Book Review – The Content Code by Mark W. Schaefer


Social Media is still a thing in 2017. Who would have thought it? We see it being increasingly in business, the media, and as the primary campaign and communication tool of the President of the United States! (but don’t let that turn you off). We have read a lot about how social media works, by distributing content into the social feeds of consumers in the hope that some are compelled to share it among their network, thus increasing the audience reach of your content and by extension, your business.

We have read about the elements of content that appeal to people, see our last book review on Contagious, but it is one thing to appeal, it is another to compel. The Content Code looks at this element of social media content marketing. Mark Schaefer looks at how good content is “ignited”. He looks at content beyond Social Media as well, which makes this book a great reference in a business bookshelf.

Mark coined the term “Content Shock” to describe the overwhelm felt by information consumers by the sheer amount of content we are fed each day. This makes it hard for our business content to stand out. To deal with this, Schaefer offers 6 essential strategies applied to marketing, social media, and SEO to “ignite” your marketing and grow your business. Put simply, what good does high quality and meaningful content contribute if it is not reaching your market? Schaefer’s 6 strategies to deal with this are a conveniently acronymed set of BADASS strategies.

The 6 strategies to ignite your content, your marketing, and your business are:

  • Brand Development – aligning yourself as the business owner or marketer to your organisational brand, so that output is instantly associated.
  • Audience and Influencers – building an “alpha audience”, fans that will share your content heavily, or people of existing influence who can lend you a hand.
  • Distribution, Advertising, Promotion, and SEO – paid channels, how good consumer content and SEO are intertwined, and other ways of promoting your content in the current network of distribution services.
  • Authority – in both blog content, social media, and SEO, authority is key. The higher your authority (or your web page authority) the more you will reach and be visible by readers and search engines.
  • Shareability – the elements in the Contagious framework, listed again below, the content that compels by exciting an emotion.
  • Social Proof and Social Signals – it really is – all about numbers. The more numerical indicators of interaction with your content, the more likely people are going to see it and be compelled to leave their mark as well.

Schaefer looks at how your content containing Contagious elements can be lit up using the BADASS elements with practical tools, strategies, softwares, and techniques that are very accessible for any business marketer. Some are as simple as the use of #hashtags, share buttons, removing opt-in blocks, use of effective imagery, crafted headlines with a/b testing, reviving and reusing content, and connecting with influencers to help get you toward the tipping point.

He advises to think about three types of content:

  • Hygiene content: short form, how-tos, and video
  • Hub content: more in-depth and holds your audience
  • Hero content: stuff that really stands out, creative brilliance or dramatic.

I find this framework useful, as a guide to the various forms of content that we would like to provide. Content that is either quick to consume and apply, or in depth and more extensively useful for our clients and potential clients. We have our thinking hats on for the Hero Content!

The book works because it is the elements that built the reputation and success of the author, they are practical to apply and form a useful guide. At first it threatens to be dated, but hang in there, it quickly moves into the kind of valuable business marketing reference you will revisit again in this crazy world of changing perception of what constitutes useful content, facts (alternative or otherwise), and applicable knowledge, and new ways of reaching people with content.

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