Book Review—The Content Code

By Connie Howard, ETMG VP & Founding Writer


Content Marketing Book Cover for The Content CodeContent is a loaded word. It means a lot of things, and, as it turns out, there’s a lot of it out there. Content marketing is on the rise. Millions of people are adding words, pictures, music, and videos to the World Wide Web, every minute of every day. Information density has skyrocketed, and it’s not slowing down. Thirteen-year-olds, Nobel laureates, and many of the people in between are creating, posting, and sharing, all the time.

In his book, The Content Code: Six essential strategies to ignite your content, your marketing, and your business, Mark Schaefer does a couple of things. First, he frames the problem of mushrooming content, and how its exponential growth makes it more and more difficult for content marketers to connect the right people to the right message. He’s got a point.

But then, he presents his solution: content ignition.

Schaefer’s thesis is that sharing content is the heart of content ignition, and in this book, he outlines six strategies and six buckets of tactics, to support content ignition—reasons for people to share. Once you’ve got content, and identified an audience, Schaefer tells us, you’ve got to put a content marketing strategy in place that includes tactics to address each of these factors:

  • Brand development
  • Audience and influencers
  • Distribution, Advertising, Promotion, and SEO
  • Authority
  • Shareability embedded into each piece of content
  • Social proof and social signals

And then, he translates those factors into a variety of ideas for many different kinds of businesses to ignite their own content.

Content Marketing and Shareability

To begin with, he describes ways to build shareability into content, even in industries that aren’t as popular as sports, fashion and entertainment. He shows us that it’s possible to become remarkable. I laughed when he cited BlendTec blender’s “Will It Blend” series on Youtube. He’s right, blenders aren’t very shareable, but the series about blending everything from golfballs to cell phones was a viral sensation. Today, the iPad episode has well over 18 million views, and the iPhone, another 12 million. And that’s just one example of a winning content marketing campaign.

Building Trust

Another area he addresses is trust, which is something that’s tough to build with millions of people out there who don’t know or your company. He writes about “borrowing trust,” by using influencers, and shows us how borrowed trust develops advocacy, gets products and services much faster traction, offers social proof (validation through association), awareness, and access to new channels and markets. The tutorial for borrowed trust is a case study about Groove, a start-up help desk software company, and its precision influencer campaign, that got 5,000 new blog subscribers in five weeks, using the simple content marketing campaign he outlines right there, in the book.

Achieving Content Ignition

My favorite chapter is one called 22 Practical Ways to Achieve Content Ignition. As the chapter title implies, it’s a list.  It’s easy to understand, with suggestions as simple as adding the social sharing buttons to your content. He also tells us to get rid of opt-ins to get to content; to be funny or at least interesting, and to go for longer rather than shorter content. Schaefer wants us to start conversations rather than controversies. And he asks for great headlines—because he’s right, the most important part of your content marketing efforts really isn’t the content at all—it’s the hook that pulls people in. This is a chapter that anyone can understand.

Happily, rather than suggesting that one size fits all, Schaefer tells his readers to pick and choose, putting together a content marketing plan that works best for their particular needs, and there are lots of ideas here to choose from.

Getting content in front of the right audience is getting harder to do, as more and more content goes up on the web. If a social strategy is important to your company’s plans for awareness or sales, spending time with Mark Schaefer’s ideas in The Content Code, will give you new tools with real-world examples of how to ignite your content—getting it in front of the right people, to educate, influence, or even enable purchasing decisions.



The Content Code: Six essential strategies for igniting your content, your marketing, and your business


Further Reading:

Get the Most out of Infographics – 3 Ways to Leverage Data Visualizations

5 Ways to Engage Your Twitter Followers

9 Reasons Why Hiring a Ghostwriter is a Smart Move

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