Be like the bacteria which killed these obnoxious aliens! (source)
If you did, you would know that it wasn’t humans with all our military might which decimated the seemingly omnipotent aliens. Our puny bombs and bullets were pathetic against the phasers of a superior alien being.
Rather, what swung the odds in our favour were the humble bacteria and viruses which overcame the fragile immune systems of these foreign invaders.
Indeed, there are lots to learn from the tiniest yet most insidious organisms on Earth.
From plasmodiums to fungi to bacteria to viruses, these parasitic life forms are hugely successful. Spawning the multi trillion dollar global healthcare and medical industries, they are highly resilient and robust little critters.
Despite mankind’s valiant efforts to fight and eradicate these numerous hidden enemies with the latest and greatest of science, medicine, engineering and even holistic healthcare, they effortlessly turn the odds in their favour, re-emerging with newer and more virulent strains.
In the world of marketing, we have named terms like “viral marketing” and “influencer marketing” in honour of these malicious life forms!
Are there content marketing lessons we can learn from these influential (and irritating) life forms?
A major reason for the massive spread of microbes is that they are omnipresent.
Almost every habitable niche – air, land and sea – have these microscopic denizens (perhaps save for freezing cold or burning hot climates).
Highly adaptive and versatile, microbes like bacteria, fungi and viruses have evolved and adapted to suit the precise environment conditions of their hosts. While some are benign and beneficial (like the Nitrogen fixing bacteria below which enriches our soil), others are highly malignant.
Courtesy of Boundless
Like the microbe, your job as a content marketer is to identify the right niches for your content.
If you are running a restaurant, fashion boutique, or hotel, you could perhaps place greater emphasis on highly visual social networks like Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. You may also want to focus on getting your business discussed and listed on location-based forums like restaurant review websites, travel review websites, and so on.
On the other hand, if you are a B2B business like a marketing or PR consultancy, greater emphasis could perhaps be placed on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), LinkedIn, Google Plus, or other more “professional” social channels. You should also participate in the specific interest-based groups on these channels.
Comprising a series of molecular messages, they form an important part of these microscopic life forms. Often, the entire structure of the virus (see below) is precisely designed to convey its virulent “message” and inflict them onto its hapless victims.
While we certainly shouldn’t be inflicting damage on other humans, we could consider how we can craft razor sharp content tailored to the unique interests, needs and wants of our customers.
Like the virus, we should ensure that we develop the right mixture of words, videos, photos and infographics to hit the right emotional and intellectual spots of our customers.
Have you noticed that crowds are often breeding grounds for disease?
In places where lots of similar organisms are gathered together – be they humans, plant crops, or domestic animals – epidemic outbreaks are more commonplace. In such environments, microbes can travel quickly from host to host, via air, bodily fluids or carriers.
When these organisms disperse to their own communities, they help to spread the germs around to their neighbours. This has a cascading network effects, and is the primary reason why microbes are so successful.
In the content marketing context, one should also focus on building communities or to identify existing networks of like-minded folks.
Invest efforts in keeping your community engaged and involved. Create content that feeds their needs, wants or interests. If possible, encourage them to also seed and spread the message to their networks through appropriate campaigns and promotions.
Like the microbes, find ways to “transmit” your message as far and wide as possible, taking advantage of the multiplier effects of crowds.
Despite their amazingly simple body structure, pathogens are not stupid. They usually adapt their life cycle and infectious stages to match the life cycle of their hosts.
Often, they employ the help of the right vectors of disease like mosquitoes (for malarial plasmodiums) for instance. At the right stage, these microorganisms would enter the organs and cells of these transmitters, grow and reproduce with their help.
An example is the heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) as shown below.
Similarly, study the life cycles of your customers and seek ways to match their various stages. Examples of such cycles in both the B2C or B2B world includes the following:
By matching your product or service to the specific life cycle of your customer, you work with them more as a partner rather than a product supplier. Tailor what you have closely to each of the stages, and cater to their unique needs then.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about micro-organisms, particularly viruses, is their ability to “outsource production”.
These super tiny living things exploit their host’s own genetic and cellular material to generate their own. In a way, this is a form of “outsourcing management” – applied at the cellular level!
If you study the life cycle of how viruses replicate, you will marvel (and shudder) at how they inject their own viral genetic material (DNA or RNA) into the host cells which result in their victim’s cells becoming factories of new viruses.
While I’m not suggesting that businesses should be parasitical in nature, there is a grain of wisdom in leveraging on external help in content marketing.
There is a whole variety of folks who are willing to help you here. They include:
Unlike anthropomorphic depictions of bacteria or viruses, most do not have familial connections or feelings. They do not cry over lost kin.
In fact, gazillions of microbes get exterminated each minute. They are murdered by our body’s own biochemical defences, the latest patented superdrug, or just nature itself (many viruses cannot survive for long outside their host body).
Despite these losses, these virulent organisms are still around. Exemplars of Darwinian law, the fittest in the family which survive the onslaught of attacks would pass on ever stronger genes to the next generation of germs.
By replicating rapidly and multiplying themselves (see below) using “other people’s money”, they reduce their costs.
Source of image
In a similar fashion, do not hesitate to let your most miserable content efforts die a natural death.
Cut losses when you see that blog post which you have published is flailing in views. Shut down your online communities if it becomes deserted. Reduce the number of social media accounts which you have, and focus on the vital few which has the best chances of thriving.
Sentimentality doesn’t get you anywhere when pitted against the scourge of a hyper competitive content marketplace.
Micro-organisms by their individual selves are extremely weak and fragile. However, their advantage lies in their abilities to multiply quickly and spread forth, both within their victims and when infecting a new vector.
While individual microbes are unlikely to think for themselves, the entire population of microbes act like a kind of swarm brain. Every generation of microbes function like a kind of iteration in innovation. Mistakes in mutation (a kind of innovation) are eliminated from the system, while advantageous mutations are kept.
Because of their extremely short life cycles and turnaround time, microbes can “innovate” rapidly as a group.
In a similar fashion, build a feedback or learning loop into your content marketing efforts. Incorporate the following content marketing habits to shorten your learning curve:
Now that you have read all about the nefarious strategies of microbes, ask yourself the following questions:
By “thinking like the enemy”, we are better able to devise better ways to create compelling content, win over the hearts of our customers, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our businesses.
What are your thoughts on this? Does it sound feasible for us to copy such methods in germ warfare for content marketing?
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