Wind sports like sailing & kite surfing definitely require a skilled operator, but there is one critical ingredient that has absolutely nothing to do with talent or experience:
Obviously… the wind itself.
All of these sports are simply different ways of harnessing an existing force, which occurs regardless of whether someone’s leveraging it or not.
Content marketing is no different.
The best blogger in the world won’t be able to generate any traction unless their content is tapping into existing momentum; harnessing the undercurrents of demand, fear, optimism or otherwise something that the market is actually interested in, right now.
In fact, even the most mediocre content that taps the right trend will vastly outperform epic content about something nobody cares about.
Bottom line: The success of your content depends mostly on its topic… not its quality.
So let’s discuss how to read your market before settling on your next content angle…
The Art of Seeing The Wind
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes”.
~ John 3:8, ESV
Much like how the Johannine author considers the unknowable source of the wind as a theological metaphor, in your market – trying to discern the winds of change is similarly mysterious.
Trends are easy to spot in hindsight, yet they are excruciatingly difficult to predict – especially in the information age, where there’s thousands of potential catalysts that can disrupt the market, overnight.
So the key is to identify new trends as they’re emerging.
Here are my go-to trendspotting strategies for content research:
- Heated Discussions. Go to all the main forums, subreddits, FB groups and otherwise communities in your market, and look for anomalous “hot threads”. Often these are just reactive to things like new regulations, or petty BS about some wayward community member, etc. But every so often, you’ll see someone ask a simple question or post a straightforward idea that cascades into a full-blown frenzy that clearly taps the undercurrent. Pay close attention to discussions like this – sometimes they reveal what the “hive-mind” (your audience) is intensely interested in or bothered about.
- Unusual Virality. Make a list of the main authority sites & blogs in your market and peruse all their recent content. Take note of anything that gets unusual levels of social shares, comments, or otherwise engagement. This is a “weaker” signal than fiery discussions, but it’s easier to measure.
- Wall Street. No, really. Make a list of all the publicly-traded companies in your market, and follow various pundits who analyze them. A great resource for this is SeekingAlpha – just sign up for a free account and then create a “Portfolio” of each stock ticker you want to follow. You’ll get a non-stop barrage of breaking news, analysis (bearish & bullish), expert opinions… etc. The real value here is the unique perspective from the finance sector on your industry. It can be a bit tone-deaf, but it can also be incredibly insightful – especially as it relates to external factors intersecting with your industry that people in the trenches often overlook. (Usually this is factored into the stock price long before it becomes a noticeable trend on the front lines.)
- Your Own Data. Have certain articles recently spiked in popularity? Have your support staff gotten a sudden influx of questions or concerns about something? Sometimes the best way to measure your market is to simply analyze what your customers are doing.
That’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s probably all you’ll need to start seeing the pressure-points in your market… along with a whole new world of topic ideas that will clearly tap into existing demand.
Once you’ve identified some hot topics, the next step is figuring out how to tactfully insert your brand into the conversation.
The idea is to harness the wind without reaping the whirlwind in the process 😉
This mostly comes down to discerning what drives each trend. Let’s take a look at the usual drivers, along with corresponding strategies for tapping them effectively…
Driver #1: Fear
Trends borne of fear are usually the easiest to spot, and they tend to flare up quickly if the market populace doesn’t see a plausible solution on the horizon. This can drive a range of responses, all of them passionate.
The best way to harness fear is to offer plausible hope. As an example, when Google first rolled out the Penguin algorithm (penalty), there was a lot of weeping & gnashing of teeth among the SEO community. But I can clearly remember a certain backwater SaaS company that basically posted a single blog post that detailed a bunch of data-supported reasons why Penguin would ultimately be survivable, and how to avoid it.
That single blog post had over 1,000 comments underneath it in less than a month, and that “nobody” startup basically put itself on the map in a single week. This was a textbook example of how to tap into fear the right way.
Driver #2: Opportunity
Trends driven by opportunity are also fairly obvious, and the potential yield of the trend will depend on the urgency required for your target prospects to take advantage of whatever the opportunity is. The more pressing the “deadline”, the more of a tailwind your content will have behind it.
The best way to harness opportunity is to give people an advantage. If you can clearly explain to the market how best to capitalize on something (ideally with an “aha moment” baked in), you’ve got yourself a winning formula. Especially if you can tangibly offer some kind of additional edge with your products/services in the process.
Driver #3: Necessity
Things like new regulations, upcoming policy changes, and otherwise looming obligations that everyone in your market has to deal with are going to inevitably drive a “trend” in your market, which will intensify until D-Day finally comes.
The best way to harness necessity is to reduce pain. Think of a way to make the process easier for your prospects. Can you automate something, or provide some sort of tangible shortcut to make things more bearable?
It will need to be simple, and something you can bring to market ASAP.
As an example, look at how GDPR stirred up the entire tech community this summer. The rules were anything but clear, and compliance was disruptive and annoying to implement. But a few smart cookies out there (pun intended) had cleverly prepared for the ensuing mayhem, and they released things like “GDPR Survival Guides”, one-click website plugins, and so on that were downloaded by the millions.
This is the power of reducing pain for something that’s really annoying. A proverbial “bug spray” for the digital ecosystem.
So, when you’re identifying trends for your next content push, carefully evaluate what’s driving them – and respond accordingly.
It’s not enough to cast off from the shore when you feel the wind blowing. You also need to position your sails in the right direction, or else you’ll go nowhere.
This is why it’s important to diagnose the underlying driver of each trend, and respond in kind – with the strategies above.
You’ll find they’re quite effective 🙂
Just One Thing…
This all kinda sounds like a mountain of work, doesn’t it?
Endlessly monitoring blogs, forums, groups… and then somehow measuring things like “fiery-ness” of conversations across each community, figuring out social shares, etc.
Yikes. That’s a full-time job. Especially if you plan on doing this consistently – not just once in a blue moon.
But it’s also a goldmine of data… and tapping into trends like this can literally put your business on the map, overnight.
This is exactly why we built the app that I personally use the most…
Here’s how it works:
Topical Thunder shows you exactly what topics are making the most impact across your market.
- The most shared content by keyword (across the whole internet, in the last 30 days)
- The most shared content by specific domains / influencers in the last 30 days
- The most active forum discussions by keyword (in the last 30 days)
- The most active forum discussions on specific domains (last 30 days), and
- The most successful videos on Youtube by specific creator channels (last 30 days)
You can scan multiple keywords, domains & influencers simultaneously. You can also set it to run a new scan daily, weekly or monthly – all on autopilot.
This virtually eliminates all of the guesswork (and manual work) in identifying topics that are just starting to trend across your market.
From there, it’s a matter of effectively tapping into that existing momentum, and harnessing a hurricane of publicity in the process – just like we discussed above.
Power tip: scanning for engagement by keyword is a great way to discover new influencers & potential channel partners for distributing your content.
See it in action:
Here’s a quick tutorial video for Topical Thunder that gives you a good idea of how the app works…
Try it for yourself:
Topical Thunder is as close as it gets to “seeing the wind” in your market.
The ability to see what your audience truly cares about, at any given time, gives you a massive advantage over your competitors when it comes to building your content strategy.
Our 14-day trial gives you full access to Topical Thunder, along with every other app in Zag.ai
So if you haven’t set up a trial yet, you can get started here.
(If you already have an account, just login and click on “New App” at the top, activate any app, and you can start your trial from there)
It’s a lot easier to sail around the world than it is to paddle…
Tapping into existing forces – whether it’s the wind on the seas, or the undercurrent that drives your market – is the key to driving real growth.
And it’s all just a matter of positioning. Consider that it takes the same amount of effort to create “home-run” content that strikes the right nerve as it does to publish the same old stuff, or content about some obscure topic.
My suggestion is to simply try this approach. Identify a trend, and its driver – and then harness it with your content.
Your results might just be thunderous 😉