Consumers can now perpetuate content at a new speed, the "speed of share." With the click of a mouse or a mobile phone, consumers can advance a great story/ad/video/news bite to vast, networked communities of hearts and minds. The speed of share renders the speed of traditional content distribution obsolete. It's like comparing real time to slow motion. But, there's a catch: Content will only travel at the speed of share if it is worth sharing in the first place.
Marketers must heed the following five lessons to thrive in the speed of share:
1. Don't focus on social networking.
The speed of share doesn't require another infrastructure, e.g., a marketer's Twitter feed, Facebook page, or iPhone application. Rather, it requires an accelerant to travel through an already robust social networking infrastructure. Only great content that is engaging and contextually relevant to both the sender and the receiver will travel.
Now, more than ever, marketers must focus their energy on delivering great content. I don't care where it comes from: Hollywood, Madison Avenue or a consumer's webcam. Marketers must foster an environment of creativity where great brand ideas can come from anywhere and can flourish inside and outside the organization.
2. You can't copy test your way into this phenomenon.
We have a wealth of learning about to how to optimize messages that consumers love to skip. Until we start measuring importance, contextual relevance and "worth sharing," we won't have the proper benchmarks to determine whether content has what it takes to travel at the speed of share.
One thing is certain: Average is the kiss of death in this model. You stand a better chance with something really awful; at least it will travel (marketers, please don't try this at home).
3. No single medium has a lock on the speed of share.
It doesn't matter where content first appears: if it has the right ingredients, it will travel. No need to launch a widget or a viral video to create this effect. Content can start on television, land on YouTube, bounce around Facebook/Twitter and create a frenzy right back on the television screen in literally seconds.
4. Traditional media planning time intervals no longer make sense.
"Average four-week" or "weekly reach" seems less relevant when an entire network of hearts and minds can be engaged within a matter of hours, minutes and seconds. But speed comes with a catch: How can marketers sustain top-of-mind awareness when messages travel so quickly? A suggestion: Create something memorable. In the spirit of the late Simon Broadbent, think of a great idea in this model as "Adstock" on steroids. While messages can travel at the speed of share, they need to remain in my heart and/or in my mind for some time to come.
5. Reach and frequency only matters when you plan to hit me over the head with a dull message.
Reach is only an "opportunity to see." The message that I will truly see is one that is important, one that is contextually relevant, one that I will remember, and one that I care to share across my network.
And, frequency only matters when you have to beg me to pay some form of attention to what is otherwise dull, boring, and/or irrelevant. I should be able to fall in love at first sight.