Stock and flow: the master metaphor for your content

“There’s a place for shallow, and a place for deep. Twitter is shallow; blogs are deeper. Articles are deeper yet. Or books—books are real deep.” Charles H Green

I want to introduce you to a really important metaphor. The concept of stock and flow originates from the world of economics but Robin Sloan on the Snarkmarket blog has insightfully linked this to the production of content. For me it’s a simple, smart idea that’s as relevant to marketing today as it ever was to the money markets.

Consider this from Robin:

Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people that you exist.

Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today.

I feel like flow is ascendant these days, for obvious reasons—but we neglect stock at our own peril. I mean that both in terms of the health of an audience and, like, the health of a soul.

(…) I feel like we all got really good at flow, really fast. But flow is ephemeral. Stock sticks around. Stock is capital. Stock is protein.

And the real magic trick is to put them both together. To keep the ball bouncing with your flow—to maintain that open channel of communication—while you work on some kick-ass stock in the back ground. Sacrifice neither. It’s the hybrid strategy.”

I think Robin has hit the nail on the head:  to market our businesses effectively today we need to commit to both stock and flow content and get the balance right:

  • We need to be consistently producing good flow content – well written blog articles, Tweets, LinkedIn or Facebook status updates and newsletters to keep us in the conversation and keep our marketing fresh. Your PR, your advertising – that’s flow too: once in time messages to get your point across. It’s how you tell people about what you do and keep in touch.
  • But we also need a commitment to the production of high quality stock content with a shelf life – the really strong, valuable stuff – useful informative guides, ebooks, whitepapers, research or king of them all – the published book.

We need to be doing both.

Stock and flow in action at Hinge Marketing

Here’s a company that balances the two types of content perfectly. Hinge Marketing is a US firm that helps professional services companies to get their branding and marketing right.

  • Flow: On the Hinge website you will see that they have an award-winning blog. They also produce excellent monthly newsletters and use Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, consistently drip feeding a flow of quality content that proves their knowledge and their expertise and keeps them in our mind’s eye.
  • Stock: Have a look at their library too. Here you’ll find research reports, whitepapers and podcasts and they’ve written the most fantastic book on their subject too – see the Spiraling Up book (I’ll review this here soon – it’s good).

Hinge gets the mix right.

In the early days here at Valuable Content we focused on the flow – with regular blogs, tweets and then a newsletter. With the metaphor in mind, Sharon and I committed to producing some really valuable stock content in the form of a book on our approach – Valuable Content Marketing and e-books too. We know we need a mix of stock and flow to get the most from our content. We help our clients do the same. This balance brings us amazing results in terms of warm inbound leads and sales.

I think the stock and flow metaphor is a really powerful one in relation to content marketing. How about you? Do you produce stock or flow content for your business? Have you got the mix right?

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  1. Elinor Barbary

    Excellent article, Sonja! I agree, people have definitely got the hang of ‘flow’, there is so much excellent content out there it’s hard to keep up. I love what you say about ‘stock’ content, as well. I am currently working on a couple of ‘stock’ products to balance out all the ‘flow’ I produce.

    I think people get a little scared by producing something meatier than a blog post, so it’s worth mentioning how easy it is to transform ‘flow’ into ‘stock’ – collating blog posts on a similar theme into a book, for example, as Charles Green suggested in your interview with him. Baby steps will get you there!

    Thanks for another great article.

  2. Sean McVey

    Wow thank you for the kind words Sonja. Here at Hinge we all know our stock content very well. In fact most people here can recite the stats from our research studies on command because we refer back to them so much. I think it’s a great strategy to have a library of topics you’ve written about. That way when you are in a conversation you can refer to these items and add true value, something that is hard to do without stock.

    I have a question for you: When you write content (stock or flow) do you distribute it consistently through social media, article sites, etc., or do you rely mostly on search engines picking it up? This is something we are debating here and I would love your input. We are thinking we should step up our content promotion. Thanks!

  3. Sonja Jefferson

    Thanks Eli – much appreciated and that’s a sound point. Flow is an excellent base to create good cornerstone stock – as Charlie Green says.

    Hi Sean too. You are very welcome! I love your library strategy and have no doubt that the quality of your stock content adds real value to the companies you deal with. One thing I noticed was that your book is not in your library. It sits well there too in my view.

    Regarding content promotion, the answer is yes – I do distribute our articles consistently across social media: Twitter, LinkedIn and more recently Facebook, as well as through our newsletter to those who opt to follow us that way. We’re starting to syndicate it more widely now too – to selected business focused resource sites in our field. This has already got us results in terms of followers, leads and sales so I’d recommend it highly to you.

    Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

  4. Sean McVey

    Hey Sonja, thanks for the tips. We plan on adding book, webinar, and video sections to our library in the next month or so. Let’s talk offline soon; I’d like to pick your brain about those business focused resource sites. We are also looking to distribute beyond FB, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Talk to you soon.


  5. Lee Frederiksen

    What a nice way to think about managing your content. I like it already. The metaphor itself sort of suggests the appropriate balance.
    Nice suggestion on including the book in the library. We had kept it separate but have concluded that was a bad idea and are in the process of adding it. Thanks for your input.
    Thanks for the kind words…lwf

  6. David Trafford

    When you explained stock and flow to me for the first time a few months back it made immediate sense. In my view the blogs on too many websites contain opinions that may be interesting at the time but nothing you’d want to go back to. Also having a ‘library’ on a site that contains stuff with a long shelf life is, I believe, the right way forward. The challenge is getting the balance right between what’s covered in the blog and what goes in the library.
    Thanks for your insights.

  7. Sonja Jefferson

    Thanks Lee and David.

    David: your own ‘blog’ – is made up of extremely well thought through articles that are more like mini papers in their own right – so perhaps there’s a case for certain types of article being seen as good stock content. Interesting one.

    Thank you for the comment.

  8. Jim O'Connor

    Very useful – the kind of information that not only gives you pause for thought but also gives the reader a clear strategy for action. Thanks Sonja.



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