With Manchester Comicon coming up this weekend, we thought it'd be a great idea to repost this themed blog from our old site (originally posted on May 4th).
May the Fourth be with you and happy Star Wars Day! In this specially-themed post (read: shameless tie-in), we'll be discussing just some of the many things one of our favourite sci-fi franchises can teach us about content marketing.
#1 Good Dialogue is Important
While I identify as a Star Wars fan, I am definitely not a Star Wars fanboy. And one place where the movies definitely fall down is in the dialogue department. The original trilogy is a definitive example of the Hero's Journey (god knows what the latest ones were meant to be) and while the world-building is exceptional (although it borrows heavily from other sources) - Lucas' dialogue is frankly atrocious at times.
While cringe-inducing lines are highly visible in the most recent films, it'd be remiss of us to forgive the original trilogy its failings. Some of my favourite blunders from both include:
Padme (to Anakin following his confession of killing all the Sandpeople, sandwomen and sandchildren): "To be angry is to be human."
Leia (on being told she's Luke's sister): "I know. Somehow, I've always known." (which then begs the question 'why did she kiss her brother?')
Luke's cringe-worthy line about Tosche power station. Watch it in its full glory here.
However, the crown for worst dialogue in a Star Wars film simply has to go to this scene (number 5), which is too long to reproduce here in its entirety.
Search your feelings, you know it to be true
The lesson here is that it's not enough simply to have content - it has to be engaging if you're to harbour any hope of connecting with your audience. You might have an exceptional product or service, but if you don't showcase it with content your target audience(s) find genuinely useful, you'll have a hard time appealing to your prospective customers.
And even now, when we're supposedly knee-deep in the age of Web 2.0, companies are still struggling to engage their key demographics, despite being able to target them more accurately than ever before. Google's own advice on ranking states:
"In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share."
There's simply no way to 'game the system' when it comes to being genuinely interesting and useful to your prospects, and if you're looking at content purely as a way to improve search performance - you're setting yourself up for disappointment.
While having some content is marginally better than having none (in terms of creating indexable pages and giving search engines more signals as to what your site is all about), if you're not approaching content with the same gravitas you'd give to a paid advertising campaign - the return on your efforts is likely to be lacklustre.
Han Solo is a favourite character among Star Wars fans precisely because he is one of the few that displays personality (and Harrison Ford improvised many of his best lines). So don't fall into the trap of staid, corporate-speak or talking solely about yourself all the time. Use new and exciting digital tools to their full potential, show some personality and don't approach the campaign in fits and spurts or treat it like the fire-and-forget techniques of yesteryear.
The potential returns on a good content strategy can be innumerable, but to get the most out of a campaign - you'll need to put in hard work, or outsource it to someone who can do the legwork on your behalf.
#2 Expand your Universe
While the Star Wars films have been met with much acclaim and form the core of the franchise, it also enjoys a highly successful expanded universe, which features television series, toys, video games, books and even spin-off films.
There's approximately 70 million Star Wars books in print and its range of toys have accrued around $12 billion over the years, eclipsing the revenue generated by the films themselves. While some spin-offs have been excellent and some have been awful, their success can teach us a valuable lesson about the benefits of diversification.
You must unlearn what you have learned
Content isn't like the marketing avenues of the past and requires sustained commitment and effort to achieve success. Simply having regularly-updated content on your site - while a step in the right direction - isn't enough. Unlike the galactic civil war, the battle for capturing the interest of your prospective clients is never-ending and your commitment to honing your content should be similarly unceasing.
As this excellent video from Moz suggests - there's no perfect formula or strategy for content success and companies shouldn't give up at the first hurdle if something proves unsuccessful. Try and learn from both your successes and your failures and use these lessons to gear your efforts toward what the data you collect tells you your key audiences are engaging with.
Similarly, don't focus solely on the links and shares content gains. Pay attention to what new prospects and existing customers are saying about your web presence and how the content you're putting out helped them decide to go with your product or service.
While all your content's existence should be justified in terms of helping to meet your marketing goals, don't be afraid to try new things. Similarly, stuff that isn't working should be unceremoniously phased out and forgotten - like Star Wars: Ewoks.
Star Wars teaches us that your audience wants to engage with you on several fronts and in a variety of different ways - so make it as easy as possible for them to do so. While the social aspect of your content marketing campaign can quickly become a time sink, it's vital for building engagement and nurturing meaningful relationships with your audience.
So reach out and sense the possibilities around you - make your content interesting and relevant as possible, use a variety of different methods and mediums, and don't be afraid to shout about what you're doing.
#3 When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master
Obi-Wan had Qui-Gon, Dooku had Palpatine, young Boba Fett had his clone-father and Anakin had Obi-Wan, Palpatine and Qui-Gon (briefly). Like the Sith and the Rule of Two - when it comes to content marketing, you need to acknowledge the need for a mentor.
The mentor is a key part of any hero story and none more so than Star Wars. However, the franchise also reflects the changing nature of the teacher-learner relationship - whereby the pupil inevitably goes on to instruct the next generation.
This duality is a key aspect of content marketing - although in some sense, you'll occupy the role of mentor and mentee concurrently. Given the rapidly-changing nature of any form of online marketing, it's vital to keep yourself up-to-date on best practice, as well as exploring new avenues to expand your marketing horizons. Some of our favourite resources in this area include:
Moz - For SEO beginners and pros alike
Hubspot - A great introductory resource for inbound marketing
Marketing Profs - Daily tips, tricks and news for the savvy marketer
Copyblogger - A hub of advice on creating, curating and disseminating great content.
In addition to your own development, you should also aim for your content to be a conduit for knowledge - passing on helpful advice to your prospects and positioning yourself as their mentor, as well as a thought leader within your chosen sphere.
#4 The Story Continues
While some fans have been aghast at the sale of the franchise to Disney and some want to forget the latest trilogy all together, I'm quietly hopeful that something great can be made of the franchise by taking it out of Lucas' hands. Indeed, much of the success (and failure) achieved by the expanded universe lies in the fact that storytellers were able to move beyond the rigid constraints of the films and develop protagonists into something beyond a 2D caricature.
A similar approach should be taken to content marketing efforts - never bow to nostalgia and never rest on your laurels. Remember that your content and by extension, every aspect of your web presence should be viewed as a marketing tool - not something for people within the company to be overly precious about. There'll be many hurdles and stumbling blocks on the path to engagement, but you shouldn't be intimidated by these challenges.
There are no silver bullets (nor proton torpedoes) in the world of content marketing and the path to success is paved with incremental revisions based on how assets have previously performed. But by committing to change and not being afraid to try new things - you'll be parsecs ahead of competitors that put content on the backburner, approach production in fits and spurts, or employ half-hearted, or out-of-date techniques.
If you've got any thoughts on what Star Wars can teach us about digital marketing, or simply want to argue about whether or not Han shot first, reach out and connect with us in the comments or via Twitter.
And if you feel like content marketing is something from a galaxy far, far away or fear you may be succumbing to the dark side of online promotion - get in touch with RDPR today for a friendly chat about what we can do for you.
SMEs looking for more tips on contentmarketing won't want to miss our free guide that'll take you through the basics and help you create a sustainable and effective strategy to attract more leads via the web: