Quality vs Quantity in Content: The reality, and how to manage it with your clients

I was just catching up on some podcasts, and listened to Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation Episode #184 with Jason Falls from last week.  I was listening intently - more intently than I normally do to Six Pixels - because not only am I huge fan of Mitch, but I’m also a really big fan of Jason, who blogs over at Social Media Explorer, and I like both of them for roughly the same reason.

They create awesomely high-quality content on a very regular basis.

So I was delighted when they touched on this topic briefly in their discussion:

We’re finding that some of the people who are really standing out may be producing lower quantity content, but it’s of way higher quality.

[Note: That was my summary, not quite verbatim].

Coming from these two, this was spot on.  Focus on creating quality content. As many of you know, I pass on a lot of content through various outlets.  Jason and Mitch are definitely in my Top 10 of “People Who’s Content I Pass Along” because it’s always great.

However, it got me thinking about how this plays out in the client-agency relationship.  As an agency or consultancy, most of the clients we’ve worked with so far have at least some level of timidity/hesitancy about instituting a social media plan, and, as a result, often need some hand holding during the process.

This means that frameworks and guidelines are put into place, along with calendars and expectations.  When it comes to content, there’s also that part of the pitch that says “MUST UPDATE FREQUENTLY!” So you inevitably need to put process behind it, which your clients buy into.

So, while the idea of having a strategy that focuses on quality content - which can often feel intangible in the business world - sounds like the best way to go (aright, it IS the best way to go), it doesn’t necessarily jive with the realities of an agency-driven social media marketing program.

We all know that value takes time. And for our purposes time costs money, usually a predetermined amount.

Let’s use a simple example. Let’s say a client social media program has blogging at it’s center, so it’s where most of the content will be produced.  As the agency, we work with an internal team of people who are the “bloggers-to-be” of the company, but we’re starting out with the bulk of the content production.   We put a “calendar” in place for posts, and here are our choices for conversations:

  • “For this retainer, we’ll either give you Level One blog posts - our lowest level of value (but trust us it’ll still work) - at three times a week, Level Two posts at twice a week, or Level One - our most valuable content - at once a week. It’s your choice.”
  • “Well, we like to take the value in one super valuable post and break it into three posts, each with 1/3 the value, so if you do the math, it’s kinda like having one super valuable post but you get more pieces of content up, which we told you was important.”
  • “Oh, you’re wondering why we didn’t put up our first two posts this week? Well, we’re really trying to feel the vibes over here and wait for the moment when the value just pours out.  So we’ve lit some incense and we’re really feeling good that it’s going to come for Friday’s post. High-intensity value.”

Hmmm, I’m thinking these aren’t conversations that will keep us employed for very long.

So then, if we’ve decided that quality is better (which we’ve long ago decided), and Mitch and Jason have hinted at a shift towards perhaps less quantity and more quality - something that sounds like it could also be less scheduled and planned out, but we’re also bound to calendars and we’re communicating with clients who really might not wholly embrace a slightly more ambiguous quality-focused strategy, rather than a little more structured strategy.

We all get this concept, and have gotten it for a while, but our a lot of our clients may not have.

How do we have this conversation? Is it simply a matter of charging more for services? Do we as an industry simply start demanding highest-quality from our content producers (thereby offering highest-quality to our clients), no matter what? Or do we need to start having different conversations with our clients and those we’re trying to educate?And if so, how do we do that in a way that inexperienced people can still feel like there’s something concrete to grasp onto?

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