Well, that’s just about the strangest title for a post you’ve ever read.
And before you ask, no, I would never think of exploiting the death of someone to draw people in. Fact is, this post was drafted (and I even considered discarding it after I heard the news) long before Jobs’ untimely and unfortunate death.
Despite what you may think, these two things actually go hand in hand.
It’s About Giving Them What They Want…
So I guess I have some explaining to do.
How in George Carlin’s name (he’s my god) does a soap opera relate to content marketing and blogging, and where the hell does Steve Jobs tie into this?
Well, before I can tell you that, I have to let you in on a dirty secret that will hurt most bloggers feelings.
Blogging, if you aim to make an income from it, is really nothing more than content marketing, and content marketing is nothing new.
In fact, people have been doing it (and compared to most bloggers, doing it better) since way back when.
One of the most effective content marketing campaigns has to do with the first aspect of our strange title: soap operas.
You see, back in the day, companies like Proctor & Gamble and the Lever Brothers had this genius idea that they would produce shows that would air (radio broadcast) in the middle of the weekday, targeting housewives (an obviously predominately stay-at-home and female audience).
They targeted these shows to this audience by including all of the romantic and drama inspired hijinks that are continued (if not amplified) in soap operas today.
In turn, these producers would sponsor the shows with their own products… namely soap.
And thus the “soap opera” was born, and it was effective.
Soap operas showcase a brilliant form of content marketing, no wondering considering the players involved, but let’s take a look at all of the things that they did right:
- Identified a largely (at the time) untapped audience
- Provided relevant content for said audience
- Promoted products which were related to that audience’s interests (let’s not get all 1950′s discriminatory in here, what I’m saying is that housewives of the day were indeed interested in products like soap for their family to use)
As much as you might hate soap operas yourself, there’s something you must realize: your blog is nothing more than a soap opera.
If you want your blog to turn into something more than a slow drain on your money and (more importantly) your time, you need to start thinking about it this way too.
You see, you are Proctor & Gamble and your readers are the housewives (not literally, unless you run a blog that housewives love, which is very possible!).
And just like Proctor & Gamble, you need to give your readers what they want, what works.
This will include all of the ways of creating posts that drive interest and traffic to your blog, with things like “list posts”, ultimate guides, free e-books, and very shareable content in your niche (think “viral” posts, the kind of posts that are easily shared and browsed).
The web has dictated that these are the kind of posts that people want, after all, they have been successful for a long time, and human nature embraces the easily browsed.
It seems easy enough, right?
Give people what they want.
But sometimes, you need to know what that is before even they do…
…Before They Even Know What It Is.
So why tie in Steve Jobs?
There are the obvious aspects of innovation and originality that Apple has shown to get back on it’s feet and to later become one of the most dominant players in the cutthroat technology sector, all the while building the most loyal brand I’ve ever seen.
But mostly, it has to do with quotes from Steve himself.
It’s really hard to design products by focus groups.
A lot of times…
…people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.
And Steve was a master of giving people what they wanted, long before they knew what exactly ‘it’ was.
Not only that, Steve recognized the danger of only focusing on what people explicitly want in a world that is giving people more and more choice and control over the matter:
When you’re young, you look at television and think: there’s a conspiracy.
The networks have conspired to dumb us down.
But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true.
The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want… and that’s a far more depressing thought.
The connection between this quote and the content marketing of soap operas should be obvious.
Sometimes, the most breakthrough content will be giving people something they didn’t even know they wanted, maybe even challenging their stated desires.
Creating the type of content that parallels the iPod: people demand it after they’ve seen it, but would never have requested it if asked, because they didn’t think to.
But what does it mean to you?
The question that this really brings to light is the battle of doing things that are effective versus doing things that are different.
Giving people exactly what they want might seem like the ideal strategy, and obviously the most effective one.
So obvious, in fact, that I bet in most topics and niches that you come across, a thousand other people are already doing exactly that.
So how are you supposed to be different?
My Proposed Solution
Very rarely do I see bloggers and content marketers talk about a “content strategy”, outside of “write popular posts” and “create epic content, duh!”
What they won’t tell you is exactly how to approach it.
You know why?
Many “blogging about blogging” bloggers are creating for the least common denominator, creating vague content in hopes of inspiring bloggers in every niche without actually giving specific advice.
“Create epic content, write lots of guest posts!”
Wow, thank you Mr. Blogger who doesn’t run any successful blogs other than the one about blogging.
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be doing your best to create your best posts, or guest posting like a madman, that is obviously sound advice.
What I am saying is that I like to follow a specific strategy for content creation that will hopefully addresses giving people what they want and also what they might not even know they want.
And I call it…
1 for them, 1 for you.
The premise is that for every post that you create that is “for them” (made to give people what they want, ie the easily shared and browsed post types we talked about earlier) you should also create one “for you”.
Having a post be “for you” is a bit misleading if you take it literally, because obviously all posts that you write are going to be for your readers.
What “for you” really means is to create some “awesome content” that goes beyond what is expected of you and your blog.
To do something that people don’t see coming, as Steve said, giving people what they want before they even know they want it.
To give a specific example on the blogs I run now, I’d say my 15 Ways To Speed Up WordPress was a post “for them”.
It’s a list post, easily browsed and shared, you know the deal.
On Sophistefunk, the posts about popular electronic artists are the posts “for them”.
This post however, would be a post for me.
It’s something I’ve wanted to address that may not exactly be popular, it’s weird (Soap operas + Steve Jobs, how did we get here again?), and it isn’t something that is easily browsed, there are no lists and it’s not a “Top 50 blah blah blah” style post.
But here’s the thing…
I’m hoping you will like it anyway.
I know it’s probably not what you were initially looking for.
I know a post called “The 100 Best Ways To Get Rich Blogging” would be a more popular post to write, even if 99 of the ways were untrue.
But I’m hoping you’ll learn what I think I’ve learned from a smart guy like Steve Jobs.
Sometimes you gotta give people what they want before they know they want it.
Examples From Big Names
The best part about this strategy is that you know it works because you can see it being used by big names all over.
And I’m not just talking about blogging!
Take musicians for instance.
Oftentimes, musicians release singles that are most likely to be “hits”, while the “deep tracks” are left on the album.
One for them, one for you.
Some of the deep cuts end up being people’s favorite songs and turning them into lifelong fans.
But the successful artist also has a few feel-good hit songs to get their name out there.
In blogging, the case it a bit more relevant to out interest and more clearly shown.
Take the Copyblogger blog for instance.
One of their posts is entitled 5 Grammar Mistake That Make You Look Dumb, and it’s one of the most popular posts on the site, with nearly 1000 comments.
It was an obviously play to Digg (back when people used Digg ;)), because it is a user friendly post that invites people to see what those mistakes are, and it is much more easily related to by everyone.
Nice work by Brian Clark, because the post still has valuable information (which all of your posts should).
On the flip side, a recent post entitled Why You Hate Writing, And How To Lust After The Blank Page Again by Robert Bruce is a bit more quirky of a post.
It’s not a list post, and the topic isn’t as easily digested as the grammar mistakes post (although it is well written for the web, no surprise there), but the post is rewarding nontheless.
You might never have thought you needed to read a post like this, but there you are, agreeing with every word (at least I did!).
And that’s the kind of post you need to create from time to time.
Some blogs, like the KISSmetrics marketing blog, focus only on content marketing for their product.
Thus, there posts are mostly “for them”, list posts galore, and everything had to be shareable.
And when you are creating guest post content, the best kind of content is “for them”: you are unknown to the readers of that blog, and you need to make your posts accessible whenever you are guest blogging.
But for a blog like yours, for someone trying to break into the blogging world in any niche, you need to stand out.
And you need to have posts that will stand out.
So give them what they want.
Give them what they need before they even know they need it.
I’d love to hear your feedback. Sometimes the ratio needs to be adjusted depending on what you’re writing about, but how will you write a few posts for “them” and a few posts for “you”?