(Note: This is based on one of the prompts from Robert S. Kaplan’s book What You’re Really Meant to Do.)
I’ve been doing content marketing for over 10 years, in some form. As I’ve said on a number of “get to know you” phone calls, that’s changed a lot over the years. It used to be about blogs, RSS and wikis. Then social networks started popping up and we needed to incorporate them. Then those social networks started adding photos, then videos and so on. So the platforms that have hosted the end result of the strategy I and my colleagues would develop certainly changed over time.
The skills and mindset necessary to do the job, both on a strategic and tactical level, also changed over time. Here are a few examples of how.
When I started out, it was mostly about text. Blogs offered writers a great outlet for their skills and if you were a decent writer you could get noticed in the early days. Eventually Flickr caught on with photographers and YouTube with video producers, but before mobile prevalence adding media to either was clunky, at best, and had to be done after the fact for the most part.
Eventually, though, the rise of Instagram along with more multimedia adoption by Twitter and Facebook along with YouTube’s mobile functionality meant text wasn’t enough anymore. People clearly responded more to photos, videos and eventually GIFs and that had to become part of the thinking that went into all content creation. That became even more important as Snapchat and other messaging apps that were built almost solely around media rose to mass adoption status. It wasn’t just about the update, it was about what graphic would accompany that update.
Get Over Content Permanence
Blogs and social networks promised you the ability to build up a whole history online. You could look back days, weeks, months and years to see what you’d posted and take it all as a portfolio with you wherever you went. We trained an entire group of young people to be careful what they posted online because it was going to follow them their entire lives. There were massive debates over whether to delete posts and how to mark edited posts to draw attention to the most relevant updates.
Again, tools like Snapchat have upended what used to be the law of the land. Now these shots you’re spending hours planning and setting up are gone in a heartbeat, as soon as they’re consumed. There’s no archive to go back to. The rules and best practices around creation might be the same, but there’s no record of it after it’s sent out to the audience. It’s lost, like teardrops in the rain…
Dig Deep Into the Audience
Let’s be clear, there was never really a time when knowing nothing about the target audience was acceptable. But now the extensive nature of the metrics and insights that are available either natively on social platforms or through third-party tools means there’s no excuse to not know a lot about who it is that’s connected with you on those networks and who’s interacting with the content being published.
That’s exactly what clients expect. “I’m not sure” is a terrible answer because the numbers are right there. It means things can be planned better and content more targeted for maximum appeal. It also means you’re that much further on the hook if things don’t turn out fantastically. It’s now table stakes for anyone at any level of a content marketing program to be able to navigate Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and other tools to extract audience data.
Pay Up to Achieve Reach
Remember the halcyon days of the social web, when all you needed to succeed was good content that was search-optimized? I know I do. But those days are long gone. Search is no longer the primary way people find what they’re watching or viewing, replaced by social networks. And those networks are increasingly putting restrictor plates in the form of feed algorithms in place to decide what is “important” for people to see based on mysterious factors.
As part of that, the promise has been that if you want to escape the shackles of the restricted feed all you have to do as a publisher is open your wallet. If you don’t, you’re saying you’re happy with reaching 1-2% of the audience you spent years building up on Facebook or elsewhere, versus the 8-10% that could be yours for a few sponsorship dollars. Again, content marketing pros at all levels now need to be well versed in the paid promotion options offered by social networks so they can make appropriate recommendations to their clients.
Do you have any further thoughts? What do you think has changed the most in your job over the last few years?