If you’ve spent any time in content marketing, you’ve probably already seen this phenomenon: most of the content out there is simply a copy of something else.
While this might seem odd, in an industry that’s so focused on individuality, relevance, and value, it’s true.
Much of the written material in our niche has gone stale.

  • Instead of being groundbreaking, it’s repetitive.
  • Instead of being fresh and exciting, all it does is place a slightly new spin on an old topic.

Copycat content doesn’t do anything to further the industry, and some would argue that content marketing is stagnating because of it.
Today, more than 90% of B2B companies use content marketing in their digital strategies.
But while many of these cloned blogs are produced to populate platforms with content at a high quality level, others are written by wannabe, beginning bloggers who think it’s easy to model after industry leaders and become one.
Fortunately, being a dull content marketer doesn’t have to be your fate – just so long as you know how to avoid it. Today, we’re talking about the power of contrarian content marketing and how you can use authenticity, strategy and controversy to be a standout marketer. Keep reading!
If you’ve spent any time in content marketing, you've probably already seen this phenomenon: most of the content out there is simply a copy of something else. Learn @JuliaEMcCoy's tips for standing out as a contrarian content marketer ? Click To Tweet
how to be a contrarian content marketer

Diving Into Contrarian Content Marketing: The Secret of Controversial Content

Contrarian simply means having a controversial or standout opinion. From Dictionary.com:
The adjective sense fits what we’re talking about today: going against current practice.
Quick, answer this question:
True or false:
Creating controversial content is the last thing you want to do as a marketer.
While you might be inclined to stay safe and believe the answer is true, you’d be surprised to learn it’s false. Today, people don’t talk about things that are old and familiar. If you create another “10 Shocking Ways to do the Thing Everyone Already Knows How To Do” post, you’re not going to break the internet.
Nobody is going to go to their grave with the name of your blog post on their lips unless you develop a real knack for identifying controversial, interesting, legitimately useful topics your customers love.
Today, controversial content causes customers to sit up and take notice.
When people are piqued emotionally by something, whether it makes them feel awe-struck, angry, happy, or inspired, they’re much more willing to share it with their friends, initiate conversations around it on social media, and comment on it, which leads to a greater discussion around your topic.
This isn’t just speculation.
In fact, there’s been lots of research done on the power of emotional content to start conversations.
According to a 2014 Buffer study, there’s a significant correlation between the number of views a blog post gets, and the number of positive feelings (like interest, trust, anticipation, and joy) it evokes.
You don’t have to create purely positive content to reap these benefits, though. The same study shows emotionally complex content and surprising material both earn the same results.

Here are just a few benefits of controversial content:

1. More Traffic. People love being surprised, and controversial content can draw in far more views than a run-of-the-mill post. What’s more, once you create a surprising post, people will come back again and again to read it, boosting your views even further.
2. More Links. Surprising material goes viral, so it’s in your best interest to create it. When people link to your material and share it with their friends, they’ll start conversations and build a community around your content.
3. Shares. Be they on social or in an email, people will share controversial content at a higher rate than boring content. This can drive more traffic back to your site and increase the number of conversions you earn.
4. Comments. Comments are one thing virtually all bloggers want and few get. Because controversial content becomes a hotbed for comments, it’s a great way to start a dialogue around a new or unfamiliar topic and keep it fresh.
What does a content marketing strategy look like that includes contrarian content marketing? Let’s delve in.

Contrarian Content Marketing: 3-Step Recipe for an Anything-but-Ordinary Content Presence

In the world of content marketing, being ordinary is one of the worst things that can happen to a marketer.
In the world of content marketing, being ordinary is one of the worst things that can happen to a marketer. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet
In addition to annoying your readers, being ordinary makes it exceedingly easy to get lost in the sea of other voices, shifting from a place of prominence and notice to a prison of solitude and minimal traffic.
Luckily, creating truly unique content is possible, you just need to follow a formula.
Our content marketing has brought in over 98% of our clients and sales. Here’s what we do to stand out in content marketing. (For the full version, see our case study.)
contrarian content marketer 1

1. Creating A Ton of Consistent, In-Depth, Long-Form Content

Consistency wins – and long-form, in-depth content wins. In addition to the fact that long-form content ranks better than short-form content, it’s also harder to create, which means few people are doing it. If you want to zig while everyone else zags, dedicate yourself to writing super-exclusive guides or crafting five word compilations that will remain valuable long past their publish date. Trust me, it’s worth the extra work. We do it all the time – and results happen.

More on this subject: An Argument for Long-Form Content

And by “a ton,” I mean a ton. Here’s what our content publishing schedule looks like, per our case study – volume is around 40-45 unique posts a month:
express writers publishing

2. Building Effective, Highly-Engaged Communities

Today, even the best content is only as good as the community you’re building day by day and sharing it with. The more you share your content and engage with real people on your social platforms, and the harder you work to create communities, the better you’ll do in terms of traffic, rankings, and audience conversation.
My team and I have been able to build several communities from scratch: an ongoing podcast subscriber community with my Write Podcast, and one of my favorite communities ever (if I do say so myself), our Twitter chat that happens every Tuesday at 10 AM CST, #ContentWritingChat. Rachel, our social media manager, creates and posts Twitter chat recaps, and I create time-stamped show notes for each episode of my podcast.
Both of these communities necessitate (and create, user-generated-style) content that is posted to our site weekly. We have a dedicated site category, like a blog, linked under the Learn tab to present these sections. Here’s the Write Podcast recap section:
write podcast
And our lively, engaged Twitter chat recap section (bonus: our participants LOVE getting mentioned in these recaps). Rachel curates these by selecting the best tweets shared during the hour, handwriting headers and comments around the tweets, and creating a custom recap weekly:
#contentwritingchat section

3. A Firm Consistency to the Investment of Standing Out

The most important aspect of creating a unique online presence is developing a commitment to standing out. This will require time, money and a strategy, but it will be worth it.
Think about this the same way you would developing your personal style: if you wanted to be regarded as a monster of fashion, the last thing you’d do is wear the same jeans and t-shirts as everyone else. Instead, you’d swim upstream, try things other people weren’t trying, and take risks. This is exactly what you need to do with your content. When you develop a commitment to standing out, it becomes easier to break the mold. (Some of the best, highest-performing content I’ve written has had controversial titles or a firm opinion in the industry, like this one: Stop Selling, Start Helping.)
For another great example of content marketing, check out what WordStream does, which follows a simple (but not-so-simple) pattern of:

  • Create long-form content
  • Promote your content online
  • Commit to being different

5 Unique, Creative Tips for Developing Standout Content Marketing Ideas

Let’s face it: the content sea is 90% crap.
If you want to be a unique blogger, you first need to come up with unique, salient ideas that deviate from everything else that’s out there.
Luckily, this is easier than you might think. Here are your top five tips:

1. Dig Deeper Into Social & Mine for Topics

Social has long since been used as a tool for topic mining and research. Trending hashtags, content shared by influencers, and viral posts are all easy enough to find and, historically, have served as the bedrock upon which so many marketers base their content strategies.
If you want to stand out, though, you’ve got to go deeper.
This means using social platforms like Twitter and Facebook and spending some time each day doing a scan of what’s popular on these platforms and what’s missing. Feel free to use viral content as a jumping-off point here, just look at it differently.
It’s a great idea to see what your audience is already reading. From there, get ideas of how you can do content they already love, but better. Scroll through the social feeds of the people in your buyer persona. Don’t have a persona? Check out our guide here.
Instead of seeking to clone it, read it in search of what it doesn’t have. Is there a question left unanswered or a demographic left unconsidered? If so, jump on it and be the first in your industry to cover it.

2. Develop a Process for Qualification

When you’re on the hunt for the new and noteworthy, it’ll benefit you to create an elimination process to decide which topics are worth writing on, and which veer into the familiar a bit too much. Keep in mind that few brands can afford to be controversial all the time. Not only is that exhausting, but it’s very likely to push customers away and leave you reader-less.
That said, ask yourself these questions before deciding to cover a contrary topic in your industry:

  • Will It Be Shocking To My Target Audience? If you’re going to be controversial, you’ll still need to do it in a way that resonates with your target audience. If the topic isn’t interesting or useful to them, look for something else.
  • Is There More To The Story That You Can Flesh Out? If so, that’s a great place to start. In addition to taking a new approach, you can add details, insight, and perspective that nobody else in your industry offers. This is a fantastic way to carve out a spot for yourself as a leader with fresh ideas.
  • Is The Story Too One-Sided? If so, it’s a good time to strike. People crave perspective, and offering some material that delves into another side of the story, or a contrary viewpoint, is a fantastic way to appeal to your target audience and develop a reputation as a contrarian leader.
  • Is Your Perspective Unique? Even if the rest of your industry agrees with a consensus, you might have an experience or background that provides you with another viewpoint. If this is true, now is a great time to share it. A highly personal viewpoint can add depth to your company and help you snag more of the clients you deserve.

3. Get Visual

If you’re going to write content, long-form is the way to go. When it comes to content in general, though, visual material is becoming more and more in-demand. With this in mind, one of the best ways to stand out is to create custom infographics that visualize data.
In addition to requiring some extra leg work (again – most people won’t do this, which makes the field less crowded), infographics are ideal for an on-the-go audience and can help people synthesize complex ideas in simple ways.

4. Make it Intellectual

When it comes to controversial content, there are some things you don’t want to do. The primary thing is to be overly combative, rude, or crude. Don’t drag anyone else down to prove that you’re right, or be too diminishing to another brand or person.
Instead, seek to be civil, informed, and intellectual. That last part is critical. Today, people crave information, and backing your contrarian claims up with solid data, good information, and unique stats will help you stand out as a leader rather than a troll.
If you can, pull stats from your own experience or data. This will help back up your view and position you as a primary source for unique information.

5. Watch (Select) Influencers

Again, you don’t want to hang on to an influencer’s every move, and then copy it in your own content. This is just a slightly more fine-tuned version of creating copy content, albeit from a great source. You can, however, learn from influencers. After you find a few influencers you love in your industry, follow their content and watch what they’re doing differently. Are they using sources you’re not familiar with? Maybe they’re monitoring social media in a way that allows them to jump on hot new topics, or maybe they’re interacting with the community via platforms like Quora or chat boards in ways that allow them to pinpoint controversial topics and get there first. Whatever the case may be, you can learn a lot from following their lead.

3 Examples of Great Contrarian Content

To close this out, let’s look at a few examples of great contrarian content in its natural habitat:

1. Rand Fishkin’s “Why Good Unique Content Needs to Die” Video Post

In this epic post, Fishkin CALLS OUT mediocre content and proposes a shocking alternative: creating content that’s ten times better than anything else out there. The post earned over 9,000 shares and subsequently garnered dozens of offshoot posts by all kinds of marketers calling Rand their hero and making the new phrase, 10x content, an actual definition. Rand = won the internet.

2. Matt Cutts’ “The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging”

In 2014, a time when everyone was touting the virtues of guest blogging, Matt Cutts stuck a fork in it with this contrarian post. Complete with a shocking title and the indication that a brave new world cometh, this post earned 657 comments.

3. “Numbers Don’t Matter, Influence Does,” by Gary Vaynerchuk

When it comes to contrarian material, few would dispute that Gary Vaynerchuk is the master. This post lays waste to the importance people place on impressions and followers on social media, and insists that the impression a marketer leaves and the depth of the interactions he or she creates are drastically more important.

Bringing Contrarian Marketing Into Your Digital Strategy

Contrarian marketing is the one thing that can truly help your brand stand out and make a name for itself.
By incorporating these five tips into your digital strategy, you can develop a more unique content presence.
Time to stop floating on in the digital sea of content crap. 😉 Rock the boat a little, get out of your typical habitat, and express yourself authentically.
Visit our Content Shop to find contrarian content marketers and writers who can help you enjoy a truly unique online presence through standout content.
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