Content-The Struggle is Real

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The short definition of a content strategist, is essentially the person who is charged with keeping the company interesting. Of course the longer definition has to do with content calendars and working with agencies and teams and departments and writers and designers. The reality is that yesterday’s content is gone, today’s will last until about 9 pm tonight and tomorrow is a new day.

The content struggle is real because people don’t want to read anymore. Let’s face it, it’s all about the Gram, and it’s a Gram world and we’re all just living in it. Go look at your metrics or anyone’s metrics, the best stuff? It’s video. Let’s talk about the monolith in the room, Facebook, which has the largest audience of any social network at more than 2.07 billion monthly active users. Did you know that around 100 million hours of video are watched every day on Facebook? Or that more than 250 billion photos have been uploaded to Facebook? That equates to 350 million photos per day. See my point? See what the content strategist is competing with every single day? Content resets every day and UGC (User generated content) is the clear winner.

The overall point to remember about Facebook is that people come to share, to be distracted and to be entertained. In other words, if your plan as a brand is to share cat videos, you’ve got a shot.. For example, the “How to wrap your cat for Christmas 101” video,  has gotten more than 100 million views and over a 1 million shares. That’s what you’re dealing with. We have become visual animals.

 

It is no surprise that ‘32% of marketers say visual images are the most important form of content for their business,’ and why Instagram has such a high number of engagement.

That’s right, the users, their behavior, and social media sites as a whole have evolved. The real question though is, have brands evolved along with the social platforms? Social media has become such a critical part of business growth, that it can make or break the future of your organization. Getting it right as a channel component in your marketing mix is tantamount to driving successful brand awareness and consideration. To underestimate it’s power and effectiveness is akin to saying that you don’t care what your customers do even though I’m going to show you what they do, how they do it and what they say and what they say about you…

The pace at which social media has evolved is such that most marketers and consumers still don’t fully grasp the fundamental shift it’s created in the way we do business. That being said, it comes down to content and it comes down to compelling content. Visual content. Content that engages. Content that entertains. Cat videos… At the end of the day, what you say can get lost if it’s behind something or supported by something that has ZERO perceived value (or entertainment) by the user.

As soon as marketers realize that social media is a zero sum game in which the push to gain our attention will be simultaneously negated and augmented by the push to divert our attention, they’ll start to understand the strategic and tactical implications of creating content that lasts longer than 24 hours.

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Why Social Media Will Challenge Marketers in 2019

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What are people thinking? What were they thinking? Who’s doing the thinking? Why are they thinking that? In 2007 when I joined Twitter, those were not front of mind questions for those of us using the social network for the first time. In 2019? That’s exactly why we go to Twitter. It’s a pulse check.

In 2007, when I joined Facebook, it was all about the one degree of separation between you, and who you knew. Now it’s about so many “other” things besides you and yet, in 2019, it still comes back to you, particularly when we have to synthesize the latest batch of Facebook data privacy breaches. Clearly, this is not your mother’s Facebook.

As most marketers know by now, we are pretty far removed from “the what” and “the why” these platforms were built for in the first place. The way social networks are utilized now both from a marketing standpoint and a UX standpoint, has undergone an almost 360 degree change since those early years. They are nearly unrecognizable. Those that were there in the early days, will be the first to admit that indeed, the times have changed for Twitter. Couple that with how Linkedin is now being used on an every-day basis, the evolution of Instagram, and the rapid adoption of Snap, and the choices and the ways that consumers want to communicate, have never been as diverse and complex.

In my opinion as soon as marketers came to the social media party en masse, the dynamics changed forever. People often say that it’s the users who determine how a social network is used, and that might be true, but it’s the marketers who determine how a social network is consumed.  Here’s the best way I can put it and this isn’t far off either. Let’s say you and some friends go to this awesome club in a perfect location, it has unreal musical performances, cool people abound, chill atmosphere, great unique food that works, real comfortable seating, never crowded, killer beer list, etc etc. OK, you get the picture. Now let’s say a promoter takes over, or marketing steps up and in. The word is out on the street. If the marketers were any good, the place is overrun with new people. Lot’s of people. Lot’s of different people with different tastes, opinions, needs and wants. The club now has a choice. Does it want to stay that cool hip joint that only the cool hip people know about? Or does is want to grow, expand and thrive?  It has to adapt or die, embrace change or lose relevancy, right?

The club will never be the same for the early adopters. In name, it’s still the club, but the old guard will always gripe about the way it used to be, and the new guard just drowns them out because this is the way it is now. Sound like a familiar story?

The new club fits the needs and demands of its most ardent and current users. It is still relevant today because of its location. So as things around it evolve, it too must evolve. As such, those that go there, change, adapt and or move on.

That’s the current state of social networks. they’ve changed not only for those that built them but also for those that were there in the very beginning and fell in love with the naked conversations that were plentiful. Has it changed for marketers and advertisers? Absolutely. Is it just as valuable to marketers now as it was then? Absolutely. Just different, more diverse and more complex. Data notwithstanding, today’s social media user is a lot more hip and comfortable on the platforms in which they hang.

Through their maturity, or immaturity, depending on how you want to look at the current list of dominant social networks, it’s become fairly evident that each channel has evolved into what they are and what they are going to be. The challenge for the user, whether they are a marketer or not, is to really understand the nuances of what is happening on each network. Step back and really look at how they are used. There is a rhythm to each, and in order to assimilate or merge into this non-stop, virtual stream of oncoming traffic, the tactics that are used to thrive and survive, have to be different.

That’s what is changing from network to network. How you post, what you post, what you say and how you say it, it’s different and it has to be different. This includes the paid game.  Social networks have evolved and or devolved depending on how you use them. For millennials, the levels of transparency can sometimes be frightening to Gen X, Gen Y, and Boomers. For them,  it’s akin to using snow tires in the summer or deciding to pop and lock in the middle of an upscale restaurant. They wouldn’t do it but for marketers the game is all about impressions, reach, engagement and conversions. So everything is considered. The bar has been raised to ridiculous heights in 2019 and the goal is to grab attention and or “get noticed” or “go viral,” if so, go for it, but know this, it’s not sustainable.

The complexity of our world and our society dictate that we become more flexible. This extends to how we use social networks. For marketers to thrive, they have to quit assuming that just because they know your name, that that allows them to cop a feel anytime they want. This is where analytics can only get you so far. To thrive in 2019 in social media, marketers have to possess equal amount of understanding networks, people, data, empathy, systems and what the end game is or should be.

In closing, I’ll use this last analogy. Picture social networks as the events at a track meet. A sprinter cannot run the distance races. The pole vaulter isn’t going to throw the shot put. Each race is different and requires different types of people. Each race requires a unique set of tactics, speed, strength, and or endurance. The ultimate goal though is to win but you have to train. Though you might win, coming in second or third isn’t so bad. You are measured, you are benchmarked and then you try again. By season’s end, you should be at your peak and be ready to compete, challenge and hopefully win. Better tools, better coaches, better conditions, equipment, they all factor in. But sometimes, someone comes out of nowhere and can shock the world. It can happen. It has happened. We’ll just have to see. Until then, embrace the change and stay relevant in 2019 by keeping your eyes and ears open and knowing that your ability to pivot will serve you and your org well.

Why Snapchat Content and the Longevity of Social Media Content are so Similar

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Follow me here. The principal concept of Snapchat is that pictures and messages are only available for a short time before they become inaccessible. They become obsolete if you will.

When a brand pushes out a “piece” of social media content, they’re hoping that content will move the needle in the form of a standard KPI, i.e. mentions, likes, favorites or followers. How long are brands hoping that content will last? Certainly 24 hours. Then they rinse and repeat, right?

Recently in a MIT Sloan Management post, I read the following in regards to business value in creating social media content:

How can businesses and others reverse this trend and reap more enduring benefits from social media? For starters, it will take a fundamental change in focus.

What most people/brands don’t understand is that users and consumers have been conditioned to consume content in snackable bits now. Their attention spans have been reduced to anywhere from 12 seconds to 24 hours and they move on. Brands have to act accordingly.

Particularly when a brand has about 15 seconds to get someone’s attention when they land on their website, the words and images become that much more important and impactful when trying to derive an action.

The need to have an over-arching strategy to every social media platform is not only a key to success but it should be a mandate. Does that mean a brand should use them? No. But marketers need to understand how each platform relates to not only what they want to do but also in how it might relate to its current customers but future prospects. What do the people want? Give it to them.

It’s not so much the what as it is the how. That means twitter content will not necessarily play well on Facebook and or Facebook content will not necessarily work on Linkedin-particularly after LinkedIn’s latest site changes*

What we’re experiencing right now thanks to the Snapchat generation* is that brands are being forced to create content, messages, and strategies that become antiquated in less than six months. If it’s about branding and creating awareness and thought leadership, then there is indeed an intense pressure to be interesting every day.

I used to say that digital obsolescence only applied to products and platforms but now it appears that it now applies to content itself.

Clearly, marketers and brands have got to elevate their game of being interesting and compelling every day at midnight.

 

 

The Attention Economy is Distracting Me

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Twitter has the RT button and the favorite button. Linkedin has an endorse button, Facebook has a like button and G+ has the plus.  I know you “get” what they all do, at least you should, but I have a question for you.  Aren’t all of those social buttons just surface level engagement triggers that require little or no engagement by the user and the recipient? Yes? No?

Of course they are, and I’m OK with it  and you should be too. Let me explain. I’ll keep it brief.  🙂

When you notice or have been notified that you have been liked or favorited or endorsed, what changes for you? How do you react? Do you feel that you now must reciprocate? Do you like the attention you just received? Was it your goal to get attention? Do you care? Do you feel anything or do you just move on? It all depends on who it is, right? For me, I try to take time to understand the why behind the why. Why did that person do what they just did? What were they trying to elicit from me? Why me? But maybe I’m looking too deeply into the action than the action itself really deserves? I think I am.

You see, because of the volume of content that one is subjected to each and every day, at least from my standpoint, the ability to give that content or source, all of the needed attention it made greatly deserve, is greatly diminished. The best you might get from me as I race past your stuff at 100 mph, is the virtual equivalent of a nod.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to read your stuff, it’s just that the best you can get from me right now is a like or a star or a favorite.

The only slight little problem with that “action,” is that by allowing people to click a like or favorite button, we unknowingly might be reducing true engagement and the possibility of an actual, ok semi-actual, conversation.

The irony though, is that we (marketers) still look at that piece of user/consumer data as being really valuable; and don’t get me wrong, it does have a use and value. It’s just that we’re so desperate for good social data, that we’re willing to create, support and proactively use a somewhat worthy and somewhat hollow metric that is The Like, The RT, The Endorse and The Favorite.

What those buttons really measure is a modicum of attention, a flicker of action and the “hope” of engagement.  So why are we suckers for clicking on them?  For the majority of users, NOT clicking the button means that they might NOT get something for their time and effort. For the rest of us, clicking is the least (or maybe the most) that can we do in this always on, multi-channel, multi-device world.

I do want to read your stuff, I really do. I just don’t have an answer for you yet on how I can add your content to the 32 tabs I have open, Besides, I’m too busy looking at someone’s profile who I don’t know, endorsing me for a skill I don’t have on Linkedin. :).

When Does Social Media Really Work?

The beauty of social media isn’t in the online connections.  It’s not about the numbers, never has been.  OK,  maybe it is to marketers, but that’s because they operate from a different perspective.  No the beauty of social media is in it’s potential.  It’s potential to connect people from divergent backgrounds or in the same city or that have the same common interests.  It can really connect people in infinite ways.   That may seem somewhat preachy or full of green meadows, unicorns and rainbows but it’s true.

Recently in the Wall Street Journal, there was an article titled , Why Successful Branding Still Happens Offline.  The article was good but it was really similar to a thousand other articles that I have read over the years about how brands need to do this or that in social in order to be successful.  As I neared the end of the piece, I read the following:

The great social wave is an opportunity that no business can afford to ignore or look at myopically. It’s happening all around us – and to the continuing surprise of many, it’s mostly happening face-to-face

I’ve said the first part of that sentence, again, a thousand times about ignoring social at your own peril, blah, blah,blah.  But the back half of the sentence struck a nerve.  It’s mostly happening face to face.  Basically where social takes off and takes on magical tones is when we get to associate a name with a physical face and voice and not an avatar.  Going to a conference and meeting that person that you have had tens of twenty or hundreds of conversations with on Twitter or Facebook or blog comments.  That’s the money shot.

Whether you do business with someone online or whatever it is you or your company might do with social, it’s always going to be or should be based on some type of interaction and then some type of result.  Taking social offline should be the goal of every online social media encounter worth its weight.

Relationships In A Socially Connected World

In the New York Times recently there was an article titled, My Dinner With Clay Shirky, and What I Learned About Friendship which I highly recommend. The piece was essentially about an authors  dinner experience with noted writer, speaker, and internet ethnographer Clay Shirky. If you don’t know who Clay Shirky is, go to Amazon and read some excerpts from his two books Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organization and Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.

The gist of the NY Times piece was that if we’re not careful we could spend so much time interacting with people on the Web that we could become a little socially deficient. Ironically, this week we held a social media tweetchat hosted by Jamie Sandford on how one cultivates relationships in a social world. The parallels were neat and not lost on me. On the one hand we had Shirky wanting us to take it offline and on the other, we had a group of people in a tweetchat talking about how to make online connections stronger with the eventuality that we do take them offline.

Complete and utter online social immersion can make us feel like we are so busy with our connections that don’t have time for the offline world. Just as quickly however, if we don’t take the time to balance the two or at least make the attempt to deepen our online relationships we can easily feel the false euphoric high of quantity give us the semblance of relationships. Yet the reality is the payoff rests in face to face interactions.  We spend so much time cultivating our numbers on various social platforms that we begin to think we have “a lot” of “friends”.

Our manufactured  social world allows to think we’re popular until we step out from behind the machine. The point? Even in a connected world, we have to make the effort to cultivate a virtual relationship into something greater than the sum total of the networks that we are part of.