Yesterday was a pretty interesting day here at the Social Media Insider Summit. It’s not every day that you get to hear an executive walk through the social media efforts of the Obama campaign, have another predict the demise of the Facebook “Like,” and also debate whether tablets really should be part of the mobile category at all, or thought about as their own ecosystem.
Still, one overarching thing strikes me about yesterday's content -- which is, well, content. More than once, the subject was the importance of great content in making a company’s social efforts sing. In the aforementioned presentation about the Obama campaign, one form of popular Obama content in 2008 was “Barns for Obama” which sprung out of one Obama’s supporter’s decision to paint his barn with the campaign logo. The meme helped spread the movement, but the Obama campaign’s agency, Blue State Digital, was smart enough to know a great piece of user-generated content when it saw one..
But, mostly, the talk seemed to be about how difficult it can be for brands, some 52% of which don’t have a coordinated social strategy (per Buddy Media), to build a compelling content strategy; a strategy that will keep customers engaged in the brands-as-publishers era. As one audience member, BuzzFeed’s Andy Wiedlin, said, to some brands, their content “strategy” consists of such prosaic posts as, “What are you doing for Labor Day?”
He’s right. The problem, I think, is that for many brands, such learning curves are enormous -- and tackling such learning curves aren’t exactly a priority, even if they should be. Brands may indeed be publishers, but that doesn’t mean they’re all good at it. For many of them, it’s like they’ve been forced to work on the school newspaper, so they approach the task with dread instead of enthusiasm.
The reasons to embrace the ability to publish are pretty damn compelling, however. If you remain unconvinced that paid ads in social are a winning strategy – or at least, not the be-all and end-all -- then creating content that compels people is a must. They have to want to share, or interact with, the content that brands are putting out there. And creating content isn’t just about text. The popularity of photos on Facebook, and of Pinterest, and of Tumblr, and of Instagram, clearly demonstrate that great content creation is highly visual.
The importance of content really struck me during two different sessions: one on how mobile can monetize itself, and a second session on what lies ahead for Facebook. Ultimately, what the mobile session panelists were focused on is how to leverage mobile in a user-centric way that takes advantage of mobile’s heightened context. Gabriel Cheng, group head of media solutions for mobile shop Ansible, advocated for brands becoming “a companion to the consumer rather than just shotgunning ads everywhere across the mobile Web.” That requires a content strategy.
During the session on the future of Facebook, Alexander Jacobs, vp/director of social marketing at Digitas, pointed out that users see only 16T of what’s in their News Feed, something which Facebook’s Reach Generator is supposed to help advertisers get around because it’s a paid ad program that guarantees higher visibility in the Feed. Meanwhile, his co-presenter during that session, Eric Papczun, the president of Performics, declared that Reach Generator was too expensive for what it delivers. What that tells me is that the way to deliver users is to create compelling content. And that requires a content strategy.
The message is simple: It’s time to get on it, brands.