Why we don't believe in content buckets

In the early days of social media it was common (and is still common) for social media marketers to help clients determine their content buckets. These buckets represent categories of content. The purpose of dividing content into buckets is so that brands can share a mix of content with their audiences. The idea is that: a) If you have too few buckets, you’ll narrow your focus and lose out on audience members and b) If you have too many buckets, you’ll come across schizophrenic and confuse your audience.

Introducing signature content

We don’t believe in content buckets anymore around here at 12N. We believe in signature content. Before we get into our definition of signature content, let’s talk about why content buckets are outdated.

  1. Content buckets were created before social media advertising. Nowadays if you want to talk to your audience in a hyper-targeted way, you can launch an ad to that specific group of people. Let’s say that one of your content buckets is dogs. Instead of blasting dog content to your entire audience of dog, cat and armadillo lovers, you can pay to target only pooch people. It’s a win-win for everyone. You can’t possibly be everything to everyone and that’s exactly why advertising is so important.
  2. A great example of an account that has traded in content buckets for signature content is @TSA. They post one thing – confiscated weapons. If you repeatedly visit their account, you’ll never be surprised. You will see the same photos over and over again. And that’s okay because what could be more captivating than machetes and grenades?! 
  3. Content buckets don’t require much thought. I’ve created dozens of content buckets for different brand over the years, and I’ve finished them all under an hour. It’s not because I rushed or procrastinated. It’s because it’s obvious. Diverse content isn’t memorable. It’s that one campaign that keeps brands top of mind. Content buckets don’t win awards – signature content does.

How to develop your signature content

How do you land on these signature moments, you ask? Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore, co-authors of The Experience Economy, inspired our thinking. They developed a 2x2 framework called the 4E Model.

The 4E Model looks like this:

The rules are simple and straightforward.

Identify 4 words, all-starting with the same letter, that represent each of the 4E buckets (entertainment, education, esthetics and escapism), and as a group, act as an absolute identifier to describe the brand, using the following questions:

  • Entertainment: What about myself, my product or service represents entertainment and keeps people passively absorbed?
  • Education: What about myself, my product or service represents education and keeps people actively absorbed?
  • Esthetic: What about myself, my product or service represents esthetics and keeps people passively immersed?
  • Escapism: What about myself, my product or service represents escapism and keeps people actively immersed?

When answered, each brand has identified their quintessence, that differentiating factor, which defines how only they can do what they do. 

Here’s an example. Can you guess the “brand?”

Entertainment: Celebrity

Education: Concert

Esthetics: Carpool

Escapism: Comedy

Ding ding ding! You are correct! James Corden.

Combined, these four words create an experience one can offer, not just a product or service to sell. This experience offering is what differentiates one particular brand over another.

If James Corden only posted Carpool Karaoke videos would anyone be disappointed? No, because James Corden is most known for that content, and there are so many more celebs we’d love to see as his next passenger! Carpool Karaoke is James Corden’s signature content, differentiating him from other late night television hosts.

The theme of experience in social media

This 4E model, although introduced over a decade ago, supports the evolution of social media and content marketing, as we now know it to be. Social media isn’t show and tell anymore. The days of telling consumers what you have to offer is over. It’s so much better to invite participation into an experience rather than invite engagement via a static image or imaginative copywriting.

Social is a full-sensory experience. Snapchat lenses (and now Spectacles), Facebook Live, musical.ly and virtual reality are all catering to experience. It’s not acceptable for a brand to push out content that doesn't invite experience.

We love helping guide brands through the 4E model to help them determine why they do what they do and how that comes to life online. Holler to connect with us!

Click here if you're interested in learning more about the teachings of Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore