A Defined Voice Can Draw An Audience. An Interview With Mark Schaefer

Lets share some marketing insights with a very wise and respected industry figurehead, Mark Schaefer.

Mark’s {grow} blog is a staple for any marketer and his six books are highlighted on the You Are The Media Conference speaker page. His latest book, Known, acknowledges to have influence today, the pre-requisite is to be known by others.

Mark has participated twice in the Talking Content Marketing series, to have a read of the full discussions, click here.

Here are some of main points from the two separate interviews.

Lets look at some of the principals for what it is for you to become recognised that goes beyond just creating content.


Do we need to stop chasing everything (bigger audiences, more followers, more likes) slow down a bit and focus on a niche network (that we own) and have a core following of people who care and listen to us?

There are exceptions, but normally things like ‘Likes’ and traffic are vanity metrics. The only metric I really look at daily is Return Visitors. Essentially that is like a vote that you are doing a good job and people are coming back.

I find that the web is pretty sensitive. When I do a good job I am rewarded and if I slack, I will probably figure that out pretty soon too.

In the end, people buy from those they know and trust and we certainly have an unprecedented ability to build that kind of community on the social web.


For those adopting a content approach is it more important to be present and committed to writing (or audio, or video) rather than chasing an audience ie. will your audience eventually find you?

mark schaefer you are the media conferenceThis is a complicated question.

There is a certain camp that says that great content rises to the top and that our audience will find us. Of course, this isn’t necessarily true. It takes a complex cocktail of quality, consistency, optimization, site authority and maybe even a little luck to get through. And then it takes patience, perseverance and dedication to stay there.

I do think it is important to develop an authentic voice and find your own audience. That only comes over a period of time however as your content “voice” becomes clear.

Is being influential about being interesting to others and considered as a valuable resource?

I think that is a start but not necessarily how things work on the web. To some extent, influence comes from simply being KNOWN. Look at somebody who is a celebrity. They may not be creating influence by creating interesting and valuable content. They may be influential simply because they are famous.

There are lots of examples like that. Somebody who is in the public eye can change behaviors and opinions just because they are famous.

But for most of us, yes … influence comes through consistently creating helpful content for a relevant and engaged audience. It’s probably why you asked me to be on this interview instead of my neighbor. You know me through my helpful content.


Should businesses become smarter with the assets created? ie. the infographic that becomes a blog, that becomes the Slideshare, that becomes the podcast, that becomes the video?

This is a two-edged sword.

On the one side yes … many businesses under-utilise their content assets.

When I work with a business, one of the first things I show them is where all their content is ‘hidden’ in their company!

There is also an opportunity to re-purpose this content. For example, I have recently re-ignited some of my best blog posts by turning them into high-quality infographics and Slideshare presentations. A blog post that had received 7,000 views in its original form had more than 100,000 views on Slideshare. Pretty amazing!

But now for the dark side of this opportunity. A lot of people see cheap imitations of original content as a way to swarm the web with content to achieve SEO benefits. And it might even work in the short-term. But in the long-term this reflects poorly on your brand. So yes, re-purposing makes good business sense, but always serve your customers with quality content.


Is relevance to our audience far more important than content frequency ie. you can produce the best content, but doesn’t mean anything if no one sees it?

You have to look at the business context.

One of my favourite stories is about a medical doctor — a pediatirician — who blogged about immunisation and raising healthy children. She averaged only five page views a day. But one of those readers started an immunisation revolution in her neighbourhood because of the doctor’s blog. The content didn’t move very far, but it moved to the right people, didn’t it?

The relative audience size is less important than relevance. But even that is not enough any more because of the overwhelming information density we face on the web.

The competition in many niches is intense so we need to find creative new ways to ignite our content. 

I think we will be seeing content transmission specialists as a common marketing function. We can’t just plant the seeds. We need to water them too.


Is content ignition more powerful when it comes from an original ‘source’ ie. the website, where everything sits and you have complete control to direct your audience/subscribers?

mark schaefer you are the media conferenceThat is an excellent question and the answer for me is conflicted.

Obviously the goal is to attract people to a site that you own so you can build connections, relationships, authority and eventually sell something. So the content on my site works that way.

But my content is also syndicated by other sites like Social Media Today. This is a business model that depends on free content from me and others so they can make money from ads and sponsors.

Of course I get compensated with nothing but “awareness.” That’s nice of course but I get zero referral traffic from these syndication sites and that’s the story you’ll hear from other bloggers too.

I don’t see any evidence that publishing to a “borrowed” audience does anything to grow my own audience but of course there could be some more subtle, long-term impacts that I can’t measure.

I have a friend who is building her brand almost entirely through posting in other channels like Huffington Post and even The Harvard Business Review. But I think she regrets not owning her own readers. 

In general, I would say it is better to own the content and own the audience.

Would you like to be a part of the You Are The Media Conference (May 24th 2018) on the south coast of England and get to see Mark Schaefer?

The day is going to be focused on how you can grow your audience, within the spaces that you have 100% control. Click here to buy your ticket. Look forward to seeing you soon.

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