Most Blogs Fail. Why?

Plenty of entreprenuers point to Clay Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma as a guiding light, one of their go-to sources for insight on disruption. If you aren’t familiar with the book or the idea it captures, here’s a quick summary:

Companies grow to be large and successful by serving their customers, delivering a great product or service, and establishing processes that allow the work to happen efficiently and at high margins. But, Christensen argues, the things that make a company successful also prevent them from fostering new technology and exploring new markets, thus leaving them vulnerable to disruption. And, so, the Innovator’s Dilemma is choosing between today’s success and tomorrow’s success. Should you keep doing what works or blow it up in search of something new?

If you haven’t heard Christensen’s classic explanation of disruption in the steel industry, it’s a business lesson worth a few minutes of your time.

The concept of disruption was relatively new when Christensen started writing and speaking about it decades ago. Today, thanks to technology, it’s something we’re increasingly comfortable with. Change happens faster today than it did when the mini mills were targeting the upper end of the steel market in the 1970s.

In fact, we are so used to change that it sometimes happens more often than it should. Sometimes, the Innovator’s Dilemma is used as an excuse to make an unnecessary change. Slow quarter? Blow it up!

And that where it’s easy to for content marketers to find a useful lesson from the Innovator’s Dilemma. Change should happen, but only when it’s clear there’s a significant change that could affect readership and strategy.

Buffer’s 15 Minutes of Fame

When Belle Beth Cooper took over the Buffer blog in 2013, she spurred a period of intense growth. In July of that year, the blog saw 341,470 unique visitors. The next month, it more than doubled to 745,811. That is insane growth.

Belle honed in on a formula that readers liked, wrote a ton and let the compounding power of organic search do its thing. Buffer experienced 15 minutes of content marketing fame. It had real buzz in an industry that was still trying to figure out how editorial and growth fit together.

The buzz eventually wore off, but Buffer kept chugging along. And this, this moment, is where the lesson for marketers is buried. Their formula created lots of traffic and a temporary buzz. But instead of trying to create a new buzz with a new formula, they kept doing what worked since it kept delivering traffic. There are over 1,000 posts on their social media blog alone. They’ve since launched three other blogs as well as a podcast.

And this formula still delivering traffic.

In Q32017, they reported 4,008,126 sessions on their Social blog—roughly 1.3 million per month. With no buzz about how they were changing the content industry and no hoopla about being content marketing visionaries.

It’s not hard to imagine that it was hard to stay focused when the excitement of that 15 minutes faded. There must have been meetings to talk strategy and process, to decide whether they should march onward or seek out something new and more exciting. Ultimately, they recognized that they could hit meaningful numbers—393,932 users signed up in Q32017—without any buzz at all. It was unsexy, but damn, was it effective.

Stay Focused, Stay Hungry

For every content strategy like Buffer (and there are only a handful), there are hundreds that dabbled in content before giving up or changing their strategy way too soon. Clay Christenson recognized that businesses absolutely should embrace change, even before they know if it will truly disrupt them, but even he would have to admit that strategies only work if they are nurtured over the long haul.

Disrupting a marketing strategy can sometimes result in too much change. Content is changing, but not that fast.

It can be frustrating to invest time in content marketing without seeing numbers and buzz like Buffer. But before you abandon your strategy, consider these three things:

1. Content is changing, but not that fast.

It took decades for the mini mills to disrupt integrated steel manufacturers. Content will change over that same time frame too. Be careful about changing your strategy (or abandoning it altogether) too quickly. It takes time to nurture and grow a blog. Buffer first started publishing in January 2011. Patience is paramount.

2. Compounding growth wins.

Great content is often silent. No influencers share on social media and no bloggers blast it out to a huge newsletter list. Most content is discovered by people who need it, when they need it. This is why search is king. Let it guide your strategy and ignore less reliable sources.

3. Content isn’t for everyone.

Content drove tons of growth for Buffer, but not everyone rides a content marketing wave to the promised land. The point is that you may or may not find that content is a good approach for your business. If it is, stick with it. If it’s not, commit to something else.

Content marketing isn’t immune to change, but it is prone to infidelity. The most effective and least sexy content marketing advice is simply to stick with it.