When Content Marketing Fails to Deliver: 6 problems with Marketo’s Ebook

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pushNote: In a previous post I discussed how I am teaching Content Marketing in my Writing Across Platforms class next fall and why we should teach it in the writing class.

I am going to come out and say it. I am glad none of my students were behind the creation or promotion of Marketo’s recent e-book “50 Tried and True Social Insights From Real Marketers.”

Here are 6 reasons why.


1) Pushing isn’t social: First, I saw the following spammy post in a social media group I’m a part of, counter to the very ethos of social media (Should have been skeptical from the start, right?). I skimmed and found:

There’s a ton of content on how to do social marketing – but this FREE eBook is different than any I’ve seen before….

You’ll get fascinating insights on how different organizations – large to small – are using social marketing, and get tips and best practices on:
• The rules of social engagement
• How to measure and iterate on social programs
• Ideas to generate social lift
• Social marketing words of wisdom
• Why content is king
• How to make social a group effort

Cool! I thought. Different. Unique. A ton of content! So I followed the link, gave them my email address (see: regret), and got the ebook (If you are so inclined, you can here). I’d never heard of Marketo before.

What would have worked? Perhaps a post that didn’t read like an ad. Some such thing as: “Hey all, last week we were talking about XYZ. I came across this ebook titled Blah Blah. It really helped me understand how to deal with a particular part of XYZ. Enjoy and let me know what you think. I’d love to talk about it.”

Which leads me to the rest of my points:

2) Proof Read – Tips #1 and #11 are the same. Carelessness kills credibility.

3) Where’s the eBook? This piece of content marketing is passed off as an ebook. There are 10 pages including the cover and 1 back cover. But much of it is gloss and graphics. In terms of content, there may be 2 pages of text here. There are some great quotes and insights. Don’t get me wrong. But, really… that’s all they are.

4) Help me, Help me! How is what you’re offering add value to my life? Rather than tell me 50 general statements that are not actionable, help me. Show me HOW to do something. How this newfound knowledge can be applied. A series of blog posts or ebooks about each one of these items, with context, evidence (they are tried and true, right?), reasoning, and suggestions would go much further in helping me improve my social media. Give me examples I can follow. Outcomes. Best practices. As one commenter on the LinkedIn thread (see below) pointed out, much of the content is “common sense.”

5) Is it unique? If it isn’t entertaining, new, different, or going to help me, don’t waste my time. Prognostications and platitudes are a dime a dozen on social media.

6) The Pitch: What’s delivered must match the claim – how often do we read hyperbole in social content nowadays? Tweets that read “The Best Description of Graph Search.” YouTube videos titled “The Greatest Touchdown Of All Time!” “The Only SEO Guide You’ll Ever Need!” I know strong language grabs attention, and there are tons of blog posts about writing great headlines that preach this sort of thing (I plan to talk about it in my class, in fact!). But it is becoming overdone. And when something’s overdone it becomes noise. Meaningless. In this particular case, the title is fine. There are 50 insights. My problem here is how the content was pitched on social. I don’t know if the person who posted it was affiliated with Marketo or not. The language on the Marketo site is a little different, though it contains some of the same content from the social post. But a ton of content? Not really. Different from any other ebook out there? Yes, in that it isn’t an ebook. Fascinating? No. Tried and true? Where is the proof that they are tried and true? They are indeed insights, some of them very valuable.

I want my students to be great at social media. I want them to create great content. In all my classes, I have a bias towards showing students the “Heck Yes!” examples – something exemplary that they can aspire to. For better or worse, I tend to shy away from the “Don’t Do This!” examples such as this one.

But for the reasons mentioned above, this post got under my skin. Apparently, I’m not the only one who felt cheated by this content marketing attempt. A thread on LinkedIn reveals a number of folks who agree (and disagree!) with my assessment.

Content marketing is about adding value. Deliver something that shows your thought leadership, that provides your target audience with useful insight. Don’t waste their time. I’m not Marketo’s target audience (although I am looking to build a partnership with a social media analytics software company to use in my classes). But if I were, this wouldn’t do it for me.

What are your thoughts about this? Is it bad content marketing, or am I being too harsh? (Maybe its the end of the semester stress getting to me!) Where am I wrong? Can you think of other examples you can share?

Related Posts:

  1. Why We Should Teach Content Marketing in the Writing Class
  2. Introducing Students to SEO Keyword Research with Google Trends (Activity)

photo (from top to bottom): CC by Steve Snodgrass | marc falardeau |  doodleatwork |  Betchaboy

5 thoughts on “When Content Marketing Fails to Deliver: 6 problems with Marketo’s Ebook”

  1. Hi Matt,
    My name is Dayna Rothman and I am the Content Marketing Manager at Marketo. I came across your post and wanted to comment. I appreciate your feedback. It is always good to get some insight into the content we are creating. If people didn’t post about it, we would not be able to iterate and get it right the next time. At Marketo, we always strive to provide high quality content that educates and entertains. But, unfortunately we can’t always hit the nail on the head for all of our readers every time.

    Looks like you initially found this ebook in the Social Media Marketing group. The poster of the original message was actually from the group moderator. He runs the group and often lets his members know of relevant content offers.

    I am sorry you thought the ebook under-delivered. We produce a lot of content at Marketo and are always trying to push the boundaries and create assets that our audience will really resonate with. This ebook in particular was created based on real conversations and feedback that we had with our customers at our roadshow. The purpose was to show how real marketers are using social and provide a forum for them to share their tips and best practices. We also wanted to represent their quotes with a fun very visual design.

    This asset in particular is not really meant to show you how to do each of these things, as it is a collection of insights from marketers all over the world who use social. However, we do have a variety of assets that I think would suit your needs and are much more strategic and tactical in nature.

    Please take a look at our Definitive Guide to Social Marketing: http://www.marketo.com/definitive-guides/social-marketing/. This is about 80 pages and really packed with actionable best practices. I think it could be a great resource in your class. And check out some of our other social assets here: http://www.marketo.com/social-marketing/.

    Also, definitely kudos for noticing the typo! We also noticed it very soon after we published it and switched it out. #1 and #11 no longer are the same. Unfortunately, sometimes things fall through the cracks with human error.

    Thank you for your commentary. I welcome your response.

    1. Dayna,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my blog post and your thorough explanation. I sincerely appreciate it. I believe it is important for readers to not just see my point of view, but also to have the opportunity to see your thoughts and feedback.

      I will be sure to check out the Definitive Guide to Social Marketing you have shared and see if there is a place for it in my class.

      I am actually in the process of seeking a partnership with a software company that offers a social media monitoring and analytics suite to get the software into the classroom and teach our students how to effectively monitor the social web. If these are features Marketo offers, I’d like to discuss this with you (or another representative at Marketo) further if possible.

      I look forward to hearing from you.

  2. God bless you for sanity. Of course, if I said ANY of this to my client (a company that commits ALL of these sins), my “colleagues” in client services would yank me off stage with one of those giant hooks and chastise me for having a bad attitude.

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