Content Atomization: Bricks and Feathers and Dandelions?

Here are some practical reflections from the first day of my first visit to Content Marketing World (#CMWorld). Since I’m here in Cleveland and you’re (mostly) not, I figure it helps to share some of what I learned.

By the way, who’s been hiding Cleveland? Awesome. Sorry Convince & Convert, IBM and Lowe’s, but as much as you taught me in CMWorld’s Content Atomization Workshop I can only say I like you. I loved the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! I’ll be taking my family back ASAP on a rock pilgrimage.

Still, the Content Atomization Workshop was excellent. Content atomization seems to mean a few different things. 

For one, there’s Convince & Convert President Jay Baer’s riff on bricks and feathers: Bricks are the big heavy content anchors that take lots of investment, strategic thinking and hard work, with big payoffs because your audiences truly prize them. Feathers are the small digestible bits you peel off of that brick to form blog posts, tweets, status updates and whatnot that all point back to the brick. Baer offers a simple formula: Create eight feathers for every brick.

At first, I thought to myself, “this is great advice, but not exactly news.” Then, looking around, I saw everyone scribbling notes. I also saw that yours truly was the oldest guy in the room. And finally I realized that while I might preach this advice, I’ve seen lots of content marketing that misses the point. Thank goodness someone like Baer is refining and refreshing these ideas to educate and inform the next generation of content marketers.

Baer followed up with a couple of gems. “When you hear, ‘I’m too busy to meet with you,’ it’s code for, ‘What you’ve presented to me is not relevant enough.’” (Emphasis was his.) When your content gets few downloads, it’s not relevant enough. Relevancy is hard work.

The second gem is a simple idea but a powerful visual. And it’s another approach I’ve pitched hard in my career but without as much uptake as I'd like, so I’m hoping Baer’s visual is a difference-maker. He calls it the digital dandelion.

You know what a dandelion looks like, right? Imagine your content distribution strategy as if it were a dandelion. Your own site is home base; the dandelion’s center.  You surround your site with seeds (feathers?) that you place out in other venues – the places where your target audiences are already spending their time. I used to call this the blog-centric repository strategy, where you maintain a content repository site anchored by a blog, and post all about the topics in your content everywhere else, pointing back. Sounds simple. It works. But it’s a lot of work so not everyone does it or does it well. Maybe the dandelion is a better way to get people to focus on this powerful content marketing tactic. (It certainly rolls off the tongue more readily than “blog-centric repository strategy”!)

Something else I really like about the dandelion metaphor as Baer presents it is that it brings the focus back to your own channel, instead of Facebook posts and LinkedIn and everywhere else. Yes, you use those venues to find audiences but they only serve to amplify what you do; you always bring the audiences back to your home base.

Baer calls making Facebook or LinkedIn your central repository dangerous because you’re “building your community on rented land.” To which I would add a quote from tech publisher Steve Saunders: “Building an outpost for your company on Facebook is not the same thing as adding to your community – it’s the same thing as adding to Facebook’s community.”

I’ve gone on longer than intended. So let me just say this: If you’re not familiar with Lowe’s Fix in Six or Hypermade campaigns (on Vine and Instagram, respectively) go Google them right now. I was blown away by what I saw, but it’s really not worth trying to describe the awesome effectiveness of this great video content marketing. Go see it.