ode to content

October 20, 2009 ·

content. i've been talking a lot about that lately. around all facets of clients' business, but mainly social media and search. it's the great enabler. let me explain.

let's start by settling a debate (or at least dismissing it). the debate rages about what's king: content or conversation. why do we have to crown something? they're not mutually exclusive and the real value of one isn't realized without the other.

without content, conversations have little to form around. without conversation around content, you're missing a key point of engagement and enhancement. not everyone wants to converse, but everyone wants to consume content. but the conversation is what you've earned and who we identify as being advocates, likely to work hard for the brand.

so let's stop declaring kings (much like we need to stop titling things as 'killers' - another post altogether). neither is the end, both are just components to the bigger picture.

with that put to rest, let's get back to talking content. i don't think it gets enough attention amidst the vast deluge of social media discourse out there. same in the search world. in social media, it is that which conversations are based on. in search, it is that which makes a link relevant to a keyword or consumer interest. in both cases, a brand has no license to partake without the appropriate content (we'll get to the ever important 'appropriate' part later).

previously, all content consisted of, from an advertiser viewpoint, was their ads. to varying degrees of branding, it was paid attention getting, whether wholly produced by the company or in a muddy way with publishers (advertorials). wither way, it was one-way and dictative. any resulting (minuscule amounts of) conversations were entirely brand-centric. very few were talked about and in a very limited way.

the new marketing world is shifting in what the definition of content is. the models for accommodating that are not yet (yet another entirely new post). ads are just one form of content, and a decreasingly influential one as the are now.

-related aside-
(i'm a heavy bracket user, but this needed more than what i think is an acceptable amount of bracketed words)
ads have evolved (if you want to call it that) to be jumbled messages of heavy marketing that are highly polished and mostly devoid of real deep consumer interest. they've become formulaic, outmoded, overly commercial and corporate in nature and rarely engaging. the typical names rise as exemptions to this epidemic: apple, nike and a select few others who have a moment of breakthrough. discerning, trained to tune-out consumers have less attention to give to these staid messages and our investment erodes in value. as content, as sociable spring boards, these types of ads are low probability contenders.
-end aside-

other content falls in three camps: 1) brand produced 2) consumer produced, brand shared 3) other content producer made, brand shared.

1) brand produced
it's just that. anything non-mass channel message that brand funds the production of. could be video, picture, podcast, whatever. it is typically (or at least should be) subtle on the brand integration and not heavy-handed with the selling. they are 'feel-good-about-the-brand' pieces made for pure enjoyment and sharing.

2) consumer produced, brand shared
what a place to be. consumers have taken to your brand and made something about it. where it turns into brand content is when it's celebrated by sharing it through a brand's channels.

3) other produced, brand shared
there's countless pieces of content that is professionally made that unto themselves are interesting. it's tapping into these affinity areas where we can align our brands to consumer interests and build our personality that way. could be an interesting show, video clip, song, whatever a brand can exploit to build conversations and sharing around the brand.

to address the appropriateness side of content, well it needs to be that. duh. it's not just developing or sharing any ole piece of content, rather it is doing it in a way that fits with the brand character.

content is essentially a doorway to participation. brands are brokers of content. their facilitation of it enables them to be included in the dialogue between consumers in the world of social and gain favorability by doing so. in the search world, brands can fully capitalize on consumer interests and drive traffic to their various outposts.

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