Before there was Twitter, there was Odeo, a way for people to find and subscribe to podcasts. Groupon started as The Point, a social-good fundraising site where Andrew Mason first experimented with the idea of a tipping point. Instagram began as Burbn, a check-in app that included gaming elements from Mafia Wars, and a photo element as well. And Fab.com started its life as Fabulis, a social network catering to gay men.
Perhaps more interesting than these are the non-tech examples. Suzuki, for instance, is now known for its motorcycles and sports vehicles, but from 1910 to 1935 Michio Suzuki was best known as the inventor and purveyor of weaving loom machines that powered Japan’s silk industry, writes Forbes. And Starbucks used to only sell the hardware: espresso makers and coffee beans.
But just as many businesses need to take a step back and consider a 180-degree turn from their course of action, so does content. All the planning in the world (brand value identification, target customer segmentation, media studies, talent management, editorial calendars and distribution) doesn’t mean that your content strategy will succeed. While we advocate sticking to your larger plan — especially if it’s well-informed and thought out — but there are elements within your strategy that can benefit from a pivot.
For instance, say you are convinced early on that at least 25% of your content should come from bylined guest writers. And those guest writers should be domain experts with a significant social following, in order to leverage their networks and promotional capabilities. But once you get cranking on production, you’re finding that your internal staff and set of freelance ghost writers are producing higher quality content than what you’re getting from guest writers, and they cost less both — either in terms of actual per-word rates or by the amount of time your editor spends coaxing content out of them and then copyediting. Should you pivot your model to exclude guest writers completely? Perhaps, if you’ve given it enough time.
The nice part about a content pivot is that the rest of the content and marketing machine can continue running smoothly, it’s really more of an adjustment than a total turnaround that yanks everybody out of place, and results in lots of wasted time and energy put into the first direction.