Content Challenge: You Can Only Get it Here

Part of the content conundrum for brands is figuring out what kind of content customers would find cool, desirable, and relevant. The mere fact many brands have no idea what this content might be is, in itself, pretty alarming. You’d have to have a pretty thorough lack of involvement with and understanding of your customers to not know what they might like.

But despite what should be a great awakening in which consumers are using every technology and trick in the book to shield themselves from ads and commercials, brand self-obsession continues as marketers concentrate on their message, their campaign, what they want to say, and what they want social users to do.

When individuals conduct themselves in that same fashion on Facebook and Twitter, it gets tiresome and starts losing value pretty quickly. Their posts eventually get hidden. Conversely, friends who post things that consistently entertain or inform, with little self-marketing desperation involved, win the coveted “show all updates” setting.

Of course brands are going to use social to market. It’s pretty much the point of having social in the marketing mix. And yes, people who follow a brand’s Twitter account or “Like” a brand’s Facebook Page implicitly state they want to know what’s going on with that brand’s products and services.

But if you have a Facebook friend that assumes you want every one of her posts to be about what wine she likes (Mitsubishi’s current campaign is even based around weeding out pretentious Facebook friends, then running them over), then you know how it must feel for your fans and followers to get a sales pitch for your crackers or whatever you’re selling every single time.

Is there such a thing as content that doesn’t sell but that still advances the brand and makes the consumer more involved and valuable? Of course. And perhaps there are no better companies than enterprise brands to do it. Enterprise organizations are large enough to go beyond a product and engage readers/viewers at higher, broader levels…communicating expertise across entire sectors, subjects and industries. You’re going from pitchman to news source, and getting full credit for it as the presenter.

A recent GigaOM article pointed out the success a San Francisco-based startup called Crunchyroll is having. Their niche (and they proudly admit it’s a niche) is providing Japanese anime, Korean drama and Asian live action content to countries that can’t get it any other way via licensing deals. Shows are available in HD and on the same day they air in the host country. Crunchyroll not only gets 8 million viewers a month, they have 100,000 paying subscribers at $7-12/month.

Got a point, Mike? I do happen to have one. Crunchyroll illustrates the content opportunity enterprise companies have…which is to determine your “area,” the interest graph of your customers, then provide content that speaks to and satisfies those interests that can’t be found anywhere else. At least not in the same style, or of the same quality, or with the same authority. Do what no one else is doing. Provide what no one else is providing in your sector.

If underserved users are willing to pay monthly for access to awkwardly moving cartoon dragons, imagine the audience you could attract with free, useful, non-sales content in your customers’ area of interest. It’s an audience you’ll want in place when the time does come to put out that marketing message.

A content challenge is better than a content conundrum any day.


I bookmarked this blog post on the strength of the first six paragraphs. But the Crunchyroll case study is a tad mushy. It is a lot easier for a company whose main product is content to be better at creating content. It's like praising a culinary academy for having a great school cafeteria.

Posted by guest on September 20, 2012 at 12:15 PM EDT #

Good point. What I was using Crunchyroll to illustrate though was not so much the ability to generate quality content (although they don't generate it, they license existing content), but the power that lies in discovering content available only through the presenting brand. 9 times out of 10 this will be original content leveraging the brand's expertise. If they have no unique expertise, well they've got bigger problems than social content.

Posted by Mike Stiles on September 20, 2012 at 02:56 PM EDT #

Thanks for the clarification, Mike, and thanks for writing this article. As for how to effectively mine expertise to create original content, I always fall back on an 2005 Harvard Business Review piece by Jack Shulman who was (is?) director of information design and development at Sony Computer Entertainment (games, I guess). The article was in that issue's "Product Development" section, titled "Revaluing Writing."

Companies spend whatever it takes to develop intellectual assets. At the same time, they routinely seek to minimize their investment in the technical and procedural documents that tell people how to use those assets. Such metainformation as instruction manuals, process descriptions, and procedure guides script the experience of customers and the performance of suppliers and employees. Yet companies view the creation of this information as, at best, a cost of doing business and, at worst, something they can safely ignore. Good writers can change all that. What's more, good writers who are consulted early enough can improve the product development process and, potentially, products themselves.

Posted by Gary Bridgman on September 20, 2012 at 03:18 PM EDT #

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