Seriously, It’s Time to Get Your Content Act Together

spectrumBranded content, content marketing, social content, brand journalism, we’re seeing those terms more and more. Why?

The technology tools are coming together. We should know. We can gather big data, crunch it, listen to the public, moderate, respond, get to know the customer intimately, know what they like, know what they want, we can target, distribute, amplify, measure engagement and reaction, modify strategy and even automate a great deal of all that.

An amazing machine, a sleek, smooth-running engine has been built such that all the parts can interact and work together to deliver peak performance and maximum output. But that engine isn’t going anywhere without any gas. Content is the gas.

Yes, we curate other people’s content. We can siphon their gas. There’s tech to help with that too. But as for the creation of original, worthwhile content made for a specific audience, our audience, machines can’t do that…at least not yet. Curated content is great. But somebody has to originate the content for it to be curated and shared. And since the need for good, curated content is obviously large and the desire to share is there, it’s a winning proposition for a brand to be a consistent producer of original content.

And yet, it feels like content is an issue we’re avoiding. There’s a reluctance to build a massive pipeline if you have no idea what you’re going to run through it. The C-suite often doesn’t know what content is, that it’s different from ads, where to get it, who makes it, how long it should be, what the point of it is if there’s no hard sell of the product, what it costs, how to use it, how to measure it, how to make sure it’s good, or how to make sure it will keep flowing. It could be the reason many brands aren’t pulling the trigger on socially enabling the enterprise.

And that’s a shame, because there are a lot of creative, daring, experimental, uniquely talented entertainers and journalists chomping at the bit to execute content for brands. But for many corporate executives, content is “weird,” and the people who make it are even weirder. The content side of the equation is human. It’s art, but art that can be informed by data.

The natural inclination is for brands to turn to their agencies for such creative endeavors. But agencies are falling into one of two categories. They’re failing to transition from ads to content. In “Content Era, What’s the Role of Agencies?” Alexander Jutkowitz says agencies were made for one-hit campaigns, not ongoing content. Or, they’re ready and capable but can’t get clients to do the right things. Agencies have to make money, even if it means continuing to do the wrong things because that’s all the client will agree to.

So what we wind up with in the pipeline is advertising, marketing-heavy content, content that was obviously created or spearheaded by non-creative executives, random & inconsistent content, copy written for SEO bots, and other completely uninteresting nightmares. Frank Rose, author of “The Art of Immersion,” writes, “Content without story and excitement is noise pollution.”

In the old days, you made an ad and inserted it into shows made by people who knew what they were doing. You could bask in that show’s success and leverage their audience. Now, you are tasked with attracting, amassing and holding your own audience. You may just want to make, advertise and sell your widgets. But now there’s a war on for a precious commodity, attention. People are busy. They have filters to keep uninteresting and irrelevant things out. They value their time and expect value back when they give it up. Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, says, "Your customers don't care about you, your products, your services…they care about themselves, their wants and their needs."

Is it worth getting serious about content and doing it right? 61% of consumers feel better about a company that delivers custom content (Custom Content Council). Interesting content is one of the top 3 reasons people follow brands on social (Content+). 78% of consumers think organizations that provide custom content want to build good relationships with them (TMG Custom Media). On the B2B side, 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company info in a series of articles vs. an ad.

So what’s the hang-up? Cited barriers to content marketing are lack of human resources (42%) and lack of budget (35%). 54% of brands don’t have a single on-site, dedicated content creator. And only 38% of brands have a content marketing strategy.

Tech has built the biggest, most incredible stage for brands that’s ever been built. Putting something on that stage is your responsibility. Do a bad show, or no show at all, and you’ll be the beautiful, talented actress that never got discovered.

@mikestiles
Photo: Gabriella Fabbri, stock.xchng

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