I’m trying to get to grips with writing content and content marketing, and have several books to wade through. This is the first one I’ve read, and this is both a review and a summary of some of the points I found helpful.

Schaefer starts by saying, rightly I think, that consumers are oversaturated with content now, and creating something worthwhile is getting harder. Everyone with internet access is creating content, meaning it’s not enough just to create good content – that’s only the beginning.

Content Shock

Mark Schaefer Graphic of Content Shock

Used with permission

He advocates what he calls an “ignition plan” to turn content into value for a business. Content ignition is about the need to convert your content into measurable business value. This ties in with “content shock” – too much content and not enough time to consume it. It’s believed that between 2015 and 2020 there will be a 500% increase in the volume of content online. That’s a staggering number!

Furthermore, 60-70% of the content on a B2B website is unseen. You need to create content which “connects, engages and is socially shared” before content shock hits your industry, which may be sooner for some industries than others.

It’s possible to create content shock for your competitors if you are in (or are able to find) a business niche – you create as much content as you can and become the go-to authority. You can use Google searches or specialist SEO software to identify saturation levels and work out what topics you can focus on.

It’s important to focus on sub-categories – demographic subsets – and use a mixture of content, which Schaefer explains as:
Hygiene: This serves the ‘health’ of your audience, raises awareness of your brand and allows them to connect when they need you (examples include how-to videos)
Hub: This keeps visitors on your site; for instance, a series of articles on an interesting topic.
Hero: This is something special and different from the norm, and hardest to create.

Mark Schaefer's Diagram

Used with permission

The Alpha Audience

Schaefer explains that for content, what is important is the ‘Alpha Audience’, the 5% of the total visitors to your site. They are the most engaged with you and what you and what you produce, and are likely to be sharing it. To build your audience, create content people can trust, curate good content from others and be active on social media, sharing information and commenting on people’s posts.

You need to create content that targets the emotional benefits for your reader. It’s important to get people talking about you, so have quizzes, exclusive or limited access to certain content, and even share information about competitors – for example Social Media Examiner publishes lists of the top social media blogs.

One way to engage your Alpha Audience is for them to be part of the content creation – featuring them in your blog or on Facebook (for example) ideally using your product or service, is a great way for them to feel involved and included.

Schaefer offers tips from successful digital marketers on how to attract and build your Alpha Audience. There are too many (all great) to include here, so below are some highlights:

  • Interest people by talking about how you can solve their problems, not by talking about your products and services
  • Build the smallest possible audience
  • Speak to one person, rather than your whole audience
  • Get people in your community talking to each other
  • You will have a core group who buy your books and share your content. Make them allies, not just fans

Book Cover

Other Tips

He also talks about influence marketing – getting experts and online personalities to share your content – their audiences will see it and that way find you.

I really liked this quote from internet strategist Carol Lynn Rivera: “To be more effective at promoting your content, you first need to become more effective at promoting other people’s content.” It’s important to get to know people and build relationships, which will in turn increase awareness of you and your brand.

Another good tip is to think about sharing your content across different outlets, looking for the places your target audience will be.


Schaefer also recommends looking at different formats for content distribution, by assessing each piece of content and finding multiple uses – i.e. taking a client pitch and making it a post or a podcast.

Share information about new content with your email list, which will be made up of your Alpha Audience, who have already indicated that they are receptive to hearing from you.

Other options include content partnerships, where you connect with another company and feature its logo on your blog or in an advert. A better move again is newsjacking, where you use a current news topic and position yourself as an expert. This even works if you have knowledge of a topic discussed on a popular soap opera or TV show.

There are also paid options to promote your content – as well as adverts on social media sites, you can use a piece of code embedded in your website footer. This puts anonymous retargeting cookies in the browsers of people who visit your site, displaying adverts of your business to them when they browse elsewhere.

There’s also plenty of information about SEO, and why it’s important to use it in successful sharing of content, but to remember it’s not actually the be all and end all of online success.


Online Success

More importantly, Schaefer explains ‘social proof’ – when people need more information to help them make a decision they look to others around them to see what they did. 70% of people will ask friends and family for recommendations.

Having your content shared multiple times makes it look like you know what you’re talking about, and people trust you.

Use testimonials and recommendations from clients and colleagues to build social proof and encourage people to share your content.

Another important factor, although harder to influence yourself, is ‘domain authority’. This refers to the rather complex situation where your site is viewed as ‘expert’ and will rank higher on Google searches than other sites. There are ways to improve your authority, although I think I’d need to read it again to be able to make a start!

I would highly recommend this book. Although this is a long post it doesn’t begin to cover all of the excellent information in The Content Code. It’s clearly written, but I was aware that there’s a lot I still need to learn.