Fatigue sets in. You know the feeling.
As a digital content consumer, you scroll through your inbox and social feeds, conduct searches, and visit websites only to find your eyes glazing over. You’re tired of everything you see.
As a content marketer, how do you energize your audience? How can you break them out of the slump? How can you reignite the spark?
We asked the speakers lined up for 2021 Content Marketing World to share their recommendations on how to break through your audience’s digital fatigue.
To our surprise, we got some pushback on the premise.
“Who’s fatigued? Audiences are searching more. Consuming more. And sharing more,” replied Michael Brenner, CEO, Marketing Insider Group. “Too many brands are still spending the bulk of their budget on ads no one wants. Marketers need to create helpful and consistent content and stick to the plan.”
Inbar Yagur, vice president of marketing, GrowthSpace, said something similar: “I don’t think anything has changed, fatigue or no. You need to give your audience real value … The fatigue sets in when you see more and more of the same junk.”
Michael and Inbar hit on the premise behind the question: How can brands avoid content marketing that causes their audiences’ eyes to droop?
These 26 strategic and tactical solutions should help.
1. Be as good as – if not better than – individual creators
The playbook hasn’t changed at the same rate as attention spans. Look at the rise of TikTok during the pandemic. If we truly had digital content fatigue, the platform would not have grown in popularity the way it has. TikTok encourages great content because the creators of that content make money from it. Everyday users have learned how to leverage the platform to make extremely entertaining content, and now they expect brands to do better. – Amy Balliett, CEO, Killer Visual Strategies
2. Make something that counts
Throw out the playbook and start over. Put the time and budget you’re about to put into your next 10 pieces and make one, incredible, memorable, delightful, smart, entertaining thing. Pour all the time, talent, craft, and love into it that you can. – Doug Kessler, co-founder, Velocity
Put the time and budget you’re about to put into your next 10 pieces and make one, incredible, memorable, delightful, smart, entertaining thing, says @DougKessler via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
3. Set up your lure
Three things: 1. Make an appointment with your audience. 2. Attach a person to the content you create. 3. Make sure your content has a hook – a simple twist on a familiar theme designed to ensnare or entrap your audience. – Andrew Davis, author and keynote speaker, Monumental Shift
4. Spend money or spend money
You mean content shock? There are only two ways: Spend the money to create exceedingly brilliant content that earns their attention, or spend the money it takes to promote it and break through the noise. – Mark Schaefer, author, Cumulative Advantage: How to Build Momentum for Your Ideas, Business, and Life Against All Odds
5. Make it personal and in person
Even before the pandemic sentenced us to a 15-month term of virtual reality, “modern marketing” was automating the life out of human experiences, imposing a digital lens on everything from body language to nurture. Now that we’re all Zoomed out and so over the novelty of working in our jammies all day, every day, ordinary, IRL interactions will feel extraordinary. The real breakthroughs will be authentic, unexpected, handcrafted, and personal. – Carmen Hill, content strategist and writer, Chill Content
6. Get (inter)active
Make everything more conversational. Ask questions, create polls, go live. People may be tired of passively consuming content, but they are craving human interaction now more than ever. – Michaela Alexis, LinkedIn trainer and LinkedIn Learning instructor
7. Give meaningful support
Create engagement experiences. Your audience is craving meaningful connections with others. Give them an opportunity to interact with your brand and their peers in a way that adds value and helps them to reach their goals. – Sydni Craig-Hart, CEO and co-founder, Smart Simple Marketing
8. Get real problems
Produce emotion-based content – content that shows real people being real, solving real in less than perfect ways so others can relate. Content that is emotion-based and believable breaks through content fatigue. – Bernie Borges, vice president global content marketing, iQor
9. Try some improv
It starts with an experimental mindset: “Yes and …” If marketers are fatigued as marketers and as customers, then it’s time for change. It’s time to do things differently and lead with empathy and an improvisational mindset that co-creates with customers. – Kathy Klotz-Guest, founder, Keeping it Human
10. Play one-on-one
I’ve been preaching personal connection to my library clients – focusing on having meaningful personal conversations to deliver one-on-one service to patrons. It’s more time-consuming and tedious, but it’s necessary. We have to be accessible in spaces other than just online. – Angela Hursh, senior engagement consultant, NoveList
11. Get specific
Focus on smaller audiences. This is the genius of account-based marketing. For the audience, the super-specific content is more likely to meet their needs. Stop worrying about traffic and page views. Start focusing on that small group of a few dozen ideal accounts. Produce content specifically for that group and personally invite them to get involved. It’s a whole new game. – Andy Crestodina, co-founder and CMO, Orbit Media
12. Be engaging
Don’t forget what you know — quality content wins out over quantity. I think that most of the digital fatigue that’s happening is caused by a high volume of low-quality content being pushed out from brands. The focus needs to shift from mass exposure to engagement. – Jacqueline Loch, executive vice president, customer innovation, SJC Content
13. Stop and ask why
The next time you feel compelled to hop on a trend, replicate a meme, or release a statement because “everyone else has,” don’t. Instead, stop and ask yourself why three times. If you don’t get to a compelling reason for doing so, then just don’t do it. – Erika Heald, consultant, Erika Heald Consulting
14. Listen and customize
The things that will break through are the things that are meaningful and valuable, both of which can vary wildly from context to context. Content marketers need to listen more to their audiences and adapt their strategies based on what they hear. – Matthew Rayback, creative director, Adobe
15. Go deep
Content marketers, especially those in B2B, tend to create a lot of 101 content. That means there are already a ton of those 101 resources out there, winning the search battle. Instead, focus on niche topics and depth that help your audience to cut through the crap and make sense of the world. – Zontee Hou, head of strategy, Convince & Convert
16. Do less, invest more
Create fewer pieces and invest more – more useful info, better insights, more noteworthy presentation – in the content you do create. – Jonathan Kranz, principal, Kranz Communications
17. Be part of the routine
You have to create content that’s a part of your audience’s routine. Morgan Stanley does a great job of this with their Thoughts on the Market podcast, for instance, which was the top-performing series in Contently’s recent State of Finance report. Each daily episode is about three to nine minutes and perfectly crafted to appeal to busy executives. – Joe Lazauskas, head of marketing, Contently
You have to create #content that’s a part of your audience’s routine. @MorganStanley does a great of this with their #ThoughtsOnTheMarket podcast, says @joelazauskas via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
18. Have a purpose
Be helpful. If you can’t be helpful, at least be entertaining. Ideally, your content should do both. – Ruth Carter, evil genius, Carter Law Firm
19. Open the gates
Stop doing whatever anyone else is doing. There’s amazing content on the internet that can be delivered asynchronously. For the first time, business conferences are competing with Netflix and YouTube. I love the conferences that make all their material available for free on YouTube since I can watch it on my own time, embrace it – don’t gate it. – Eli Schwartz, growth advisor, 5le; author of Product-Led SEO
20. Reformat, reuse, recycle
Content marketers can break through the digital content fatigue by mixing up their content and recycling it in different ways. Everyone has different preferences for how they consume content. Turn a blog post into a captioned video, a podcast episode with a transcript, multiple standalone tweets, and a shorter post on LinkedIn. – Meryl Evans, digital marketing pro, meryl.net
21. Build different packages
Try different content formats, like livestreaming, podcasting, etc. Find ways to stay in front of people with tidbits of content versus just sharing huge content pieces at a time. – Christoph Trappe, director of content marketing, Voxpopme
22. Add digital tactics in print
Surprisingly, print marketing has been cutting through some of the noise. Use print marketing to direct people back to digital assets using QR codes, vanity URLs, etc. – Rachel Mann, digital engagement supervisor, American Fidelity Assurance Company
23. Print regularly
Create an amazing and consistent print publication. – Joe Pulizzi, founder, The Tilt
24. Make something tangible
Try doing something non-digital. For your best prospects, do a limited print run of a magazine or a book or something tangible. It’ll stand out far more than shouting about your latest webinar. – Christopher S. Penn, chief data scientist, Trust Insights
25. Be outstanding
Digital marketers need to create thoughtful, informational, and visually attractive content. LinkedIn newsletters are a case in point. I follow some that are clearly last-minute word vomit to get in on the trend. But newsletters that are thoughtful, researched, informational (like Andy Crestodina’s Digital Marketing Tips) deserve every second of my time and stand out from the rest. – Viveka von Rosen, chief visibility officer, Vengreso
Digital marketers need to create thoughtful, information, and visually attractive #content, says @LinkedInExpert. @Crestodina’s #DigitalMarketingTips stand out from the rest. @CMIContent #CMWorld Click To Tweet
26. Don’t make your goal remarkable
Focus on relevance over remarkableness. – Tamsen Webster, CEO and chief message strategist, Find the Red Thread
Tamsen’s response is a good note to leave you on. How do you cut through digital content fatigue and energize your audience? Above all else, it must be relevant. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how great, different, or unexpected your content is.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute