Several years ago, Mark Schaefer wrote a post called "Content Shock" about what he saw as the biggest looming problem for marketers. In this post, we want to talk about what content shock is, why marketers in the multifamily industry need to be aware of it, and what they can do to make sure they are not affected by it.
What is content shock?
Think of the last time you took a few days off work. The first day you came back in and you spent at least half the day going through email, right? You had been away for awhile, emails piled up, and now you had so many to deal with that it was hard to know where to begin.
That's essentially the content shock problem: Because of how easy it is to produce content on the internet today, we have had an explosion of resources that are practically impossible for a human mind to manage or organize.
There's too much content and not enough time or incentive for users to engage with it. For example, let's think about a sporting goods store and how this impacts them.
If they create a post with tips for buying a skateboard, they're going to run into a surprisingly high number of competitors:
Videos, established sites like about.com and WikiHow, plus a few other sites--all competing on a keyword you might not expect to be that competitive. This is the problem everywhere. There's a ton of content and it's difficult to get that content in front of your targeted user/prospect/reader. This is why Facebook has reworked their News Feed algorithm: There is simply too much to sift through.
How might content shock affect apartment marketers?
Here's the good news: Some content is more prone to the content shock problem than others.
To understand this point, think about three different types of content:
- a buying guide for skateboards
- video showing a company's skateboard in action
- a guide for servicing a specific, unique type of skateboard
In the case of the first two pieces of content, the only thing separating one company's guide or video from another's is a combination of luck and the quality of the content. Who produced the content first? Is it optimized for search engines? Is the content good? Do readers/viewers like it? Do they return to it?
You can control some of the key factors for getting your content out there, but you can't control all of it. You can produce an absolutely fantastic guide to buying skateboards, but if a competitor already has an excellent one out there and has had it online for two years, you're going to have a terrible time getting any traction with your guide.
But that third guide is potentially going to be quite different. Let's say you make some sort of unique skateboard that isn't like any other company's. It's not just marketing lingo in your case: the board is held together differently or it uses different wheels, etc.
There is something tangibly different about your skateboard. So when users need help repairing it, they can't simply use a generic guide to fixing a skateboard. They need a guide to fixing your specific type of skateboard. The specificity makes it more useful because it makes the niche smaller. The person isn't simply looking for a generic guide to fixing a skateboard; they are looking for a guide to fix your brand of skateboard.
This is the opportunity your community has. If you chase general keywords like "apartments in dallas" or something like that, then you've got the content shock problem. You're competing with listing services and all the other individual properties in Dallas. But if you can find the specific niche that only you or only a small number of communities fill, then you can mostly avoid the problem.
Specificity creates a smaller niche which makes it easier to find an (engaged) audience.
Let's continue to develop this idea. One of the many things that makes our industry unique is that every competitor in it actually has a totally unique product. Sure, there are loads of one bedroom floorplans, but none are exactly alike. Even within the same community, some one bedroom units might be nicer than another. In addition to the unique characteristics of any given floorplan, each community can also be unique in terms of its pricing, location, pet policy, and so on. Simply put, it's incredibly easy to find a non-competitive niche in our industry compared to others.
So when you think about what sort of content marketing you should be doing, don't think primarily about blog posts or eBooks. Instead, focus your marketing around the product you're selling: apartments. The easiest way to do this is to create walkthrough video tours of your floorplans. And the great thing with this strategy is that no one else can offer walkthrough video tours of your specific community or floorplan. As a result, this form of marketing is immune to content shock because there can't be enough content in that niche to create content shock in the first place.
If someone searches for your community by name--and your best leads are the ones that are doing that--then the worst case scenario is that you share your name with a few other communities in the nation and you have to stand out compared to them. And that's much easier to do, particularly with the intelligence of modern search engines, then standing out on a highly competitive keyword like "guide to buying a skateboard."
But if I get more specific, I reach fewer people. That's bad, isn't it?
Here's the beauty of the thing for multifamily communities: You have a very firm cap on how many widgets you can sell. You only have so many apartments. Once they're leased, you're done. It's not easy (or cheap) to simply produce more widgets or expand to a new market.
This means that having a giant reach is not necessarily helpful to your community anyway. If you have 100 apartments, then you can only sell 100 widgets. So which is better? Spending tons of time and money to reach 10,000 people when you only have 100 products to sell or developing a more targeted, specific strategy that allows you to find the 500 people who are reasonably likely to buy from you and focusing your advertising on them?
The guiding principle when it comes to content shock is that the smaller the niche you target, the easier it is to avoid the problems associated with content shock. Luckily for us, multifamily naturally lends itself to targeting unique keywords because each competitor in our industry really does have a unique product. So that creates tons of micro-niches that are relatively easy to win rather than one or two huge niches that are much harder to target.