If you’ve read Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, you might remember the Red Queen’s race. In it, Alice discovers that a brisk run with the Red Queen has brought her to the same place she started.
“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”
“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”
Managing a content marketing program often feels like running the Red Queen’s race. In addition to plotting out strategy and messaging, you can spend considerable time just keeping up with the latest social media platforms and technologies — not to mention the etiquette for each.
Content creation is a separate race: what topics do you cover? What format should you use? Where should you publish, and how will you drive people there?
Finding balance amidst all these decisions can seem like an impossible feat. But it doesn’t have to be. Most content marketing can be divided into two fairly simple categories: stock and flow.
Stock and flow is a concept first used by writer and media inventor Robin Sloan. Stock, Sloan explains, is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.
Flow is more ephemeral. It encompasses the status updates, Instagram photos and retweets you post of others’ content. Flow reminds people of your existence, and reinforces your point of view.
Most successful content marketing programs include a blend of both stock and flow. Sure, your company can benefit from lengthy thought leadership articles and cinematic web videos. But these take time and money to produce. Flow content keeps your company top of mind while other content is in development. And once stock content is launched, your flow content can drive people to it.
Content curation is another important piece of flow. Curation involves the careful selection and promotion of other people’s content via your communication channels. Doing so might seem counterintuitive, but it carries several benefits. By sharing the best content with your audience, you establish yourself as an authority. You also provide your audience with a steady stream of quality resources, which builds reciprocity and can even increase your follower count.
You’re probably already following industry blogs and social media channels. Working content curation into your content marketing can be an easy way to enrich your output.
Content marketing — like all integrated communications strategies — may always feel like a Red Queen’s race. But by viewing your content in terms of stock and flow, you can simplify its creation and achieve balance.
And let’s not forget the hidden benefit to the race: you may never reach the finish line, but you’ll meet lots of new customers and prospects along the way.
How do you balance stock and flow content? Let me know in the comments section.