Something’s seems to have shifted in a profound way
The idea of long tail content creation is a beautiful one.
An online bookstore with millions of titles in various demand will outcompete a physical store with “only” thousands of popular books. The long tail has, via publishing platforms and social networks, democratised media in many ways.
From a business perspective, the long tail theory turned out to be especially good news for B2B companies. Niche audiences have a knack for finding relevant content through search engines and social networks. All a B2B brand had to do is to make that specific type of content easily available throughout their digital ecosystems.
As a public relations professional, I can create decent WordPress content about digital strategy and PR, a topic which is far from mainstream, but still attract a niche audience.
Or, does this approach still work?
Mediocrity scares off users faster than you can get them
The long tail theory typically looks at availability versus popularity/usefulness.
For instance, a B2B brand could publish highly useful content that is unique and relevant to a very specific group of people. Anyone searching actively for such content would eventually find it, simply due to the content’s uniqueness.
A decade ago, such a strategy worked flawlessly. At that time, online publics were still very in an exploration phase. This exploration phase was a cornerstone of the hippie webb (ca. 2007-2011). Today, human online behaviour and exploitation is centered around the money web (ca. 2012 and onwards).
The phase of online exploration has gradually worn off. As more and more interests are looking to capitalise on their online activities, people are becoming increasingly aware of how they divide their attention. With it, the bar for content quality has risen.
The long tail theory still holds up for books, but not for mediocre corporate content. And this is where most brands fail with their online marketing efforts today.
Suddenly, you find yourself stuck in a content wasteland
After years and years of online marketing struggles without good-enough results, you slowly start to realise that mediocrity won’t cut it anymore.
The sufficient level of content quality, it seems, is akin to an invisible brick wall between two territories. On one side of the wall, we find green pastures and fertile soil. On the other side, there’s nothing but ghastly wastelands. And apparently, you have zero true fans.
If find yourself on the wrong side of this wall, you can plant an abundance of healthy grains forever, but nothing will ever grow in these desolated long tail-plains.
You need to get yourself over the wall and into the territory where your crops will get the chance they deserve. To be allowed across the border, great content is merely a baseline requirement. Your online presence must be a well-developed ecosystem across multiple platforms. Your UIX must push engagement and conversions past the point of critical mass.
The online strategy must keep competitors behind you for the long-term. Your corporate creativity must be pushing the limits of what’s already been done. And if all of this wasn’t enough, you must also have this online machinery up-and-running perfectly every single hour of every single year.
How not not succumb to online marketing mediocrity
If you find yourself stuck in the non-fertile and rugged online wasteland where nothing your B2B brand says or do ever get traction, what should you do?