He was, objectively, the most gorgeous creature I had ever seen. Big brown eyes. Glossy chocolate-coloured hair. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I didn’t want to leave. But I was on honeymoon. And my brand new husband was standing right next to me. Awkward.
The good news is that Daniel, my husband, didn’t want to leave either.
The object of our shared adoration was…upside down, cheeks full of pawpaw, on a Bali street, while his handler pocketed rupiah after rupiah for giving tourists the chance to feed a giant, giant fruit bat.
I don’t know if any of you is a bat person. But I am a crazy bat lady in every sense of the word. Each week I help to rehab orphaned baby bats: feeding, bathing and flight-training them, before sending them back out into the wild at around 14 weeks old, to live their little lives.
Nope. Kidding. But bats can teach us a lot about content marketing for small, micro and medium-sized businesses. And because we all have work to do, I’m going to get to the point with three quick lessons.
Bats aren’t scary either, when you get to know them. They’re mammals, like us. They give birth to live young, like we do. They suckle and wean their babies. And they’re not rodents. Actually, their skeletal structure is similar to a dog’s. So a bat is basically a little gremlin-dog with wings.
Plus, the vast majority of bats eat insects and the rest are vegetarian. They’re not interested in you – or your hair. And they’re not blind.
Similarly, you can change how you think about content. It can be as tiny as a tweet or as big as a white paper. It can be as simple as an opinion under a LinkedIn post or as complex as a webinar series.
Depends on your appetite, really, and the objective of the message.
“Content” sounds fancy. But it’s words. And pictures. For people.
Plus, not all content you share has to be from scratch, brand new or yours. You can curate interesting content from other sources, provided that you reference them and provided that the content is relevant. If it helps, my preferred ratio for this is about 1:4 (curated:original).
Baby bats – and bats in general – very, very seldom bite. But when they do get irritated with me, it’s because I’m not moving fast enough with the next mealworm or squirt of milk. I’m not paying attention.
And why does this happen? Because I’m taking photos and videos of them with my phone, instead of focusing on their actual needs. In this case, I’m not adding value; I’m making it all about me.
Here’s the lesson: Your content needs to be about ‘the them’. The target market. The prospect. The lead. Because people need it to be all about them. People need it to solve their problems. Otherwise, it’s just noise.
Share insights and wisdom. Give advice. Offer tips. Answer questions. And do so for ages and ages. Don’t expect anything in return. Just be generous with the smarts in your head. Educate, explain and enlighten. Provide access to what you’ve learned and what you know. It pays off.
There’s a little boy bat I feed each week and he has a broken wing. Imagine, if you will, a teeny tiny winged gremlin-dog…with one wing in a splint? A splint made of blue surgical tape and half a cotton bud.
Anyway, I say to the flight trainer, Gridah, “What happens to a bat with one broken or torn wing? Does it, you know, fly around in a circle?” “Nope,” she says. “They learn to fly more or less normally.”
Turns out, it takes longer. But a dramatic break can usually heal itself.
That’s your content. One or both of its wings may be a bit weak right now, but you can get it to fly eventually. Just feed that baby, get it healthy, don’t expect to win any awards (at least at first), prepare for some wonky take-offs – and maybe even the odd crash landing – and watch it go! You have to give it the chance, before you feel ready.
A naff piece of content, out there in the world, is much more valuable than a masterpiece sitting in your drafts folder. You can improve over time, but not if you wait for perfection. And not if you don’t bloody start.
Content is just words and pictures and sometimes video. It’s not chiropterology (the study of bats). If you focus on serving, not selling, your content won’t be slimy or ego-centric. And you have to put it out there, in the world, whether you think it’s ready or not.
Now, here’s the thing: Letting your little content babies go can be hard. When the time comes to release my rehabbed bat babies at 12 or 14 weeks old, my neurotic Jewish mama heart tightens with anxiety.
There are predators out there. And it gets cold. And, big Jewish mother issue, what if they get hungry? But the best thing for them is freedom.
And the best thing for your content is making it stronger and more resonant over time, taking a couple of tough decisions, moving before you’re completely ready to, and then sending it out into the world…
…where it can do your target market, and you, the most good.
Written by: Tiffany Markman