Timing is everything in business. Business leaders want to embrace innovations the moment before they become profitable business strategy or execution. That goes for most social media-based business solutions.
Most annual social media predictions are loose stabs at what may happen and often range from the obvious, “20-whatever is the year of mobile,” to the interesting, “2012 will/won’t be the year of Google+.”
With hard-to-read economic indicators, business leaders don’t need broad meditations on what might happen but rather ways of more precisely anticipating change and what they might do to take advantage of that change. For teh next few posts, I aim to deliver practical predictions complete with my suggestions on what brands ought to do. I have also narrowed my focus to quarters to help with understanding timing.
The first in the series is a potentially big shift in marketing and communications.
Comprehensive content marketing finds its value
With more than 30 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook every month and the steady increase in Google searches, people are hungrily sharing content they find relevant. Still most major marketers do not have a big, grand approach to content marketing. Bright spot exceptions include American Express’ Small Business site, Open; Intel’s Free Press and General Mill’s Tablespoon.
Many marketers predict that “content strategy” will eclipse or become the driver for advertising strategy. As the pressure continues to build on advertisers to deliver more and more relevant advertising (i.e. content) and marketers look to engage customers and stakeholders directly via social networks (i.e. content sharing platforms), we will see two efforts lead to the same result – brands adopting more sophisticated content strategies and practices to serve their customers.
There are two barriers in the way: a simple way to understand the business value of content marketing and organizational inertia. We just don’t have an easy formula to evaluate the business impact (sales + preference + brand/reputation + customer value) of great content programs. Yet everyday, we are learning about what content our customers value on Facebook. We post content. They post content. They like/comment/share on piece of content more than another and that tells what is valuable.
Combine the network effect of the average Facebook user (and their 130 friends) passing along content links with the “google-juice” of a great content reservoir like Open or the reach partnerships available with media companies like Vice Media (see The Creator's Project, their partnership with Intel here).
2012 will bring major marketers more usable value metrics to understand why they might shift spend from traditional marketing activities (e.g. traditional ad creative vs. new ad-as-content creative).
Do:The penalty for not aggressively developing a comprehensive content strategy that drives interactions with customers no matter where you meet them won’t be felt immediately. This is an innovators game and those marketers who want to rely on the reliable won’t lose their job over this one. For the marketing innovators, start by finding those topics that naturally intersect with your customers/stakeholders and the brand.
American Express helps its small business customers with content about running small business (not just how to leverage card services). General Mills goes beyond the benefits of Betty Crocker foods to offer a collection of highly shareable ‘quick recipes.’ What is that natural intersection between what customers need and the benefits of your brand or the solutions it makes possible?
- Research what terms people use when they search for related topics
- Build content for your website, blog and social media calendar around those topics
- Connect these topics with your communications departments “message platform” so they are reinforced in their public relations efforts
- Feed the topics to the advertising team to either use in supporting copy or, gasp, to actually drive the creative concept
- Content Marketing Institute - from the strategic to the mind-numbingly tactical, this content source has great suggestions for applying content marketing to business
- Chief Content Officer group on LinkedIn – clearly a bunch of marketers have gotten the message for how important content’s role in business will be
Timing: This is a marathon but one to get started in 1stQ 2012. There is a little of a first-mover advantage at stake here. I could easily argue that American Express did not own the attention of small businessmen/women, but their persistence with Open may have changed that.