Is creating remarkable online content a Darwinian process?

All articles | Content Marketing
Published Oct 16, 2012 | Written by Jeremy Knight

Bombarded by blogs, inundated with info-mails, nagged by newsletters? Is there just too much out there for your own online content to make a difference? Charles Darwin has some heartening news for you.

Fact: Today we create as much information in two days as we did from the dawn of man through to 2003!1

Fiction: It is better to publish anything on the Internet, than to publish nothing at all.

Lots of us today, particularly busy business owners, have become overwhelmed with the amount of so-called 'useful' content that we're faced with on a daily basis, and are beginning to question whether we should even bother to produce our own. Just what is the point of spending time and resources on producing good online content if it's only going to drown in the 'content morass' that the Internet has seemingly become?

Well, look hard at the question, and you'll find the answer within it, i.e. good content - not just content for the sake of it. By applying the 'survival of the fittest' theory to online content, we can see how only remarkable content will survive and be shared.

Therefore, rather than throwing our hands up in despair and asking 'what's the use?', we should instead be concentrating on making our content valuable to our audiences, making it fit for purpose, and ensuring that its value encourages people to share it with others.

Despite popular belief, the term 'survival of the fittest' was first coined by Herbert Spencer (a philosopher), not Charles Darwin; Darwin first used Spencer's 'survival of the fittest' phrase as a synonym for natural selection in his fifth edition of On the Origin of Species, published in 1869. Darwin meant it as a metaphor for "better adapted for the immediate, local environment" - and this is what you should be asking of every piece of content you publish; is it of relevance to your immediate target audience and the environment in which this audience participates?

If the answer is yes, then by the process of natural selection your content will be shared; if not, and you have published merely for publishing's sake, then you can be sure it will be ignored, and you may as well have saved your time and money.

When you think 'survival of the fittest', concentrate on the 'fit' element, keeping in mind that fit not only refers to being healthy; 'fitting' is another word for 'appropriate', again reinforcing the importance of focusing very clearly on your audience. Have you considered their pain points? What can you offer to them to alleviate that pain, or to solve their problems?

Think about how you could differentiate your content or message from all the others that constantly scream for attention. In short, what will make your content remarkable? Think also about what you can do to breathe oxygen into your publishing to ensure that it survives in the content eco-system.

Your content publishing may take a variety of formats: blogging, video tutorials, email newsletters, white papers, or free eBooks. Whatever direction yours takes, always remember that content drives the Internet, and that consumers are looking for information that solves a problem - they're not looking for a sales pitch. By building trust, credibility, and authority in everything you publish, you will automatically generate sharing of your content, and you'll also knock down sales resistance.

The individuals and businesses today that have come through the 'Darwinian' process and are having the most success online are almost exclusively those which take an approach that involves a high ratio of valuable content with seemingly no sales agenda, and which is only now and again mixed with promotional messages. To succeed by 'natural selection', you need to take the same approach to your content marketing. Good luck!

1 Eric Schmidt, former CEO of GoogleInc, 2010.

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Content strategy guide

Published by Jeremy Knight October 16, 2012
Jeremy Knight