I've been thinking recently about quality. Quality of content, quality of your audience, quality of interactions. In the Web 1.0 world, it was all about quantity - how many followers, likes, retweets, subscribers, eyeballs on your screen. But numbers alone don't tell the whole story.

Quality was always part of our mindset at Dipsology, a guide to great cocktail drinking in NYC, which I started two years ago with Alexa Scordato. Our community is small, but it's highly targeted and very high quality. We may not have every Tom, Dick and Harry following us, but we do have the Tom, Dick and Harry who love cocktails. As Editor-in-Chief from 2012-2013, I often suffered from what Jason Keath of Social Fresh terms "content envy." That is, it always seemed like everyone else had more (and often better) content than I did. It was impossible to keep up! So when Jason got up on stage at Social Fresh West a few weeks back and encouraged the audience to spend more time creating less, but higher quality, content, that really resonated with me.

Jason shared Jerry Seinfeld's Pop-Tart joke as an example of how great content can take a really long time: 

It took Jerry two years to write this joke. Two years for 1 minute 34 seconds of commentary! But that was how long he needed before he got to a place where he was happy with the quality of the joke.

The importance of quality over quantity was echoed by numerous speakers at Social Fresh, and was not limited to content, but also applied to the quality of the audience. What is the value of 1 million page views, or 1 million Facebook fans? Well, it depends on who they are!

Here are some highlights:

  • Brian Clark of Copyblogger spoke about the importance of getting the right content to the right people at the right time. It's not about getting any old content to a lot of people at any time. As a brand, this means considering who your audience is, what kind of content they are interested in and when they want to receive it. Implied in the delivery of this content is also the importance of place or channel. If your audience prefers to consume content via email, posting on Twitter isn't the right strategy.
  • Paula Berg of Hewlett-Packard decided to go against conventional wisdom and produce long-form content much less frequently - because that was the right thing for their audience. In her words, "not everything has to be snackable." Content should be created for strategic reasons, not to "feed the beast." For brands the key here is to take a step back and carefully consider WHY you are making the content that you are. Is that Pinterest board what your audience is looking for? Does it align with your business goals? If the answer is no, it's time to rethink.
  • I've already referenced James Percelay of Thinkmodo in my blog posts on Home Run Content and Thinking Offline, and his insight applies here too. Thinkmodo is focused on creating extremely high quality video content. They don't do mediocre. They don't even do "pretty good." They do exceeding expectations - every time. And it isn't because they churn out tons of content, it's because they are purposeful about each video they make and spend the time and effort to make them great.

Another metric to take into consideration is the quality of your interactions with your community. Likes, retweets, shares, follows - what do they mean? How much are they worth? Paul Mabray of VinTank has talked a lot about this in the context of wine and hospitality, and his platform assigns scores to each type of interaction. A share is more valuable than a like on Facebook, because it represents more effort and shows that the person not only liked the content, but also wants to be personally associated with it. An edited retweet, or an @ reply on Twitter is more valuable than a plain retweet or a favorite, for the same reasons. Even if you have a large number of absolute followers or fans on a platform, the level of their engagement is equally if not more important.

Finally, once you've made your super awesome content, you have to make it pay off. Jason applied the 80/20 rule to content creation saying 80% of your time should be spent creating one piece of really great content, and 20% should be spent distributing it. Paula used the phrase "maximize content mileage." When you create content, don't just post it once and move on, there are many ways to repackage and distribute content, whether on different social networks, via email, via partner sites, etc. If you think a piece of content warrants the time spent to create it, then it should also warrant the time spent to distribute it.

Going into the holiday season and the new year, it's a good time to take stock of your content strategy and evaluate how you are measuring success, and allocating resources. Is your goal Does your audience want another holiday recipe idea or gift guide from you? Maybe the answer is yes! But if the answer is no, don't let content envy get to you.