I see a lot of similarities between the California Gold Rush of ‘49 and today’s frenzy by marketers and related fields about content. Like those prospectors, who driven crazy by gold fever, went with the flow and ended up ruined, many marketers in Pakistan have, it seems, caught content fever. There is a burgeoning demand for content writers, strategists, experts, gurus and wizards. Content is the next big thing in our market. Everyone and their uncle want viral content.
People who have hit the content gold mine, inspire others to emulate them. Like that man who discovered gold in the river in California, one person’s success, no matter how unplanned or haphazard, spurs others on. However, unlike the men who sold all they had to go West, the majority of marketers seem satisfied to hitch their wagon to someone else’s trail. They want content experts to come up with (perhaps magically) gold for them. They feel that these gifted men and women, can transform their mediocre brand message into content gold – in the same way that medieval alchemists were believed to be able to change pewter into gold through formula and process.
Sadly there is no magic formula for success. But there are points to remember.
1. Hard work: Whether prospecting for gold or creating content, the right tools and, more importantly, the mindset is needed. As I discovered during my first stint in digital in 2011, digital media and social is hard work. Creating content is hard work too and requires resources, effort and time. People hoping for overnight success are setting themselves up for a letdown and at best a ‘flash in the pan’ achievement. Let’s be clear, the less you invest, the less you should expect to achieve.
2. Be wary of the Fool’s Gold: Along with those prospectors who searched for years and found nothing, there were a few who seemed to have succeeded. Novice prospectors sometimes would come across a yellow metal they immediately assumed was gold. They would be ecstatic until a more experienced old timer would inform them that what they had was worthless. Often people would become greedy and think they could discover gold with a bare minimum of equipment. Similarly with content, marketers think they can wrap a mediocre message in a photo or video and make it go viral. They think content prepared on a shoe-string budget will be their ticket to virality. They may be searching for gold but they are only the fool’s gold. They need to listen to the people who are telling them that what they have is not gold.
3. Striking it rich is a game of luck: What determined who found gold and who found nothing? In the case of the Gold Rush of 49, it was luck. The same is true with content creation and virality. Many people have tried to nail down a formula about how to create a viral video, but the element of luck cannot be eliminated. Yes you can target influencers (see Youtube video on why videos go viral) to increase your chances. You can do your best to make your creation the talk of the town by seeding it etc. Still luck is a factor you can’t deny.
4. Be Wary of following trends: Inexperienced prospectors in the 1850s would be tempted to follow the pack and team up with other prospectors who seemed to know more. Sometimes this was a good tactic, but if they followed prospectors who were not experienced enough, they ended up wasting time and effort. Similarly with content creation. Brand teams are risk averse. They try and leverage a trend and follow the crowd. They want to play it safe and still strike it big. The danger for the prospector as well as the brand team is the same. If there is gold to be found, the chances are someone else will find it first. As time passed in the Gold Rush era, the success stories grew rarer and gold was more difficult to find. In the same way, as time passes, as greed for more and more content gold grows, finding it is going to become harder and harder for brand teams.
Just as the Gold Rush continued for years, I see no decline in the demand for content in Pakistan. But to give yourself the best chance to hit the content mother lode, remember the above points.