Content Marketing, Social Media Strategy, Blogging and Content Creation

Planning Your Content Marketing: Bricks vs. Feathers

Chris Sietsema is Social & Digital Operations Lead at Convince & Convert. He also runs a digital agency called Teach to Fish Digital where he provides insights on search, social media, email marketing, and analytics.

Do you remember this trick question from grade school: Which weighs more – 5 lbs of bricks or 5 lbs of feathers? Some of us (self included) were initially fooled by this obvious test of common sense, but as it relates to your content marketing, should you be focused more on building substantial content productions or presenting your audience with a steady array of minute snippets that define your brand and message?

Defining Bricks & Feathers

Bricks are larger content productions such as research reports, events, white papers, video series, mobile apps, etc. They typically require decent budget and time to produce but have the potential to make a larger splash when executed and promoted correctly.

Feathers are comprised of simple text and photo content published via popular social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, etc. Less intensive than bricks from a production budget standpoint, feathers are created consistently to maintain an ongoing stream of communication between a brand and its audience.

Deciding Between Bricks & Feathers

The graphic below illustrates the key differences between bricks and feathers for content planning and production. Here’s an more detailed explanation of the attributes you should consider.

Position / Identity

While there are varying degrees of thought leadership, larger productions allow you to position your brand as a reliable resource for superb ideas. By continuously sharing small bites of information, you would likely be considered a news maker by the audience. Both positions are attractive in their own right, but businesses which have the capacity to create and share short, informative posts on a daily basis are more inclined to go the feathers route. Those brands that simply cannot provide entertaining, enlightening and/or educational content on a daily basis (e.g. law firms, insurance companies, some medical facilities, etc.) should focus more on building bricks for the purpose of conveying their value to prospects and influencers.

Content Life Span

Video series, graphic illustrations and even research reports have a greater chance of becoming evergreen compared to your everyday tweets and Facebook posts.

SEO Potential

One key reason to consider incorporating more bricks into your content mix is their propensity to attract high quality and relevant links, a “must have” for any organization focused on improving activity from natural search. To a lesser degree feathers can be utilized more as a social signal or as a link to key content on your website/blog. If shared by key influencers, shorter posts can have a noticeable impact.

Required Resources

Simple posts merely demand the attention of a dedicated community manager to create and measure impact. Bricks, on the other hand, are typically more involved. Due to the various skills required to produce an event, a podcast, a high quality infographic or a mobile application, you could potentially include creative, technical and other marketing resources in your development process.

Opportunity Cost

One potential issue with bricks is that there is really no way to predict what will resonate. Your organization may have research to support that there is a demand for a specific piece of content within a particular medium. However, there are no guarantees that your bricks will generate interest, links, traffic, leads, sales, etc. Thanks to the time and resources needed to create bricks, there is a much higher opportunity cost when compared to feathers.

Primary Metrics

Success for feathers is often gauged by how many audience members saw a posts and, more importantly, how many of those people actually took some action (i.e. clicked or shared). In addition to those important metrics, you may find other crucial means for reporting the impact of bricks such as downloads of content, number of event attendees, leads collected in exchange for access to content and so on.

Best of Both Worlds?

Does your organization (or do your clients) produce both bricks and feathers? How do you determine what kinds of content to produce? What methods do you utilize to manage production and promotion of all that you create?

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  1. says

    Interesting ideas, I would have never thought of that comparison. It seems as if “Bricks” are what you really want to be publishing but until you can get to that point, “feathers” are a way for you to start the growing process and also something you can continue once you get to the higher, heavier level.

    • sietsema says

      @anandp29 Yeah, Anand, I agree. I’m thinking it would be very difficult to build a brick and expect immediate success without a loyal following in place. Feathers provide a realistic means of building that following, creating relationships and establishing an audience for your bricks later on. Thanks for “unleashing the geek” here on C&C.

  2. says

    Fabulous article! I’ve never seen this particular metaphor, and I think it does a great job of explaining how both kinds of content are important.

    Our company tends to produce more feathers, simply because bricks require more time, which we don’t always have. Taking a picture or sending out a tweet takes a few minutes, and blog posts take a few hours; but a whitepaper can take weeks, depending on the topic. We’re working on finding a balance, but it’s intense and intensive work.

    • sietsema says

      @Amy Peveto Hi Amy. Thanks for your comment. There is definitely more of an opportunity cost associated with bricks due to the time and resources required to create and promote them. One strategy may be to measure responses and reactions to different kinds of feathers over time. Once you have a good understanding of what your audience is likely to respond to and share, then you can determine what kinds of bricks are best suited for your campaign. Taking this approach will hopefully mitigate the risk associated with creating bricks.

  3. DaveGallant says

    I see value in both. I also think it’s dependant on your audience, and what they are looking for. The approach I’ve taken is a blend of feathers and bricks (more emphasis on feathers though).

  4. ArthurAnswers says

    There’s good value in both. The some of the best influencers offer a good mix of both bricks and feathers. This breakdown offers a good guide for content creators looking to illicit a specific type of response from their posts.

    I would advise that for those who are deciding whether it’s worth the risk to write a brick to have a good idea of the tribe/community they want to reach, understand the values of that audience and then identify trends and links to enrich their post with. This will minimize the risk that a brick brings in no traffic. Mentioning the posts of influencers in the community often gets them to read (who curious about mentions of themselves?) and likely repost or buzz the artice.

    These are tips we offer to eCairn’s clients, who use our platform to do the influencer and tribe identification, as well as the research.

    • sietsema says

      @ArthurAnswers That’s great advice, Arthur. There is certainly a good amount of prep work and research to ensure your content speaks to the right audience. I like your idea of involving influencers in the content. Thanks for sharing.

  5. StartupTony says

    Chris – Aside from any debate on which is better. A big thank you for the analogy. It is so much easier to explain to “old people” the difference between the two and the values each bring. We scheduled a “Creating Bricks” brainstorm on Friday for @BizProps from this post. Great Job!

    • sietsema says

      @StartupTony@bizprops That’s excellent news, Tony. Good luck to you and the rest of the team @BizProps

  6. says

    Thanks for the clarity, Chris. Great analogy. Made me realize that I gravitate toward the feathers due to ease of completion, and that some focus on bricks is clearly in order. Thanks again!

  7. says

    A well conversion between “Brick” and “Feathers”. Linking it to content is really unique content itself. This content is itself a great example of Successful marketing. Nice post sietsema, Keep it Up.

  8. says

    It seems as though in order to maximize the benefits of content marketing, companies should incorporate a bit of both bricks and feathers into their mobile marketing strategy. As this post points out, while bricks have the potential to make a greater impact when executed and promoted correctly, they can also be time consuming and costly to produce. Feathers, on the other hand, are quick and easy ways to maintain an ongoing and interactive line of communication between brands and mobile users. This should not be undervalued.

  9. jkbstanberry says

    Great Infographic!
    I would add that you can work backwards when developing a brick product–use SEO analytics like google insight and ad words to find searches you want ranking for, develop a brick catered to those searches using those terms.

  10. jeannettepaladino says

    I like the bricks and feathers metaphor, too. With bricks you can continue to push out tidbits of research findings in micro-posts to social media networks long after the initial report has been issued.

  11. Julie Munro says

    If a white paper pdf is obtained via a gateway, thus restricted in visibility, how can one use it for SEO?

  12. snouraini says

    I absolutely love this infograph, totally pin worthy (which I did).  I also love the analogy, well-done!

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