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.

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.

Ashley Madison and the Case for In the Moment Marketing

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Sh*t is getting ready to hit the fan again. Just now on Twitter I was curious about the Ashley Madison scandal. So I did a trending hashtag search on the topic. I found it fascinating how it kind of exposed sunlight to the other side of or the ugly side of the web where people like to play, preferrably in the dark. Pun intended.

Think Bitcoins and Silk Road but in the name of cheating…

For those in the know, this is just another notch in the belt of just how “nonprivate” your privacy is and how your data is, for wont of a better analogy, nothing more than sargassum seaweed. It’s there, there’s a lot of it and it can be found by anyone virtually anywhere at any time.

Except this time, the hack is different because it involves sex and outing some people who might have preferred to have had their dark digital selves kept just that, in the dark. For the uninitiated, you’re thinking might be, Ashley Madison is a website for what? People who want to cheat? Seriously?

At which point, your initial reaction might be:

  • You mean there’s a website for something like that?
  • It’s user base is how many?
  • These people actually thought their data would be safe?

Yea, I’m with you on all accounts. That’s today’s web. There’s a tribe and a site for everyone. Those that play on this side of the tracks and yes those that prefer to play on the other side of the tracks. The digital underbelly.

Meanwhile, what struck me as interesting about all of this, was the usage of in the moment marketing. Particularly, it was a paid search placement on Twitter on behalf of crisis management.

See Below:

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So what was it? Smart marketing PR? Or a troll like activity? A good usage of social media monitoring your key words? Or is it digital ambulance chasing? I haven’t decided yet what it was. Maybe all of the above.

Does Engagement Equal Action? Should it?

Yesterday on an early morning flight to Detroit, I watched as the flight attendants went throughout the cabin pushing food and drink on the passengers. The passengers were prompted to look on page 26 of the inflight magazine to view what was available and what the cost was. When the flight attendants came to each row, the passenegers either looked up and told her no, looked up and told her yes and what they wanted, or never looked up. So how does the apply to social media marketing or even digital marketing?

Example #1. Let’s say you got the passenger to view what was on page 26 by tweeting the link. They clicked through but they didn’t buy. You now have some customer data so you know they were interested but they still didn’t buy. Would we call that enagagement? Through social media? Were there KPI’s that were met?

Example #2. The passenger views a YouTube video on what is being sold inflight. An hour after seeing the video, they buy a Coke. Engagement through social media? Measureable?

Example #3. The passenger here’s the message, reads the magazine, sees the tweet and views the video, and does nothing. Were they engaged?

I think sometimes we confuse social media impressions as a KPI. In social media, Engagement should be better defined with some type of actionable, measureable outcome. If someone clicks on a tweeted link and reads a blog post that prompts them to buy, but they don’t buy right away-Was it an actionable event? It’s actionable and measureable but generally it’s not measured because the action did not take place right then.

The waters in social media are warm and inviting to marketers but if they don’t better define what a successful outcome is and don’t better understand the subtle effect of an engaged action that takes place “later”-then they are going to always be dissapointed.