Why Your Content Marketing Efforts Might Be Worthless

I’ve been preaching the value of content for a long time. In fact, my original company, Voltier Digital, was completely focused on content creation and promotion services. We got into this industry because we were fascinated by the ability of compelling and remarkable content to spread virally via social channels.

Seeing our client’s content generate tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of views can be incredibly exciting. However, as we grew and developed our services and offerings, we became increasingly aware of how important context is to content marketing success.

High volumes of traffic and social engagement can add almost no value to your business and provide very little ROI under the wrong circumstances.  Good content marketers understand the importance of context — both the context their content will be perceived within, and the context their content will create with new viewers and potential customers.

The Context of Content Determines its Impact

Context can be understood as the environment or circumstances in which an idea or thing is understood.  People often say something is “taken out of context” when others hear the right message, but derive the wrong meaning.

As marketers, we need to be aware that everything we create is seen within some context whether we like it or not.  The messages we try to convey don’t exist in a vacuum.

Content is still king, but context shares the throne

Gary Vaynerchuk argues that a shift is taking place in marketing as a whole. We’re becoming increasingly blind to the types of advertising and marketing that may have worked in the past. Google, Facebook and the connectedness of social media are empowering a transformation for a new marketing paradigm based on the context of our messaging.

In the future, the individual impetus for consumption will come from recommendations and the exposure we get to brands within our immediate social graph.

Businesses and services recommended by our friends will trump commercials we see on TV. Check-ins and Yelp reviews will determine where we eat our next meals.  The books we read will be the ones we see our friends quoting and listing on their social profiles.

Gary would argue this shift represents a trillion dollar opportunity, and businesses who understand how to put their message within the right context will be the winners.

As content marketers, this lesson can’t come soon enough…

Context is tied to individual perspective

All content is understood in the context of our own individual points of view and past experiences.

As marketers, we should never forget how intimately tied our craft is to understanding human psychology.  Before getting into the world of search, social media and content development, my undergraduate studies focused on human development. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my transition from psychology student to marketer was a natural and inevitable result of my desire to make practical everything I had learned.

I’m thankful for this experience and education because I’m aware of how easy it can be to stop seeing anonymous visitors as human beings.  The truth we need to remember is; we never leave our emotional selves at the door.  Consciously or not, all of our experiences pass through a filter in our minds, a filter dedicated to finding meaning and relating our experiences to knowledge we already have.

Use context to your advantage.  Trigger strong emotional reactions.

Some experiences trigger us to think.  They engage and build upon our previous knowledge or assumptions.  In some cases, these experiences challenge our beliefs, in other cases they help solidify the notions we already have.

Either way, we are always searching for ways to fit new experiences and information into the scaffolding that defines our understanding of the world.   We understand new information more completely, value it more, and keep it longer in our memories when that new information can fit into the context of a feeling or idea we’re already familiar with.

It’s our job as marketers to understand our visitors enough to realize the context our content will be seen within.

  • Is the point of view we’re expressing opposing the zeitgeist of our audience?
  • Is our voice being seen as sympathetic?  confrontational?  authoritative?

In any event, the content we create needs to hook our audience.  The more ideas and reactions we can trigger, the more deeply that content is embedded within our viewers minds and the more it can resonate with our viewers own unique points of view.

By hooking our audience, we make them more likely not only to interact with our brand more in the future, but we make it more likely that they’ll share the content we’ve created.

Context is tied to personal networks

Content should be seen within the context of its relationship to other people we know.

When our friends share content via social media, valuable context is automatically created — our friend has vouched for the value of that piece of content.

In many instances, our friend may do more than simply share a piece of content.  She may also comment on how that particular piece of content influenced her, made her think, or made her want.

As marketers, we should never underestimate how powerful this naturally created context can be.  In a world where we’re used to taking our cues from commercials and heavy-handed traditional advertising, the opinions and recommendations of real people we know can be highly compelling.

One of the major goals of creating content is to get people to share that content within social media.  But what we don’t talk about is how we want our visitors to share that content, and methods for influencing the context they inevitably create for their followers and friends.   In other words, we don’t take that extra step to think about the context we might help create for those visitors who consume our content by proxy of their friends who have shared it.

Influencing the Context of Shared Content

When we begin thinking about our ability to help sculpt that context, we can begin to make critical changes to the way we do content marketing.  We begin to ask ourselves questions like:

  1. How can we prompt our visitors to talk about our content in the right context?
  2. How can we continue the conversation with those sharing our content (to continue creating more context in a direction compatible with our brand goals)
  3. Is the audience we’re promoting our content to even the right audience?  Do they have prejudices that may create negative context?
  4. How can we measure and track the sentiment of our audience?  Within what context does our message resonate the most effectively?

Context is tied to audiences

Meet people where they are.  Create content that fits into the context of discussions already taking place.

As content marketers, a huge part of our job lies in finding ways to promote the content we create.

At BlueGlass, the content creation and content promotion departments work intimately together. This is because we understand how important it is to place our content within the right context.  The content we create tells vivid stories — it conveys powerful ideas and causes people to think — but most importantly, it always understands its audience.

By creating content that meets people where they are, we’re able to hook into the discussions already taking place.  This doesn’t mean all content should preach to the choir, but it does mean that great content knows how to properly speak to its target audience.  It anticipates the objections of its audience.  It anticipates the expectations of its audience.

Tying Context to Idea Generation

It’s out of this deeper understanding that ideas for content should be generated.

Consider how your content ideas might be seen by your target audience within the context of their community. This will help you predict the ways that audience will then go on to share that content with their unique audiences, and the context they will create for those new viewers.


It’s clear that the ability of marketers to sell is becoming more and more dependent on the context of their message.   As content marketers, we must realize that our content is perceived through the lens of personal experience, which is then further refined by additional context created through the sharing and sentiment expressed by our peers within social media.

How do you add context to your content?


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