At what point do consumers push back, unfriend, unfollow, unplus and whatever else?
This does not spell the end for social media, but there is a common thought in the digital universe that goes like this: create relevant content and consumers will continue to connect with your brand. It's not a zero-sum game and it's not an all-encompassing strategy. It may be in marketers vested interest to adjust that theory to this: create relevant content and your heavy users may continue to connect with your brand. If brands do that last part better, those people (call them advocates, brand evangelists or whatever) may help make your idea spread. That being said, don't kid yourself into thinking that this content marketing strategy alone will reap the same rewards that traditional advertising has done in helping a message reach a much broader audience with a significantly higher level of repetition. The two models are not interchangeable and one cannot replace the other.
It's all a little much, isn't it?
How many branded connections points do consumers need with a brand. You buy a product and the expectation from the brand is that you follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook, watch their videos on YouTube, and so on and so on and so on and so on. It's a major commitment from consumers, and brands are pushing for this direct relationship on a constant basis. Of course, this is a prime directive and, of course, having that direct relationship is the most important thing a brand can do in this day and age, but understand what the exchange of value is from the consumer's side. What are they truly getting out of the relationship? Yesterday, MediaPost posted a news item titled, Forrester: Marketers Should Talk Less, Design More, that states: "A new report from Forrester says that while marketers may be increasingly proficient at reaching out to consumers through new technologies including social and mobile, they need to figure out how to talk less and design more. While overwhelming consumers with chatter is already a problem, with 53% of online adults already saying they're annoyed by the amount of advertising they see and 37% saying that they would rather not be contacted frequently by brands, marketer blabbing is about to explode."
Beyond the marketing message.
I am often asked why I wrote the book CTRL ALT Delete (which comes out on May 21st, 2013) as if the book is some kind of follow-up to Six Pixels of Separation or another book on social media. It's not. The book (and the crux of what the MediaPost news item and Forrester report is screaming) is about how much businesses will have to reboot how they think about consumers and the engagements that they truly want to have with a brand. Right now, the vast majority of brands are simply using all of these amazing channels to connect with consumers, but they have become a pumping ground for a marketing message. Very few of them are thinking about utilitarianism marketing and even fewer are thinking about the overall experience of the products and services (or, as the news item calls it, the "design"). Marketers create messaging around campaigns. Few marketers elevate their thinking to a macro brand play and how it engenders the overall economic value to the business strategy.
It's more than content.
If you look at the larger shifts in consumer behavior (everything from how they shop, socialize, connect, share and inform themselves), it seems somewhat simplistic to shift ad dollars to content marketing dollars. While it's not as dramatic as shuffling the chairs on the Titanic, that strategy does not embody a better sense of building loyalty through value, credibility, trust and a true care about how to make the consumer's lives better. Brands used to blog because it was cheap, easy and fast to do. Blogs never replaced any other form of media, did it? For the majority of brands it was a tool of augmentation and not replacement. In fact, they just replaced their blogs with Twitter feeds and Facebook pages.
It is my belief, that content is the new advertising. It is my belief that content is media for many brands. All of that is still a small component of the bigger marketing picture. Defining the true design of the brand, the value it brings beyond the actual sale of a product or service, how it contextually adds utility to the consumer and how it operates in a world where consumers are getting ever-better at regulating, monitoring and throttling these messages. This will be the true marketing imperative going forward.
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