Is Non-Viral Content Dead on Arrival?

human skeleton working on a white laptop

You worked so hard on that blog post. Hours of research, careful editing, choosing the perfect images, promoting the dickens out of it on social media, and…


It gets a small trickle of readers, a handful of social shares, and then goes down the attention drain. Wasted time and effort? Time to abandon content marketing?

Before you throw the first shovel of dirt into your content’s grave, here are some things you should know:

1. You Are Not Alone

A person sits on a island floating midair with geese flying in a V overhead.

The cold hard truth is that the vast majority of online content causes nary a ripple in the Internet sea. A landmark joint study by Moz and Buzzsumo found the following:

  1. 50% of all content posts have two or fewer Facebook interactions.
  2. 75% of those posts had zero backlinks pointing to them.
  3. Social shares do not correlate with links, and vice versa. Posts highly-shared on social do not necessarily earn backlinks.

So you’re in good company. Which is not the same as saying this is a good thing! But it does emphasize that creating content that gets attention and gets seen is neither automatic nor easy.

2. Content SHOCK Is Real

Content shock is real

Way back in 2014, Mark Schaefer coined the term “content shock” to describe a condition he saw already becoming a reality then. Content shock occurs when “exponentially increasing volumes of content intersect with our limited human capacity to consume it.”

In other words, content marketing became a consumer’s market. As an increasing number of businesses began publishing content, not only was there more available than anyone could consume, but consumers became aware that they never had to settle for anything less than the very best content. They had choice, almost overwhelming choice.

I disagree with Schaefer’s subtitle (“Content marketing is not a sustainable strategy”), but remain thankful for his wakeup call that a “build it and they will come” assumption is the death of content effectiveness.

3. There Is Light at the End of the Tunnel

There is light at the end of the tunnel for content marketers.

..and it’s not a train, as the joke goes. Yes, it’s true that no matter how good your content is and how hard you work at promoting it, only a small subset of it will ever go “viral” (get widely shared and/or cited by others). But that doesn’t mean the content is useless.

In my next post this Friday, I will go into detail on four ways your non-viral content can still provide value for your business. Here they are in brief:

4 ways to make “dead” content useful

  1. Promote it to relevant publications
  2. Put paid promotion behind it to a highly-targeted audience
  3. Use it as sales materials
  4. Repurpose it

What are some ways you’ve found to revive or find a new use for your best content that never quite got the audience it deserves?

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