The Short Version (TL;DR):
Why: social media platforms are increasingly ill-suited to company-driven content marketing efforts and content saturation is increasingly problematic- if you do not reconsider your content marketing strategy, you are likely to flounder with everyone else
How to be “discoverable”: be shareable (not in the way you think), get others to talk about you (brand advocates, relevant press coverage and other influencers, etc.), be both persistent and consistent, and most importantly – be a brand your audience wants to engage with
The Problem(s) with Content Marketing Efforts Today
Jay Baer of Convince and Convert makes an extremely compelling case for brands to continue to distribute content via social media, but for their primary focus to be engaging customer communities on owned media.
In his presentation “It’s Time to Own Your Social Community”—he talks about the limits social media platforms can place on who is able to view your content (in order to incentivize you to pay to promote that content). This is a similar but not identical sentiment to Sonia Simone’s article on CopyBlogger “Digital Sharecropping: The Most Dangerous Threat to Your Content Marketing Strategy.” Here, Sonia’s argument is more broad: these channels are just generally outside of your control. Maybe they’ll charge you more for your content to be more visible (as Jay Baer noted), or maybe they’ll just fade in prominence (as Digg has)- either situation results in a significant dip in your content marketing ROI. Sonia also provides three simple tips for maintaining a strong ROI for your content marketing efforts.
Content Marketing Institute recently addressed this issue as well, in the context of Basecamp moving its blog Signal v Noise to the Medium platform. You can hear about it in their “This Old Marketing” podcast from the end of last month: “This Week in Content Marketing: Sure, Social Media Platforms Will Never Change.”
But there’s yet another reason social media platforms are suboptimal channels.
In “Shotguns Trump Rifles” Jay Baer very aptly points out that you are not only competing with your competitors on social media, but your customers’ friends and family, their cultural interests (e.g. sports, celebrities, news), etc. He sums it up in one sentence: “Nobody says ‘My favorite part of social media is companies participating in it.’”
Stacked on top of all of this is the sheer volume of content being put in front of people every day. The idea of content saturation has been around for several years already so I won’t belabor the point. If you want a bit of background on it, check out this article from Mark Shaefer: http://www.businessesgrow.com/2015/11/11/content-shock-is-here/ (I find the average shares graphs particularly compelling).
The Future of Successful Content Marketing
I’ve already hinted at one element to overcoming these problems – changing the way you think about social media. You want to cultivate relationships with influencers, create brand ambassadors, and others who can help promote your company for you. One way to do that is to draw customers, influencers, etc. in to an engaging community. Your Facebook or Twitter following, your LinkedIn community, all of these groups need to be transitioned to something you own. Whether this is a Slack channel or email digest or podcast subscription or something else entirely will depend upon your audience.
Once you’ve demonstrated value within your community, be explicit in encouraging members to share what they loved most with their colleagues and friends. Your goal at this point should be to get community members excited enough about the value your content provides that they help “recruit” others to join the community.
So how do you demonstrate that energizing value?
Interactive content is engaging, which gives you an edge on static content, but that alone isn’t enough. Shareable content must include at least one and usually more of the following characteristics: it’s useful to its target audience, it’s entertaining, it showcases both your brand’s message and its personality, and it is new (useful information is less likely to be seen as valuable if it seems dated, even if it’s still 100% accurate).
What makes your content “discoverable” rather than “shareable” is that you want folks to feel like they’ve lucked out and stumbled across something great when they engage your content, not just be amused and click ‘share’ and move on with their lives.
The emphasis is not on going viral (which only creates awareness anyway) but on steadily increasing the size and engagement of your audience.
Finally, persistence and consistency are key. If you stop creating content, it will be harder for your community to be effective at bringing new members in- as the existing content will just get increasingly stale. If your publishing schedule is unpredictable or much worse if your content quality is variable, you’ll find it gets harder to keep your community’s level of anticipation for the next piece of content high. Falling short on either persistence or consistency will lead to a less engaged community.
Do you still have questions about why you need to rethink your content marketing strategy?
Contact us to learn more about why content saturation isn’t the only problem you need to be prepared to address in 2016.