Damn Good Marketing
The Damn Good Podcast
Content Marketing: Expectations vs. Reality
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Content Marketing: Expectations vs. Reality

Ever wondered if social media is evolving faster than you can keep up? Is marketing changing, or are business owners overwhelmed by the pace of change? Let's talk it out.

Episode Transcript 

What is a Thread?

Subha Chandrasekaran: As though marketing as a business owner wasn't frustrating enough, A bunch of tweets was a thread, but now a thread is like one tweet, isn't it?

I liked what someone said that on Instagram we were seeing the photo and then reading the caption. So now we read the caption and then we see the photo.

What's changed? Nothing is the right answer, but everything if you're a business owner because you just don't know what to do and what not to do, Asita, there's like that content animal is huge.

Hasita Krishna: And frankly, I think even marketing teams are tired, right? This time we are simply not jumping at new things with the kind of enthusiasm that typically characterises the marketing function.

Because you don't know, is it going to help? And genuinely why start one more thing? Because content production, God knows, is not an easy enough thing to do in normal circumstances. In fact, I was going to write an article on Substack, which is my new shiny toy.

That article was going to be called Losing my Thread of Thought. And then I lost my thread of thought. So it's really difficult, right? It's not something that you can just constantly keep churning while also somehow keeping a day job.

I think that's a unicorn dream, and we are all realising that. So what will threads do to us there is that fear. What if my competitors are there and they're suddenly building a following, then what happens to me? Yeah.

Subha Chandrasekaran: It is daunting. Because like you said, my thoughts used to be on Medium, then maybe they were on a blog and now they're on Substack and it feels like there are so many places to say things and I don't have anything to say.

Hasita Krishna: So welcome to the damn Good Marketing podcast. Let's talk about content creation. What do we expect and what's reality? Do you sometimes also feel like you're thinking a thought based on what medium you will eventually put it out on?

Thinking Thoughts Based on Medium

Subha Chandrasekaran: So true. That's what I said. I feel like I should be better at threading because the words come to me first.

And then I could think about, okay, is there an image that goes with it? But for the professional side, I struggle with Instagram because the image has to come first.

Hasita Krishna: In saying all of that, we've already contextualised the thought to the medium onto which it would go out, which is probably taking something away from it in and of itself.

Subha Chandrasekaran: And so we need a way to think about simplifying content where the thoughts come first and you think about what is it? Why do you wanna say anything at all? Maybe if you're running a really good business and you have customers, then maybe just keep your mouth shut and run the business.

Hasita Krishna: To some extent. Absolutely. I think, but we are all in a hurry to grow, and we do see content as a cheaper alternative to gain traction. I think something about it, because it's not quantifiable in money, I guess because it's more of a time thing So we see it as an easy channel for that very reason, I think, which I mean, time and experience again have taught us that it's not.

Challenges of Needing to be Present Everywhere

Subha Chandrasekaran: Yeah. And unfortunately that easiness makes us be present everywhere. So one of the challenges is that every time there's a new toy to be present on, we start and then we lose the team or we don't know why we are there. 

Hasita Krishna: And in fact, just the other day someone was talking to me about wanting to test out a new business idea with a small group of people and see what happens.

And they wanted to know, should I run ads on Instagram? Should I run ads on Facebook? Should I be on threads? Should I be somewhere else? And to me, the most logical thing for their use case seemed like a WhatsApp group. To build a community, all you need is a tool. And WhatsApp is a good enough tool, which everybody has on their phones.

You don't have to force people to go anywhere else. So where do people come for that specific WhatsApp group? They already exist in your contacts. And I think in the creation of something, we often forget that even a WhatsApp message is a piece of content. 

Subha Chandrasekaran: Very true. And you can put out the sweetest, nicest posts on Facebook or Instagram. Or LinkedIn. but then you also go and send very unprofessional messages in your WhatsApp interaction with your customers. Yeah. Then you've lost them.

Hasita Krishna: Correct. And also at no point are social media channels going to simply give you reach because you created an account right.

For them the priority is who can bring in more other people. That is literally the algorithm on which social media runs. In fact I've been following the Zina Thaman page for quite some time, and I enjoy interacting with that content as well. But these days when she posts, I just don't see it in my feed anymore unless I go looking for it.

So if someone who's had that kind of growth on a platform like Instagram in just a couple of months can have the same problems.

Subha Chandrasekaran: And you don't even know why. Maybe somewhere you went and too quickly shut down a post about. Yeah. 

Hasita Krishna: Or you said you're not interested in something and that itself is having an impact on that.

Disillusionment in Content Creation

Subha Chandrasekaran: Also, the other challenge I find in content creation is that there's a certain amount of disillusionment. On the one hand, there's a lot of hope and excitement that, okay, maybe this new thing will give me that traction and that utopian dream of followers, which nothing else has been able to.

Hasita Krishna: Or there's the other end of the spectrum where we feel like we've tried things in the past and they have not worked. And surprisingly, one of the most common things I hear is we've tried SEO in the past and there's so much that's wrong with that sentence because first you past tense your SEO and therefore it's not working anymore.

I think one client really put it beautifully. We ran a huge campaign for them. We did PR. Suddenly the Quantum of Traction on their LinkedIn page went up and he said it. Now we are on the hamster wheel. We have to run, and I think that pretty much sums up any content production slash influencing exercise.

You're on it and then there's no stopping. Correct.

Using AI for Content Creation

Subha Chandrasekaran: And now there's the allure of, oh, if you're struggling with all of this, then just put some sort of AI chat bot and it'll be the answer to all your problems, which creates another content problem. Yeah, because somebody has to feed that chat bot, I presume.

Hasita Krishna: Exactly. And also, we've had an instance recently, and I'm not sure what the mechanics are. We are still researching it. A client created a post using ChatGPT and put it on LinkedIn.

The post before it had a few hundred engagement parameters and this post had seven likes. It's ticking all the boxes, but then also the platforms are also becoming smarter in terms of, okay, if I see more than five emojis, then I know this has to be a bot and therefore I'll simply not.

And in fact, LinkedIn came out and they said, now that content creation has become so much easier, our parameters for judging your work are going to be, how much work have you done in that space in the past for you to even, 'cause we have access to your job history. We have access to what you've done.

So are you talking about the thing that you say? You're supposed to be good at it, so your job qualifications are being matched. And I think that's a beautiful thing because suddenly if you've noticed all the posts about helping the street dog on my way to work have just vanished all of a sudden, you're right. The algorithm does sometimes work in our favour also.

Social Media Optimization

Hasita Krishna: They'll continue to optimise because like I said, I think social media is always going to optimise for what is it that is going to bring more of your kind to me, and what is it that's going to keep them there?

I think the only way for threads to really work and become something is for Twitter to really collapse to a state where it's simply not serving the purpose it's supposed to serve anymore. Speaking of which, Elon Musk did come out and say, ad revenues on the platform have fallen by 50%.

But the only thing that means is that brands have given up and brands of course have never been known for their loyalty to one platform over the other. So we'll just have to wait and watch.

I think it comes back to the fundamental challenge that in marketing you do need to create a lot of content and you need to put it out there and it's everywhere. Sometimes we don't think of something as content, but it's everywhere.

Subha Chandrasekaran: I think we're all sold to the premise that a good business will exist on some platforms and will also generate content in different forms. Like it, it could be emails, it could be WhatsApp messages, but how do we have a process that keeps working so that I'm not also saying when I did content, It didn't work for me.

Self-Awareness In Content Marketing

Hasita Krishna: I think self-awareness itself is a big step, right? It's quite interesting you bring that up because I saw an Instagram ad and I'm very prone to shopping things off of Instagram randomly all the time. And it was a very pretty looking skirt. I went, I clicked on the page and I saw the skirt and it was not that great once I landed up there.

So I wanted to see what other things they have. I went to the menu. It's an e-commerce store. The first tab says about us fine. The second tab says our story, the third tab says, meet the founders. The fourth tab says sustainability, which is still fine, but there is no shop button in the menu.

Oh my God. There is no collection, there is nothing to indicate that there is a collection of things on this website that one can buy. That's sad. Yeah, I'm just thinking like someone has not noticed it, or is it just that we've then moved on and somebody has told us, Hey, now you need to go do 10 things on Instagram and run 20 ads on Facebook.

And we simply didn't have the time to come back and even look at this and see this glaring problem, which is right in front of us. And analytics will only tell you your bounce rate is very high. They're not gonna tell you people clicked and didn't find what they were looking for. And some of these very obvious problems, how do we solve them, right?

And I think the first step is to just inventory all the communication that is going out from you as a brand. And that could be as simple as an SMS.

Subha Chandrasekaran: If I had one kind of thing on my wishlist for brand marketers out there, please inventory the emails that you send.

Hasita Krishna: Just kill five of them at random. And you'd still do better. Exactly. You won't even have to read. 

Subha Chandrasekaran: Exactly. Like I was telling you earlier, I bought one bottle of vitamins from an online me platform, and I kid you not, the series of emails that I got were, we've got your payment, then we've got your order, then we've confirmed your order. And not only was it five to six emails and I'm not joking.

Literally these were individual emails and the same story was repeating itself on WhatsApp.

Hasita Krishna: I blocked that at some stage, but at least I was able to do that. Now, this email I can't even get out of that loop. Because if there's an issue, I need to know.

Subha Chandrasekaran: They have to have some way to contact me. Yeah. And I need to get the invoice. And there's so many reasons why that channel is important, but when they blatantly misuse it, what's the customer experience like?

Prioritising Customer Experience

Subha Chandrasekaran: So why is it that when we are brands, somehow the mindset is different from when we are customers. I think if we just look at some of our customer interactions, it will be very obvious to us what we're doing wrong on the selling side of things as well.

Hasita Krishna: So which is really the second step. I think once you have your inventory and you know what you're doing on a daily basis, how much of it is recurring, how much of it is one time, for example, you won't make a pitch deck again and again, you probably make it once and you share it contextually, then the next step, of course, is to remove what doesn't make sense from that process anymore.

For example, for this podcast, which is now also on Substack, is there really a need for a separate episode wise write up to appear on my website?

I don't know. It's one more thing for me to do. Once you've started something, you want to continue it. You want to do it for as long as possible, but removing these little bits and pieces will only make the experience better.

Also, Because when you do see that you're at the receiving end of so much communication from large brands and large influencers, let's say, that you wonder, if they need to shout from the rooftop so much, who do you think that you don't need to?

Absolutely. But shouting from the rooftops can take various forms and formats. And it doesn't always mean quantity. So if I have one or two newsletters that are happening in a month How do I make each of them so good that people look forward to it over and over again?

Versus maybe producing something on a daily basis.

Subha Chandrasekaran: Definitely. We shop from a lot of smaller brands very consciously. And we try to see where we can promote a small business. And I'm more than happy to get just that one mail which says we've got your payment and the stuff will reach you. And then when the product actually comes a thoughtful little note in the box or the bag saying this is our story and hope you like it.

And that's all I need for me to just be connected to that brand. 

Hasita Krishna: Which is happening because I think everyone has found what is their locus of control and they're controlling only that much. Recently, I placed a cash on delivery order from a new brand, which then. Their entire logistics are handled by Shiprocket.

So it is Shiprocket messaging me to check you place this order. Are you sure you want it? Because it's a cash on delivery order. So if you want to change your mind, now is a good time. And once you confirm it, it says, okay, your order will be delivered by this date. And on the day of delivery, I just got one message saying you can pay by cash or you can use a link and that's it because they're a logistics partner.

They know the pain of somebody suffering through 10 emails just to get one medicine delivered.

Subha Chandrasekaran: And not only that, they are very focused on the outcome they want to achieve. Absolutely. When I go there, you're ready to pay.

Hasita Krishna: I really don't see the need, even in larger organisations, for there to exist templates for everything. I think it really takes humanity out of some of these things. And it really doesn't give people a choice to say, okay, maybe this is not required because your algorithm is saying you have to send this after this.

Subha Chandrasekaran: Or perhaps that's what creeps in when you have a marketing team and you have different folks doing different things. Not really sure who's owning it and maybe it's always okay, finally the founder owns it. So if I shouldn't be sending this, they'll tell me.

Hasita Krishna: And a good way to even just look at it is to see what you have sent in the last one month. It's not a door that's shut forever, right? You can always fix it. You can always correct it. And there are beautiful examples. I think for the longest time, Dunzo's push notifications were just the sweetest things to receive.

It's very personal, very conversational. I think they've really optimised their logistics to the point where they know when to send that push notification when to just not say anything. That's the beauty of data, right? Like we have enough indicators today to tell us where customers need more of us and where they need a lot less of us.

Subha Chandrasekaran: If you start with saying, okay, there are 20 platforms I could potentially exist on. I could be on Quora, and I could be on Pinterest, and I could be everywhere, and I could be a billboard on the way to the airport.

What's stopping me? I could be everywhere. But what am I doing now? And what's ideal for my brand? And what's ideal for my capacity and sanity.

Case Study - Yoga Bar

Hasita Krishna: Recently, I was reading this case study about the founders of Yoga Bar and how they went about the process of just figuring out do customers even want us, which is a big problem,

Is there a large enough segment of people who will buy over and over again from me to the point where I'm breaking even at least if nothing else. And I really liked the two, three things she said, where one, she talks about just staying away from this whole social media D2C ecommerce game entirely.

And instead choosing to be on shelves, being top of mind in front of people's faces in places like Namdhari, in places like nature's basket, where, based on their research, they found that the people who might like something like this will visit. And she also talks about how the packaging itself is very, I think they were one of the earliest brands to put all of their ingredients prominently on the packaging.

And she says, for the longest time, my personal phone number used to be on the packet, so that if someone had a problem, the person they were reaching was me, and I was hearing from them firsthand what the problem was. And we only launched a second flavour after we realised that the first flavour has enough lifetime value, meaning there are enough repeat customers to justify my cost of advertising for that product.

You want people to come back and say, Hey, I really missed it while it wasn't there. Which interestingly is what happened when I posted a picture saying we are restarting recording for season three of this podcast. So many people reached out and said, we're so excited.

Hasita Krishna: This was important to us. And I feel very humbled and honoured that we've been able to play that role in somebody's life.

Subha Chandrasekaran: And I think that ties down to how much communication you put out, right? If you know that, hey, I've got the energy only for two episodes a month, then let me not also bombard the listener with a post about my podcast every two days.

Hasita Krishna: Unless you feel like it. If it's really something you're so excited about that you have to go tell the world four times a week, then please do that.

And recently, we were doing a very interesting engagement with somebody. Very small team is just starting out figuring out how to even set up a content marketing process around the work that I do. And one of the things we told them upfront is give yourself those early wins, like there are things you can create and then you don't have to look at them probably for the next six to nine months.

A pitch deck again is a great example. There are probably some case studies. There will be some product offerings for which you've created individual slides and presentations. These things can be done. Your WhatsApp templates can be done. Reaching out to people using that template can be done because until we get that feedback from the outside, it's very difficult to stay consistent, and just say, no, I'm just going to constantly keep posting irrespective of whether it results in anything at all.

Subha Chandrasekaran: Correct. Then it just becomes noise and we are not getting feedback and we don't realise that you're talking to a vacuum and not really being received by anyone.

Hasita Krishna: Of course, common advice does say keep at it for at least a three month period.

But in that three month period, we are not saying close your eyes and do nothing about it. We're also saying observe how things are being received. What can you tweak? Sometimes it could simply be that you have a lot to say, but you don't know how to say it. Storytelling in and of itself is a big enough piece to sometimes have to worry about.

Content Creation - A Challenge?

Hasita Krishna: I think content will continue to be a challenge, especially for smaller teams and smaller businesses with limited resources. It's so important what you say of taking stock, finding focus, being intentional, going for wins because you really do need them on most days, going for something that looks, sounds, feels right and being willing to give up something that you get feedback isn't working and optimising

We're all busy people, but the good ones have actually taken months, if not more, just to tweak, optimise, set the baseline to a point where after that, once you amplify that sound, it still makes a lot of sense.

And that's not always an easy thing to do. Especially in the context of startups where everything is moving fast. Sometimes it's very easy to feel like, Oh, okay, I'm not doing enough to justify my salary, perhaps. And that in and of itself sometimes causes us to want to do more. But I think, as long as you have a plan, and you say, this is what I'm working towards, and this is how it's going to look as I'm working towards it, it's still a very sellable proposition.

Subha Chandrasekaran: Even when you're not doing something, it stresses you out because you've not intentionally said, Hey, that's not important for me now. So you're constantly saying, Hey, should I be there?

Should I be doing that? Saying, okay, for the next six months, this is my roadmap and sticking to it, I think, takes away a lot of that stress.

Hasita Krishna: Absolutely. And it also gives you a chance to experiment and play around with things and not take everything seriously to the point where it has to be a 12 month content calendar.

We don't know if the platform will exist. What if Elon Musk buys out threads also? Any number of things could happen. So how can you hitch a ride on something that you're not enjoying today?

Subha Chandrasekaran: I think finally hitch a ride on your core business. I think that's where you should be spending the maximum time, no matter what.

Topical Segment - Apple's Marketing

Subha Chandrasekaran: So Hasita, did you hear that Apple's found a new way to ask for your kidney? 

Hasita Krishna: I don't have any more kidneys to spare, I'm sorry.

Subha Chandrasekaran: But have you seen that headgear?

Hasita Krishna: I have seen the Apple Vision Pro and I would like to unsee the Apple Vision Pro. Because I think. Just the premise of something on my face, you have to understand I underwent a surgery to avoid glasses on my face. I'm not going to intentionally go back and put something on my face and then look at you and talk to you while also engaging with other stuff.

Subha Chandrasekaran: I'm not making any commitments because I made a lot of fun of the apple airpod when it came. So did I. And the initial marketing collateral that they put out, I, I did make fun of it in about how it just hangs from the year and how it's going to fall off

And I take all that back so many times. Because I can't live without them now. 

Hasita Krishna: But adoption is adoption. Finally, right? It's not just a software product challenge where you uninstall the app and you're done with it, you're asking for a much bigger commitment at a much bigger price point.

And I came across this comic on LinkedIn the other day. I follow this page called market owners run by Tom Fishman, who's just amazing at comics in general in this space. And he talks about a concept that was introduced way back in 1991. When I'm sure the market was not this busy and it's called crossing the chasm.

It's a Geoffrey Moore concept apparently. And it says... Yes, you have your innovators, which are the very early buyers, the people selling two kidneys to buy the Apple Vision Pro, maybe getting some early samples of it. Then you have the early adopters, people who are excited about the tech and who are going to advocate, evangelise.

But somewhere in between that and the early majority itself which is saying, I have an Apple Vision Pro, you also have one and let's both of us talk. That is the early majority, literally, right? It's people who already enjoy gadgets. Making a very conscious choice. In between these two exists the chasm.

And a lot of people just fall off there. And we've seen it happen with so many other platforms. Orkut was great, maybe not early adoption but late adoption definitely. Google used to have a social media platform at one point.

That's gone, right? And we don't know what else will continue, what else will not. So do I want to make that kind of an investment in an ecosystem that's not even known for its gaming capabilities?

Subha Chandrasekaran: It just seems it adds to our content conundrum in a way that there's one more way in which people are going to see, hear and listen to you and in a much more powerful and impactful way, right?

Like when you put a visual in front of somebody. And you're talking to their ears, and you're taking their attention away from something else, like playing with their child, or they're trying to focus on this while they're playing with their child, apparently. Wow.

Just the worst case scenario. And you just imagine if you've got this headgear in front of you. And you're getting SMS after SMS on how that pizza guy has reached this point and now he's at this point and now he's opening his umbrella and he'll be 10 minutes late and all of that is happening in real time.

Hasita Krishna: Honestly, it just seems like too much of an intrusion. But honestly, I think it seems like too much of an intrusion into my headspace which is one reason why I've avoided the Apple watch for so long. And I still continue to avoid it because I don't know if I want to receive WhatsApp messages on my wrist and have that thing constantly. I'm distracted enough as it is.

Subha Chandrasekaran: There will be one shiny new object every few months and the onus is on us to say yes or no and saying no is not going to kill your life. All your business. 

It's Okay to Not Jump Into New Things

Hasita Krishna: Absolutely. If there is one takeaway, let it be that. It's okay to not always jump onto something new as long as you're doing what you're doing and you're constantly doing that better

Thank you so much for tuning in to today's episode of the damn good marketing podcast. Today we discussed a lot about just getting intentional with the content that you're already producing because you are probably already producing a lot of it, maybe intentionally, maybe otherwise start with an inventory, see what's happening there.

Ask customers. I think that's always a very valuable way of doing it. Ask your best customers what's working, what's not working for them? Send them a gift voucher while you're there. They'd appreciate that too. And let us know how it goes. Has that made the process easier for you? Has that cleared up your headspace?

Helped you set the right expectations. What is the outcome of this exercise? We'd love to hear. You can find us on LinkedIn. Thank you so much and we'll see you soon.

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Damn Good Marketing
The Damn Good Podcast
Welcome to The Damn Good Podcast! For season 4 (of which we don't know how many episodes we will do), we have dropped the 'Marketing' to better reflect the fact that Subha and I are both human and are therefore prone to change. We're talking culture, and being two unknowns in the world of creatorship.
Hasita Krishna is a brand strategist and the founder of Motley Crew, a writer, a climate action advocate, and a SCUBA diver. Find her on Instagram @hasita.krishna
Subha C is the founder of RainKraft, a career growth coach, and a podcast host. She's on LinkedIn @Subha Chandrasekaran.
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