When was the last time you read (really read, not just skimmed) an entire business book?
When was the last time you really read an entire white paper?
When was the last time you sat through an entire Webinar without screwing around in another tab or on your second monitor?
I’m guessing it’s been a while. That doesn’t make you an inattentive or frivolous sort; it makes you a businessperson on the cusp of 2017.
As an author of five books, where we collectively find ourselves terrifies me, but the truth is that our patience and tolerance for long-form content is at all-time low.
It’s all about shorter, snackable, semi-disposable content in this era where having to click “more” to read the third and fourth sentences of a Facebook update feels like a time suck.
And as Facebook video continues to gain relevance vs. YouTube video in many categories, remember that the average length of a Facebook video is 1:21 and the average length of a YouTube video is 14 minutes. And, we just finished a Presidential election that was—among other things—a war of snackable sound bites versus explanation. And while explanation may have narrowly won the overall popular vote, sound bites certainly controlled the narrative by winning the battle for attention.
We’re not ashamed of this move to snackable content. We revel in it. After all, one of the most popular daily emails is aptly called The Skimm.
So the problem for marketers is simple:
How do you explain what you do when nobody tolerates explanation?
Here are five ways to make a marketing meal out snackable content.
1. Make Your Key Information Freestanding
Remember when you were in college and you wanted to enroll in Political Science 314, but, according to the course catalog, you couldn’t do so without having passed Political Science 102?
Most marketing is riddled with similar predicates and prerequisites. We’ll tell a prospect this, but it won’t make any sense until she already understand this other thing first. This is outdated, legacy thinking, driven by our long-standing embrace of the traditional, top-down marketing/sales funnel.
Today, because of the explosion of channels—and the fact that Sales’ role in the initial consideration layer has been largely usurped by content marketing—we cannot hope to dictate the sequence in which information about our companies is consumed.
Don’t believe me? Spend 30 minutes looking at the sequencing reports inside your Web analytics package. Despite our desire that prospects look at Page A, then B, then C, their actual patterns resemble a drunk guy trying to remember where he left his iPhone in a large Airbnb whose floor plan he doesn’t know well.
We must take the features, benefits, credibility-builders, and stories about our brands and deconstruct them, like a Caesar salad at a too-fancy restaurant. We must craft our marketing messages so that they stand alone. If a prospect digests point 11, and then point eight, and then point five, they should still be able to figure out you’re awesome.
I have a lot of work to do on this point myself, and it will be a big focus of the marketing for my consulting firm next year.
2. Atomize Your Content
A term coined years ago by my friend Todd Defren from SHIFT Communications, atomizing your content simply means to make your big ideas small.
If people are starting to tune out your webinars because they are too long, why don’t you run toward that trend, and create a super-short version? Think of it this way: if you have a 60 minute Webinar that covers six points, what you really have are six, 10-minute webinars chained together. Decouple them, and they become a lot more snackable and on-trend.
We are launching a new content series called "Webinines with Jay Baer," where I’ll do webinars with our partners (like Workfront) that are nine minutes or shorter. It’s one point, delivered crisply.
3. Always Push Subscriptions
The atomization of your content means you probably can’t convey your six main points in one sitting. This is why it is absolutely critical that every piece of snackable content be optimized not for consumption or engagement, but for subscription.
Facebook Live notifications. Twitter follows. Youtube channel subscriptions. Email subscriptions. Push notifications of new blog posts via PushCrew or similar.
Every atomized piece of content should push subscription, because once you turn a casual browser into a subscriber, you can serve them up the next piece of snackable content, and the next, and the next, without having to rely on algorithms to present your content to them.
And if you can’t get subscriptions, make the most of remarketing capabilities to show snackable content to people who have consumed similar content in the past.
4. Reimagine Your Content
This blog post isn’t JUST a blog post, it only STARTED as a blog post.
This blog post is also an audio file you can listen to while you work out (see above). It could also be a Facebook Live video. It could be an infographic. It could be a Webinine. It could be a short Slideshare presentation. It could also be a blog post on Linkedin and Medium, among other places.
If the present and future is snackable content, you need a snacks factory. And that’s simply not affordable for most brands unless you’re reimagining a particular piece of content in several different ways.
If you embrace this approach—and I hope you will, as I know it works—also recognize that you will benefit greatly from a solid software package helping you get approvals fast, and keep it all organized and on-time. Workfront would be an outstanding choice for that.
5. Change the Messenger
This is not categorically true, but it’s largely accurate:
Snackable content from people outperforms snackable content from companies.
According to Nielsen, about 8 in 10 Americans trust people they perceive to be like them, whereas fewer than 5 in 10 Americans trust advertising from companies.
Therefore, to make snackable content into a marketing meal, you can’t just make the message smaller, you also need to find ways to change the messenger wherever possible.
Your employees, customers, and partners are more authentic, credible, and believable than you’ll ever be. How can you get them to create short-form content on your behalf?
How about 30-second customer video testimonials on Instagram? How about employees doing 90-second explainer videos on Facebook of key product features? How about a podcast that interviews and celebrates your partners?
The long-form genie is not going back in the bottle. It’s too late. Our brains are literally being rewired to digest and think in smaller and smaller bits and bytes. But that doesn’t mean your content marketing is doomed, it simply means you have to get snackable to create full marketing meals.
About the Author
Jay Baer is a renowned business strategist, inspirational keynote speaker, and the New York Times bestselling author of five books who travels the world helping businesspeople gain and keep more customers. Jay has advised with more than 700 companies since 1994, including Caterpillar, Nike, Allstate, and 32 of the FORTUNE 500.Follow on Twitter More Content by Jay Baer