The Secret Weapon to Defeat the Content Marketer’s Common Enemies
What if I told you that besides the usual content marketing methods you usually hear about, there is a little-known, or little-used, secret weapon that is essential to your success as a content creator or content marketer?
What if I also told you that this secret weapon has been used by some of the top content marketing heroes that you know and love? Well, there is just such a weapon.
And it has been used repeatedly by your content marketing heroes to defeat the greatest enemies of our industry. These enemies are known by these aliases:
If you want to know what this secret weapon is and how you can harness its power in your own attempt to become a content marketing hero, then you’re going to want to pay close attention as I pull back the curtain and reveal this secret weapon used by the pros.
The secret weapon that I want to share with you today can be found in three places: the origin story of The Avengers comics, in the fictional world that Marvel comics created for them, and within the content marketing universe.
Let’s begin with the origin story of the Avengers…
The Drinking Problem That Led to the Creation of The Avengers
It might be hard for you to believe but the creation of one of the greatest superhero ensembles ever created was born out of an act of desperation.
It was 1961 and Bill Everett, the man who had co-created Daredevil with Stan Lee, had fallen behind in the production of Daredevil #1. Why? Two reasons: he had a day job and a drinking problem.
He was loved by Martin “Moe” Goodman, the man who launched the company that would one day become Marvel Comics, but that still didn’t take away from the fact that they needed to get something together to print.
Because you see, back in those days, you had to book print time way ahead of time. And if your book wasn’t ready, well that was too bad. You still had to pay for the printing time anyway.
So with a sudden hole in the schedule, but no comic book ready to print, Stan Lee desperately needed a solution. And that’s when he was struck by inspiration.
You see, DC Comics had a book called The Justice League, that was about a group of superheroes and it was having great success. Stan Lee had already borrowed that concept in his creation of The Fantastic Four.
So with the sudden hole in the print schedule, Stan thought, “What if we did a strip that brought all of the heroes together JLA-style?”
As he thought about it, he realized that if they did this, then it would be a book that wouldn’t require any ramp-up time, because the characters – the heroes and the villain – already all existed.
So with the pressure of a print schedule to inspire them, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby brainstormed the first issue of this group of superheroes.
Kirby quickly drew it up and Dick Ayers inked it in. And the rest is history. The Avengers #1 was released in Sept. 1963 and its success led to an Avengers series and various spin-offs throughout the years.
That’s an incredible story, isn’t it? A man’s drinking problem and a desperate deadline led to one of the greatest superhero teams of our day.
I told you that story because I wanted you to realize something very important: It’s better to have a group of “superheroes” on your team than to try to carry the load on your own.
The First Lesson About This Secret Weapon:
You might not realize it, but you’ve just gotten your first peek at the secret weapon. If you missed it, that’s ok. Lean in a little closer and I’ll explain…
Instead of creating your content marketing from scratch, and having to build up the story, the audience, and the momentum from scratch, try Stan Lee’s approach: consider taping into a group of “characters” who already exist and whose combined synergy can create an impact that you never could on your own.
If what you just read intrigues you, then keep reading because there are many other facets of this secret weapon that you’re going to want to see.
And as you begin to see this secret weapon more fully, you’ll begin to realize that it might just be the thing that you’ve been looking for that can take your content marketing and your career to the next level.
So lock away this first lesson in mind and keep reading. Because you’re about to see how this overlooked concept matters more to content marketers today than it ever has before.
The reason it matters so much will become clear in just a little bit, but first I need to let you take a peek at another facet of this secret weapon which, as you’re about to see, Marvel Studios knows very much about.
“You need a network. You need your network. Every day. A network will help you deal with some of life’s minor annoyances as well as your most challenging problems. Your network can provide role models, advise you, comfort you, provide you with financial assistance, intellectual and social resources, entertainment, and a ride to work in the morning.” – Harvey McKay in Dig Your Well Before Your Thirsty
Marvel (aka Disney) Knows the Same Secret Your Content Marketing Heroes Do
The long-awaited film Avengers: Infinity War released today. It’s the sequel to both 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers and 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.
It is directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo and features an impressive ensemble cast:
- Robert Downey Jr.
- Chris Hemsworth
- Mark Ruffalo
- Chris Evans
- Scarlett Johansson
- Benedict Cumberbatch
- Don Cheadle
- Tom Holland
- Chadwick Boseman
- Paul Bettany
- Elizabeth Olsen
- Anthony Mackie
- Sebastian Stan
- Danai Gurira
- Letitia Wright
- Dave Bautista
- Zoe Saldana
- Josh Brolin
- And Chris Pratt
This is a pretty ambitious project, isn’t it? According to ScreenRant.com, “The reported production budget for Avengers: Infinity War would make it the second most-expensive film ever made, unadjusted for inflation.”
You might be wondering, why would Marvel attempt such a costly and massive project? I believe it’s because they understand the secret that all successful content marketers do. Why do I think that?
Pay close attention to the two quotes below and you’ll see why I think that. One is from one of the directors of this film and the other quote is one I found within one of the trailers for the film. Read the two quotes and see if you don’t hear them hinting about the power of this secret weapon.
“The cutting-edge concept behind the Marvel Universe is this massive organism of shifting parts and new ideas…” – Joe Russo, Co-director, Avengers: Infinity Ware
“There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people to see if we could become something more. So when they needed us we could fight the battles that they never could.”
– From Avengers Infinity War Official Trailer
You can watch and hear the same message for yourself at the beginning of the trailer below:
If you doubt the effectiveness of this secret weapon in the hands of Marvel, then let me give you some proof. Get this. The pre-sale tickets have already brought in more than the last seven MCU films combined, including Black Panther.
That ingenious moment of inspiration that struck Stan Lee 45 years ago is still paying off even now that the Marvel Universe has morphed into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
And that first lesson I already revealed to you, about the combined synergy that creates an impact never possible on your own, is still proving itself to be something that works beyond just the comic book world.
The Second Lesson About This Secret Weapon:
Let’s stop for a second so I can point out another facet of this secret weapon because I want to make sure that you don’t miss it.
When you begin to realize the power of this secret weapon, you will realize that any effort you put into using it will be more than worth it. Why? Because the massive organism that you create and tap into will produce new ideas that could never exist without it.
And the result of harnessing the power of this secret weapon will be “more.” More for you and more for your audience.
Ok, so far you’ve just heard the surprising origin story of how The Avengers’ fictional world came into existence. And you’ve seen how Marvel Studios is using this same secret weapon.
Now let me show you the lesson you can learn about this secret weapon from within the fictional world of the Avengers itself.
“Avengers: Infinity War” and the Need to Join Forces
The story of Avengers: Infinity War begins two years after the Avengers were torn apart during the events of Captain America: Civil War. And a desperate situation has taken place.
Thanos has arrived on our planet for one evil purpose. He wants to collect the all-powerful Infinity Stones for a gauntlet that will allow him to bend reality to his will. If he achieves his goal, it will give him the ability to destroy half of the universe and rule the other half.
Thanos’ gauntlet is so powerful that none of the Avengers has the power to stop him on their own. So the only choice is for the Avengers is to unite, not only with each other, but also with the additional help of Antman, Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy, Dr. Strange, and Spiderman.
In a country where phrases such as “self-made man (or woman)” and “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” are popular and in a culture where there are whole literary genres called “Self Help,” the words “United we stand; divided we fall” can seem very out of place.
But they’re still true, more than ever!
There’s much we can do together, but there’s little we can do all alone. The truth is that our chance of making it alone against some of our greatest challenges in life, without others, is very small. And that fact is no less true in the world of content marketing.
Many Content Marketers Are Overlooking a Key Ingredient to Content Marketing Success
Image from Pixabay.com
I’ve been fortunate to be a part of the growing content marketing movement over the last seven years. And throughout that time, I have seen content creators and content marketers focus on different things as they strive for success with content marketing. I’ve seen them focus on:
- Quality content
- The importance of titles
- Social Media
- And the list goes on!
All of those things are important – very important. But in the last few years, I’ve realized that there is something that is missing on most lists of the content marketing arsenal you need to stash away in order to prepare to attack the problems facing content marketing these days.
And the thing that is missing is this secret weapon that I’ve been hinting at. What exactly is it? It’s something that I call a content network.
Why do I call it that? I chose the word “network” because of the definition of, and the history of, three particular networks:
- TV Networks – According to Wikipedia, a TV network is “a telecommunications network for distribution of television program content, whereby a central operation provides programming to many television stations or pay television providers.”
- A Computer Network – According to Wikipedia, a computer network is “a digital telecommunications network which allows nodes to share resources. In computer networks, computing devices exchange data with each other using connections between nodes (data links.) These data links are established over cable media such as wires or optic cables, or wireless media such as WiFi.”
- The Internet – According to Wikipedia, the internet is “the global system of interconnected computer networks that use the Internet protocol suite to link devices worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope, linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries a vast range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents and applications of the World Wide Web (WWW), electronic mail, telephony, and file sharing.”
Do you see now why I chose the word “network?”
The network created in each of these arenas created a revolution in the expanse of information or data in those arenas. And when you implement a network into your own content universe, the effects will be just as powerful.
But your content network won’t be made up of TV stations or nodes. It will be made up of people. And these people will enable the distribution of content, the exchange of resources, and the sharing of data and information.
So with that in mind, let me share with you my definition or description of a content network.
My Definition of a Content Network:
It is an informal group of friends or associates who like and respect each other and each other’s perspectives and strengths so much that they help each other and promote each other in many different ways such as:
- Share each other’s content
- Interview each other
- Feature one another’s content on each other’s websites
- And/or feature one another at each other’s events.
NOTE: This network could be internal (a group of content creators that you’ve gathered to be a part of your team) or it could be external (content creators who have their own sites who join forces to achieve the same goal).
“The web is being rebuilt around people, rather than being built around content. Social behavior is becoming the key feature of the web.” – Grouped: How Small Groups of Friends Are the Key to Influence on the Social Web by Paul Adams
What Are the Benefits of a Content Network? Three Experts Reveal Their Answers
To further show you the power of a content network in action, I’ve assembled a “Content Squad” that is made up of content marketing insiders in order to help me accomplish my mission of showing you why building your own content network is so important. If you haven’t been convinced by my words yet, then I know the words you’re about to read will convince you.
1) Dennis Shiao, Director of Content Marketing, DNN Corp
“A content network is essential to your success as a content marketer. I’ve built a content network by running a Bay Area content marketing meetup and by connecting and engaging with people on Twitter. Recruiting content marketing experts to do a presentation at the monthly meetup has helped expand my network quite a bit.”
2) Jacob Warwick, Founder, Managing Director – Brand & Marketing Strategist, ThinkWarwick Communications
“Having built a connected network of highly regarded industry professionals, I have not only seen positive results for my content performance, but also in my ability to make new connections, build relationships, and nurture new business partnerships.”
3) Roger Parker, Founder of Published and Profitable, Multi-title Author, Writing Coach, and Marketing Consultant
“A content network is one of the easiest and least expensive ways you can reduce stress and create better content in less time. Content networks help reduce the isolation that frequently accompanies work-at-home, freelance self-employment.
“I view content networks as informal groups of marketers that share ideas and occasionally help promote each other content. Content networks are more structured than an email mailing list, but less structured than mastermind groups and less time-consuming than guest posting. There are no scheduled “meetings; communication between members takes place via email on an as-needed basis. Content networks offer more privacy than Facebook Groups or other forums.”
I think by now you can see that the importance of a content network isn’t just an important secret weapon in the fictional world of comics or in the film industry. It’s also one of the main gadgets that your content marketing superheroes have been keeping up their sleeve.
Your Content Marketing Heroes Have Been Using This Secret Weapon for Years. Have You Noticed?
Up until this point, you’ve heard the benefits of a content network from me and three of my “Content Squad.” Well, now I want to show you how this secret weapon has been the driving force behind some of the greatest successes you know of.
CASE STUDY #1: Michael Stelzner’s Use of This Secret Weapon in Building SocialMediaExaminer.com
Michael Stelzer used this secret weapon as one of his key methods in the creation of SocialMediaExaminer.com.
In an interview that Patricia Redsicker did with Michael on ContentMarketingInstitute.com called How Free Content Can Quickly Grow Your Business, Michael revealed his use of this secret weapon.
Patricia: “And you came from the white paper industry, jumped into a totally different industry, and now you’re the king of social media. How in the world do you do these things, Mike?”
Mike; (laughing) “Well beyond by the grace of God, there’s actually a strategy behind everything I do, and it’s why I wrote the book actually.” (See Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition).
“I wanted to share exactly how this kind of stuff can be accomplished. But simply said, the way that I do it is to provide absolutely outstanding content to people for free and to partner with other people that have incredible knowledge in their brain and bring those people to whatever platform I happen to have.
“So it’s really about great content plus other people. And that’s kind of been the core underpinning of my success in the world of white papers and now in the world of social media.”
My Take on Michael’s Story
And as he promoted them to his growing audience, something interesting happened. Their impact grew. But this content network worked both ways.
As they grew their own audiences and were featured on other sites and in other arenas, they, in turn, promoted Michael and SocialMediaExaminer.com, which then grew even more. It was a beautiful virtuous cycle made possible by the content network that he created.
CASE STUDY #2: Joe Pulizzi’s Creative Use of This Secret Weapon to Grow Content Marketing Institute
But Michael Stelzner wasn’t the only person who realized the power of a content network. One of the other people who understood the power of this secret weapon was Joe Pulizzi.
Joe was so effective at using this secret weapon that he not only created Content Marketing Institute (CMI), but he basically created the content marketing universe that we’re all living and working in these days.
To prove to you that Joe used this secret weapon, I asked Michele Linn, former Vice President of Content for ContentMarketingInstitute.com, and the Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Mantis Research – the fourth member of the “Content Squad” I’ve gathered for this post – to show you the importance of a content network.
And this is what Michele said…
“CMI was built on the idea of a content network. In the early days of CMI, we heavily relied on our network to write articles, share posts, etc.”
My Take on CMI’s Story
I saw the reality of CMI’s content network myself when I began writing for CMI back in 2011. The thing that amazed me about CMI, besides the kindness and genius of Joe Pulizzi, Michele Linn and Jodi Harris (and now Lisa Dougherty), was the amazing platform and powerful audience that they had gathered by doing this.
I could see this by the results that I would see happen when one of my posts went live on their site. Whenever one of my posts went live I saw an incredible amount of tweets, likes, shares, and comments. The amount was much more than I ever got on my own site based on my own efforts alone.
By just being able to be a part of the team of people who created content for CMI, I received more exposure than ever and I even got some clients. (More on this a little later.)
The Two Combined Forces That Are Almost Unstoppable
I’ve written before about the importance of creating your own content channel, which is just a virtual place that you create where you provide your target market with the information they need and want.
That’s what ContentMarketingInstitute.com did for people looking for information about content marketing and what SocialMediaExaminer.com did for people looking for information about social media marketing.
But they’re not the only people to do this. This content marketing “secret” has been harnessed by many of today’s publishing empires such as HuffingtonPost.com, Mashable.com, CopyBlogger.com, and even on sites like Curatti.com, and by the site you’re on right now.
But creating a content channel is only part of their secret. They didn’t just create a content channel. They all also made sure to tap into the power of a content network by implementing these two steps:
- They created a content channel for a specific market in order to help that audience and elevate their industry.
- They invited authorities to create content for them.
Don’t miss the importance of these two things and how they work together:
- A content channel allows you to build your own audience.
- A content network enables you to tap into the audience of others.
The Third Lesson About This Secret Weapon:
A content channel is about gathering and a content network is about expanding. Both are needed. And when you combine the two, the result is so powerful it’s almost unstoppable.
Many of you have been trying to create a content channel and gather your own audience, but you’ve been missing this secret weapon. So your ability to expand the reach and impact of your content and content marketing has been stunted.
Your only hope now is to learn from the example of your content marketing heroes and the platforms you envy and begin to tap into the additional power of a content network.
I’ll tell you how you can create or find one of these content networks in just a second, but first let me have some of my “Content Squad” give you some personal examples of how they have used a content network.
Additional Examples of a Content Network in Action
The examples that you’re about to see will give you some additional clues that will get your creative juices flowing so you can see some more ways that a content network can help you in your content creation and content marketing endeavors.
Michele Linn’s Example of How Content Marketing Institute Used a Content Network
In speaking about CMI’s uses of a content network Michele Linn went on to say…
“Our goal was to share ideas from the smartest marketers through our blog, magazine and, eventually, our events. Of course, we hoped these influencers would share CMI posts and news.
“In my honest opinion, we could not have built CMI if we did not already have those relationships.”
Jacob Warwick’s Example of How He Used a Content Network
“Writing content has been an excellent opportunity to give back to my network—and a great way to give something interesting or valuable to new connections that I make.
“For example, when writing an article for Forbes or Entrepreneur, I often interview colleagues that I enjoy working with or people that I’d like to build a relationship with. I’ve found when cold-emailing a new contact, asking them if they’d be interested in providing their expertise for a Forbes article or another publication they may enjoy—is an excellent ice breaker. I’ve made several connections with influential professionals by doing all the legwork myself and giving great content and PR to these people.
“It’s a win-win because they get credibility, recognition, and content to share—and I, or the company I’m working with, get to begin a new relationship and have help distributing their content.”
Dennis Shiao’s Example of How He Used a Content Network
“You can tap into your content network for advice and input on the content you’re developing. They can weigh in on topic ideas or even review a draft of your next blog post. You can take things to the next level by co-creating content with your network. This has the benefit of adding depth to your content, while providing a built-in army of advocates who share the content with their followers when it’s live.
“I saw both of these benefits in a presentation I developed on how to write a great blog post. The second half of my presentation featured tips from eight blogging experts. Their tips made my presentation stronger and they all shared the link when it went live.”
Practical Steps on How to Get Started Assembling Your Content Network Today
Now before you leave, I want to give you some steps you can begin implementing right now, so you can swoop in and be the content marketing superhero in your industry by creating your own content network.
In order to do that, I am going to let one of the members of my “Content Squad” share his tips with you, first, and then I’ll leave you with you some other tips of my own.
Roger Parker’s Three Steps to Successfully Create a Content Network
“Start by identifying 7-10 bloggers or podcasters who share your knowledge, passion, and standards. Avoid approaching influencers or “stars” who have already arrived. Instead, look for marketers who are approximately at your level of income and visibility.
“Next, each member should create a separate content network email group. With one click, you can then share your latest newsletters and blog posts with others for feedback and—when appropriate—voluntary social media promotion. If you’re so inclined, you can syndicate your ideas by allowing members to copy or rewrite all, or just some, of your posts.
“Best of all, if you get stalled on a project, just ask the group for ideas or opinions. Over time, you’ll discover who is most likely to reciprocate in terms of assistance and promotion.
“Turnover is to be expected. But, over time, you’re likely to develop strong, lasting relationships with a handful of your content network friends. You then will be able to search for additional like-minded prospective members.”
My Additional Advice to Help You Overcome Your Fear of Creating a Content Network
Roger’s steps above are really great and you should begin implementing them right now.
But I want to tell you about a hidden aspect of this secret weapon that can give you hope, especially if the idea of gathering up a team like this intimidates you in any way.
What I want you to not forget is that there isn’t just a benefit in gathering this type of group to be your secret weapon. There is also a benefit in being a part of a team like this. So if you are too intimidated to gather a team like this, then see if you can become a part of a team like this.
I did that when I reached out to CMI in the early days to see if they would want to let me do a guest post. And as they saw what I could bring to the table, they eventually pulled me further into their content network.
They did this in many ways but some specific examples are that they began including me in their contributor lists such as 64 Content Marketing Essentials You Need to Know Before 2013 and 42 Hot Tips for Compelling Content Marketing. They also began to feature my “21 Types of Content We Crave” over and over again on the site. And they featured some of my content (that I had written off of CMI) on Joe and Robert Rose’s This Old Marketing Podcast.
So my advice to you is to begin to look for ways you can contribute to other people’s content channels. Don’t just do it in order to guest post, do it in order to find a way that you might be able to prove yourself worthy to be brought into their content network.
And I’d suggest that you take Roger’s same advice above. Don’t start by trying to become a part of the websites that already have a lot of influence and a lot of members in their content network.
Start with the sites that are in the earlier stages of building their content networks. That’s what I did when I reached out to CMI. They had begun to grow but they were still at a place where they were open to having additional contributors.
Find sites and individuals like that. That way, even if you’re too afraid to reach out to people and build your own content network, you won’t have to miss out on the power of being a part of one.
“He whose ranks are united in purpose will be victorious.” –Sun Tzu
Infinity Stones and Your Final Lesson About This Secret Weapon
I want to leave you with one last thought today and that is this. In the movie Avengers: Infinity War there is something that I didn’t emphasize that is important.
The Avengers must unite to fight against Thanos because if he gets all six of the Infinity Stones, then he will not be able to be stopped. That’s because although each of the stones is very powerful on their own, together their force is unparalleled.
Your ability and the force that you can have with your content and content marketing might be pretty impressive all on its own. But what you can accomplish and the impact you can have when you join forces with others for a common goal is unmatched.
So no matter how confident you are in your ability and talent, never forget that when you join with others you will always be able to accomplish more – and enjoy it more.
That’s true in the real world. It’s true in the Marvel Universe. And it’s true in the content marketing universe. Not only that, but there’s an unexpected side benefit that happens when you give up on the idea of going at it alone and you instead build a content network.
When you have the courage to work with others as a team, you enable yourself to become a specialist. By having others focus on other tasks and bring their strengths, you can focus on what you do best.
That means that assembling a content network doesn’t dilute your ability and what you can accomplish. It instead allows you to concentrate and focus all of your talent on each task like a laser beam.
Really think about that for a second. When you have a content network to draw from, and when you can then focus on what you do best, how can your content marketing and your career not reach new levels?
“You think you’re the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you’ve become part of a bigger universe, you just don’t know it yet.” – Nick Fury to Iron Man in Iron Man (2008)
P.S. For those of you who are curious about what my “superpowers” are, I’d say they are storytelling and wordsmithing.
Cover Photo of Avengers: Infinity War Desktop Wallpaper from Alphacoders.com