Most people don’t realise that I started my career in the music industry. Prior to my digital marketing ventures, I founded and managed a couple of independent labels and also ran a division of an independent music distributor, writes Jason Heller for MediaPost.
I learned many valuable lessons about business back then, but the one lesson that has best stood up to the test of time was a line that was repeated over and over again by one of the old-timer music industry execs: music (content) is a currency.
Today content is a much more valuable currency than ever before, and if you haven’t ingrained this fundamental principle into your DNA yet, you’d better wake up and get moving.
Content in the Attention Economy
As marketers, we must understand the attention economy. As media proliferates and fragments, attention becomes scarce. Content becomes the conduit to earn consumer attention — the currency, if you will, that creates the marketer’s side of the value exchange.
The cries of “content is king” have reverberated through the halls of agencies and media companies forever. However, too often content value seems to be misinterpreted as production quality and clarity of the marketing message or brand voice. Is “high quality” content actually high quality if it is simply not compelling?
Explicit & Implicit Discoverability
While compelling content buys attention in all media, digital media presents the opportunity of discoverability, one of the unique and most valuable attributes of the Web in general.
Search explicitly matches consumer interest and demand with content and products. Social media, on the other hand, implicitly facilitates discoverability via sharing of compelling and relevant content. Social media both further fragments attention and facilitates discovery of relevant content via the social graph simultaneously. It’s a beautiful thing. The psychological need for human interaction and the mathematics of network theory are powerful forces. Couple that with sharing tools that consumers have become accustomed to and it facilitates sharing at scale. At a certain scale, the content “goes viral.” Folks, need I remind you that “viral” is a result and not a tactic. One of the strategic objectives of every marketer should be to produce compelling content that facilitates sharing and discovery.
Do You Have a Content Strategy?
When planning your company’s content strategy, here are a few vital elements to remember:
Frequency: If content is a currency, you might as well have your own mint and keep it running 24/7. Develop an editorial calendar for your different types of content across owned, earned and paid media. Congratulations – you are now a publisher.
Experientiality: Ok, I just made up that word — but experiential value is a huge driver of engagement with your brand and it facilitates sharing big time. Call it what you will.
Relevance: In order for content to be compelling, it has to be relevant to the consumer. Content should have some tie-in to your product category or the lifestyles in which your product is used.
Voice: Every brand needs to develop a social voice beyond that of the brand voice. Are you going to be funny and witty, serious and informative, irreverent and unexpected? A little of each? Of course, there are some givens – like, humorous content often facilitates sharing. But it has to be on-strategy and is more accepted when in line with your brand’s social voice.
Authenticity: Along the lines of the social voice, consumers want to see the personality behind the brand voice, which by definition is contrived. A little human authenticity goes a long way. Marketers are human too — at least most of us are. There is a place for the brand voice. Know where it belongs and where it doesn’t.
Transparency: Consumers want to feel as if they can trust your brand. They want to know more about the inner workings of the companies they chose to support. Consumers know that they are being marketed to in all facets of media. So don’t hide the fact that you still want their business, but prove that you are willing to earn it. We all make mistakes, and consumers want to know that you acknowledge this when necessary and that you care and learn and apologize. They’ll support you, within reason.
Immediacy: Consumers expect an immediate response to negative news as well as customer service inquiries or complaints. Welcome to the era of real-time marketing. This is a prime example of how PR, customer service and general marketing communications have all converged.
Discoverability: “If you build, it they will come” only works in the movies. Take the time to map out the distribution channels for your content and develop a plan to generate initial exposure. Even compelling content requires a plan to optimize the discoverability within each channel.
Are You a Player or a Spectator?
Most brands are a few months away from 2012 planning. Prioritizing content may be one of the most cost-effective, albeit seemingly unsexy, line items on your next marketing plan, if it is not formally there already.
How do you sell in the cost? Easy. Content as a currency creates the value exchange for consumer attention, which marketers spend billions of dollars for otherwise.
Social media and your content strategy are not replacements for advertising and promotions, but part of a holistic marketing mix that will help to boost consumer engagement, visibility, discoverability, brand perception and trust, which doesn’t come easily these days.
The sky is not falling. Social media is not replacing all other media. However, a notable shift of significant dollars toward direct consumer engagement and the earned media impact that results from sharing and discoverability is underway. Are you a part of it — or still sitting on the sidelines?
I’d love to hear about your experiences using content as a currency or the organizational challenges that may have prevented it. Chime in on the Spin Board or on Twitter.
This article republished by kind permission of www.mediapost.com //www.mediapost.com
Jason Heller is CEO of AGILITI, a consulting firm focused solely on client-side digital marketing operations management, helping clients foster productive relationships with their agencies and empowering clients to take control of their digital strategy. Follow him at @JasonHeller
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