Are You Making This Fatal Content Marketing Mistake?

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Crime scene in an empty buildingI bet you’ve been thinking about content marketing in your talent acquisition strategy lately. How could you not be? It surrounds the industry like kids on a birthday cake. Whether you’ve just launched a content marketing program, or are thinking about how much it might take to get started, it’s on everyone’s mind.

But there is a mistake a lot of companies make, and I would wager that avoiding this mistake would not only make content marketing strategies more effective, but also make them less expensive. Get this right from the gate, and you’ll be able to launch your content marketing project far sooner.

The mistake is that most people treat content marketing like marketing and not like content.

Here’s a typical content marketing project conversation:

Social Media Manager: “Okay, here’s the editorial calendar for next week. We’ve got three tweets and one Facebook post scheduled each day except for Thursday. Thursday’s completely empty. We just couldn’t come up with a single excuse to post anything.”

Marketing Manager: “Hmm… it says on my calendar that Thursday is National Dental Floss Day. Can we use that?”

Social Media Manager: “Well, even though we don’t sell dental floss or have any connection to the dental industry, maybe we could find pictures of employees smiling and make that connection.”

Marketing Manager: “Great. Go with that.”

Here we have two smart professionals treating their content marketing strategy like a radio advertising campaign. Their focus is coverage. They are looking to fill people’s social channels with stuff with their name on it. It is not useful or valuable to the prospect, but they churn it out as if constant reminders of their brand name were enough to drive applications.

Here’s the same conversation with a focus on the content:

Social Media Manager: “Here’s the editorial calendar for next week: We’ve got a post targeting our hardest to hire positions on Monday and Wednesday, and a fun post showcasing our culture on Friday. Do we need to worry about holes in the calendar Tuesday and Thursday?”

Marketing Manager: “Nope. Next week we’ll have that blog post about ten things every intern needs to know ready to go. We’ll want to use that to kick off our intern search, so we’ll have plenty to talk about then.”

Social Media Manager: “Great. We’ll go with this.”

Here’s the basic mistake: You can’t fill a content hole with non-content. Filling your channels with “stuff” doesn’t mean it adds value. In fact, too much “stuff” without value will drive your audiences away.

Look at it this way: When you have a problem and you buy a book to solve it, would you be okay if that book was filled with discarded pages from old phone books? No. You want content that helps you solve your problem.

The funny thing is that talent acquisition pros hate it too. Think about that person who gives themself a “resume quota” to meet. It doesn’t matter if the job is right for him or her, they just don’t feel comfortable not sending out five resumes a day. Do you like to be on the receiving end of all those resumes that have very little to do with the jobs you posted? Of course not. They are resume spamming you, and you are content spamming them. Some call it poetic justice, but I would call it what it is: a waste of time and money.

Most people starting a content marketing strategy think about how hard it is to fill every day and every week and every month with content. Of course, when they think this way, they think about “content” as an excuse to put their brand name forth.

Instead, you should think about how to create content that would be valuable to someone you’d like to hire. Valuable content is like a ham sandwich to a bear; it will draw the bear out of the woods, no matter how deeply in the woods the bear is hiding. This is why good content marketing is the centerpiece of a great passive job seeker strategy; it draws people out of the woodwork and makes you look like an interesting partner to work with.

In logistical terms, a content strategy that focuses on creating one or two amazingly useful pieces of content a month will outperform the “three things a day no matter what” strategy on every metric that matters. It also means you have to build a lot less content.

So put down your editorial calendar for a second and take a deep breath. Stop thinking that every day needs to be filled with your posts. Focus on the quality over quantity and your fans will love you for it (and then maybe apply).

For more than 15 years, James Ellis has focused on connecting cutting-edge technology to marketing objectives. As a digital strategist for TMP Worldwide, he helps some of the largest companies in America answer their most pressing digital questions. On Twitter, find him at @TheWarForTalent. Learn more about TMP Worldwide at