicine needs to be effective in order to be worth taking.

Like what you just read? Let’s chat.

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