Why Inspirational Quotes Are Not a Content Marketing Strategy

“But they get so much enga-a-a-a-agement …”

I can still hear the whine from that one client who swore up and down that inspirational quotes deserved top priority in their content marketing strategy.

They were a B2B company serving the oil and gas industry.

Folks, this inspirational quote thing has gotten out of hand, and it’s time we did something about it.

Now, y’all know I’m big on research, so when I sat down to write this post, I wanted to know what others are saying about it. When I typed “inspirational quotes” “content marketing” strategy into Google, here’s what I got:

Why Inspirational Quotes Are Not a Content Marketing Strategy

And here’s what I did:

Why Inspirational Quotes Are Not a Content Marketing Strategy

Before I launch into what’s wrong with the whole inspirational-quotes-as-content-marketing-strategy thing, let me clarify. I’m not talking about all quotes. I’m talking about ambiguous, feel-good stuff like this:

Why Inspirational Quotes Are Not a Content Marketing Strategy

Used strategically and creatively, concise insights from thought leaders in your field can actually serve you quite well, and here in a bit, I’ll show you how to do that. But first let’s take a look at how we got here and how misusing or over-using inspirational quotes can actually hurt your brand.

How Did We Get Here?

Take a spin through your feed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and you’ll be assaulted with a barrage of vague, sappy quips intended to inspire you to aim higher, feel better about yourself, handle challenges, be nicer, follow your dreams, learn more, and take on a more positive attitude. Just follow every piece of advice you encounter, and eventually you could become the Most Annoying Human Being on the Planet.

So how did we get here? Why did this love affair between marketers and the feel-good snippet begin in the first place? Three reasons:

  • They’re easy to find and quick to post
  • They make people feel good (… maybe)
  • They get lots of engagement

That third reason is really the kicker that got us into this mess. Give people something that makes them feel good about themselves, and they’ll be quick to like and share it, right? And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s just not a foundation for a content marketing strategy.

How Quotes-Done-Badly Can Hurt Your Brand

As we’ll discuss below, sharing insightful quotations strategically, creatively, and with respect can benefit your brand and foster meaningful connections with your audience.

Sadly, far too many marketers, attracted by the promise of easy engagement, wind up doing quotes badly. Not only is this a waste of time and effort; it can actually hurt your brand, and here’s how:

Misuse of inspirational quotes can make you look silly.

Posting the occasional dose of generic inspiration makes perfect sense for some businesses. If you’re a life coach or own a coffee shop, go for it. But if you’re an accounting firm, a real estate agency, a software vendor, or an oilfield service provider, posting generic feel-good snippets one after the other can make people question your professionalism.

You may be unwittingly promoting someone else’s brand.

So you see a lovely quote on Instagram and decide to share it with your own followers. Did you happen to notice the URL at the bottom of the image? Smart marketers know the importance of branding the images they share (more on this later), and by sharing some of the quotes you find out there in social media, you may be inadvertently endorsing brands other than your own — maybe even competitors.

Over-use of quotes can dilute your content stream.

If you’re also publishing useful, insightful content (you are, aren’t you?), it can get lost in the clutter created by all those inspirational quotes. If followers come to know you only as a source of daily feel-good-isms, that’s how they’ll start to see you. They’ll have no clue about how you add value and why they should care … and they won’t stick around for long.

Generic inspirational quotes can alienate and even offend some followers.

I once pitched my social media services to a drug and alcohol rehab facility here in southeast Texas. After reviewing my proposal, they thanked me for my interest, but declined because “we found someone cheaper.”

Of course, curiosity eventually got the better of me, and a month later I clicked over to their Facebook page to see what this cheaper resource was doing for them. Imagine my surprise when I encountered inspirational quote after quote after quote — not one having anything whatsoever to do with recovery. If someone is seeking treatment for a serious drug or alcohol problem, for themselves or for a loved one, “follow your dreams” is not the message they need to be hearing.

10 Tips for Using Quotes Wisely

As we mentioned, it’s not necessary that we all abandon the practice of sharing quotes on social media entirely. Heck, I post them myself. If we are strategic, creative, and respectful of our audiences in our quote-posting practices, we can uncover tremendous opportunities for building relationships.

So, what does quote-sharing-done-right look like? These tips are a good place to start:

  1. Post quotes that have some connection to your brand promise. If you’re a leadership coach, choose insightful quotes about leadership from respected CEOs or other experts in the field. If you sell productivity software, choose quotes about making the best use of one’s time. They don’t have to relate directly to your product or service, but they should be in the same neighborhood.
  1. Post quotes that your audience can relate to. If you’ve been hanging around with me for a while, you’ve heard my soapbox speech about knowing your audience and serving their needs and interests. Quotes are no exception to the rule.
  1. Share real insights from real thought leaders. If you’re considering a quote for posting, ask yourself “Is this just a feel-good quote, or does it impart actual insights that can make my followers’ lives better (for B2C) or help them do their jobs better (for B2B)?” Also, be selective about the people whose nuggets of wisdom you share. If the name isn’t recognizable, include the person’s title and company name in your attribution, as in “Drew Houston, CEO of Dropbox.”
  1. Have a purpose. Every Friday, I share a quote from a famous writer about writing, like this one:

Why Inspirational Quotes Are Not a Content Marketing Strategy

It’s turned into a series for a specific subset of my audience (content writers) that serves a specific purpose (sharing advice to help them become better writers). See where you can uncover similar opportunities in serving your own audience.

  1. Be unique. Don’t just copy-and-paste the same quotes that everybody else in your industry is posting. Dig deep to uncover hidden gems and share those treasures with your followers.
  1. Use images thoughtfully. Can we all agree that the guy-on-top-of-the-mountain image as the background for success quotes needs to be quietly retired? Go beyond the obvious choices and select photos that match the flavor, mood, and topic of the quote … or better yet, take your own.
  1. Don’t overdo it. The star of your content marketing show needs to be your own content, so don’t let your feed get cluttered with too many quotes, even good ones. A couple of times a week is plenty.
  1. Don’t be afraid to have fun … within reason. Not every quote has to impart Wisdom-with-a-capital-W. One of my favorite author quotes is P.G. Wodehouse’s “I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit.” It imparts no deep insights, but it’s funny and every writer gets it. Look for opportunities to give your followers a smile while still maintaining relevance and — always, please — good taste.
  1. Build quote-sharing into your calendar. The best way to make sure you reap benefits of well-thought-out quote posting without over-doing it is to include it in your calendar. Choose a day of the week to be your quote-sharing day and experiment with hashtags like #WednesdayWisdom or #ThoughtfulThursday.
  1. Always brand your quote images. Even if the quote doesn’t come from you or someone in your company, it’s still out there representing you and needs to be branded accordingly. Work with your design team to create a template that incorporates your website URL and possibly your logo in every quote image.

Where to Go From Here

Just because gauzy, breezy, feel-good inspirational quotes get higher than usual engagement, it doesn’t mean they’re working for your brand. In many cases, the opposite is true and they could wind up hurting your reputation.

On the other hand, quote sharing done thoughtfully, creatively, and with respect can grow your own thought leadership and enhance your relationship with your followers. Be selective about the quotes you select and make sure that each one serves a purpose beyond “getting more likes.” Always keep your audience in mind and share true insights that enhance their lives. Most importantly, make sure every quote you post serves your brand well and advances your content marketing strategy.

And yes, you can quote me on that.