Trying a trick play for the first time in the Super Bowl is a risk most coaches—at least those who value their jobs—would never take. The stakes are too high. The world is watching. And a mistake could mean everything they’ve built comes crashing down in a few humiliating seconds.

The world of content marketing is no different, except the field in this case is your organization’s or client’s website. The risk, it seems, is just as high. So we cling to our best practices, we make our decisions based on research, and we quote statistics and case studies to justify our every move.

But that doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for creativity or innovation. Where can we see if our content marketing Hail Mary’s would actually work?

Welcome to the Playground

content marketing playground

Try it on the playground before you try it in the game. (Photo via AbieSundion on Flickr)

Step off the field for a second, and jump into the playground. A content marketing playground provides a stage where no one is watching, nothing is being measured, and nothing bad will happen if you mess up.

There’s no worrying about revenue models, CTRs, goal conversion, usability, browser compatibility—or anything really, at all.

It’s a place to break all the rules and dodge all responsibility. But aside from that, there are benefits that will make you a better marketer when the game really is on the line.

Where are the Playgrounds?

Content marketing playgrounds are all over the Internet.

It could be a Twitter feed you set up on a whim, just for the hell of it.

It could be a blog you create, totally unrelated to your niche.

It could be a YouTube project you create, just to see what happens.

It can be a concept-site you create, just to see what it takes to go viral.

The bottom line is that a content marketing playground is an experimental setting where you can try anything you’d like, and no one has to know. What happens on your content marketing playground, stays on your content marketing playground. Unless it’s a lesson you can bring to the table in your real-life job.

What can the Playground do for you?

A content marketing playground will give you:

  • A blank canvas for marketing creativity and innovation, with no judgment or repercussions.
  • A testing ground for experimentation that looks best practices in the face and laughs.
  • A greater understanding of the web, coding, and social media – no matter what level in your organization you are.
  • More respect for the painstaking issues developers deal with on a daily basis.
  • A better understanding of how difficult it really is to build a social media following, regardless of the niche.
  • Credibility and expertise beyond the task at hand, with more experience to bring to the table when the brand is on the line.
  • A great appreciation for trial and error, and more opportunities to test theories and ideas with no repercussion.

So go start a random blog about something completely out of left field. See what happens when you get your hands dirty. And don’t feel bad if you don’t make any money off of it. At minimum, your payment will come in the form of knowing what not to do. And this time, you’ll know from experience.

Besides, playgrounds are fun.

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About Andrew Hanelly

Andrew Hanelly

Andrew is SVP, Strategy for McMurry/TMG and for one semester in college, was a sociology major. He writes at Brain on Digital, as @hanelly on Twitter and here on Google+.

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • Katie

    Great article and so true. When I got frustrated at my last job, I started a blog and realized I was learning more by trial-and-error on my little site than at my day job. On day I realized that I understood what our tech team was talking about in meetings and could ask intelligent questions. I recommend to anyone working in digital media.

    • ahanelly

      Thanks for the comment! It's amazing what playing around on the side can teach you. It's as liberating as it is educational. But the bottom line is that it's fun. Just like pro athletes can sometimes lose site of why they play the game in the first place, we sometimes lose site of how fun it can be to work on the Interwebz.

  • http://www.theinternettimemachine.com vee sweeney

    Hi Andrew, nice points to make and I think everyone needs to play on the playground every now and then to make sure that they are reaching their highest potential in this competitive online world. Staying safe might make a website go from point A to point B, but cannot take it much further beyond that. Having a playground per say is a way to test things before trying them out with clients so that there can be actual proof that there are things outside of the norm that can and will work.

    • ahanelly

      Vee – Exactly! You've articulated in one paragraph what it took me an entire post to spell out. It's the whole idea of “if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got,” or something like that. It's the difference between a job and a career, in my opinion. Anyone can help you with A to B, but who is going to introduce you to C? Alright, enough with the alphabet.

  • http://www.officecavalry.com OfficeCavalry

    Great Post Andrew!

    Its great to play about on the web and see what you can come up with. It can really lead to inspiring ideas that could maximize your own potential. Business is all about trial and error, and everyone will be able to learn from this method.

    • ahanelly

      I appreciate you saying that! Trial and error is the best way to learn (but it's also the riskiest). Mitigate that risk by trying something (and making an error) where it doesn't matter. And if you find something that works? You get to bring it to the board room and wait for the thunderous applause (though I wouldn't recommend holding your breath!) Thanks again.

  • Catherine Weber

    Andrew-
    Thanks for mentioning our post at impressionsthroughmedia.com.
    I enjoyed your post and will add you to our blog roll. Best regards.

    Catherine Weber
    Weber Media Partners
    cweber@webermediapartners.com
    impressionsthroughmedia.com

  • http://www.microstat.co.uk Document Scanning

    Great advice Andrew, it seems obvious to maintain respect and relevance in online marketing but so many forget these basic considerations. Smaller companies are beginning to realise the increasing importance of social media and internet marketing like never before, we in document scanning are really concentrating on this at the moment and will use the advice on here gladly.

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  • http://wearqr.com QR Code Marketing

    Love the advice. I’ve tried a number of mediocre ideas, but none that are just completely out of left field. Maybe that’ll be my next attempt at creating something sustainable online.

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  • http://www.StickerScan.com Cody Pitchford

    Good article and great advice.  I gave it a shot and created a site for QR Code stickers.  Its now my full time job and we have 12 employees.  Check it out at http://www.StickerScan.com

  • http://www.StickerScan.com Cody Pitchford

    Good article and great advice.  I gave it a shot and created a site for QR Code stickers.  Its now my full time job and we have 12 employees.  Check it out at http://www.StickerScan.com

  • http://www.StickerScan.com Cody Pitchford

    Good article and great advice.  I gave it a shot and created a site for QR Code stickers.  Its now my full time job and we have 12 employees.  Check it out at http://www.StickerScan.com

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