Brands will become audiences instead of publishers

Brands will become audiences instead of publishers

Content marketing is strongly connected with social media. The significantly grown attention for content marketing and the “brands as publishers” view is related with a maturation of social media marketing and even of social business (that is part of digital business). However, content marketing and social are also connected in a way your business will soon be confronted with and you may not see coming now.

Social media teams, strategies and practices today are among the main drivers of the increased attention for content marketing. Other contributing factors are the changes in the search engine landscape, the involvement of PR, the growing awareness that social business, community and collaboration ‘de facto’ are a lot about content, and – finally – the shift towards a more customer-centric marketing approach.

Managers distrust marketing. Consumers distrust marketing. Sales distrusts marketing. The buyer’s journey has changed. And the C-suite increasingly wants to see the numbers, whether we like it or not. Accountability and ROI matter and the use of content in an omni-channel approach is cost-effective and highly measurable.The volume of content: people create, share and curate

Organizations are not just becoming more customer-centric because they want to. They have to. The customer demands it. The bottom-line requires it. It’s in this perspective that most current market evolutions should be seen. Just think about the consolidation in the CRM and marketing automation space. Today it’s about integration, on all levels of marketing, business and even society. Or about connection. The connected consumer. Collaboration. Putting the customer in the middle. However, will customer-centricity or people-centricity be enough? Or will the customer/consumer define your approach to marketing and the way you use content tomorrow, largely beyond the control you think you have. This will be the evolution we need to prepare for: not brands as publishers anymore but people as publishers and brands as receivers and respondents.

The volume of content out there is growing at an astonishing pace. SEO needs content, PR needs content, sales wants content, marketing requires content and the modern buyer demands content. When I sometimes talk about the increasing noise regarding content marketing and the cult of volume, I mean a cult of volume as it’s reigning in many organizations. The booming attention for content curation – which even is a hype right now – is partially a sign that organizations and individuals seek ever more ways to put even more content out. Repurposing is becoming broadcasting. Curation is becoming adding to the noise and filtering it at the same time. As long as it’s relevant. For others, curation is – as it should be – a genuine effort to service target audiences by filtering, adding context and focussing on the target audiences. Stick to your mission For businesses doing it right, the most important challenge today is to keep focussing on standing out based on their own strengths in function of their goals and target audiences, regardless of the volume. Focus, that’s your mission.

Content curation can be used for all the wrong reasons (sheer volume) and for all the right reasons. However, it’s a mistake to believe that we, as businesses and marketers, will be able to stand out just as ‘quality filters’. We need to do business and serve our customers, among others using content. But in a connected way. By deeply understanding our ecosystem.

It’s not just brands or media that add to the astonishing volume of content which gets created and shared each single day. No, it’s people. They decide what they want to accept and what not. And they decide what they create, curate, put out, repurpose, share and reshare. They don’t use these terms, they just do it. With a continuously growing number of technologies and channels to create and share anything anyone feels to share, the Web is swamped by ever more data and content items. Whether you like it or not: that’s how it is and that’s how it will increasingly be. Will you curate/aggregate/interprete the created and curated content of consumers soon instead of curating for them?

Welcome to the Zettabyte era. Here are some facts to make you think. Take a look at the latest edition of Cisco’s Visual Networking Index. Global Internet traffic is expected to increase threefold in the next five years. Think about that: what we have now and is already massive x 3 in 5 years. Welcome to the “Zettabyte Era” where 51% of all Internet traffic will cross content delivery networks in 2017 and video-on-demand traffic will nearly triple by 2017 to reach the equivalent of 6 billion DVDs per month (you can find much more data here). What will happen after that?

And it’s not just about IP traffic, data or CDN traffic. It’s also about the content people put out and share. And about the content your business creates and shares. The number of Internet users. Connected devices.

It won’t take too many years before your content curation efforts will be buried under the content of others, including consumers themselves. Furthermore, the model of content curation or publishing is very easy to replicate. I can launch a competitor for your branded, content-driven and expensive curated platform any day and so can many others. This is not a case against content curation, on the contrary. I believe that, regardless of content marketing tactics and including curation, you will win if you stick to your core goals, target audiences and brand but most of all if you stop using content marketing as an excuse to broadcast. You’ll have to be the audience. It’s not about the content, it’s about the overall experience that is co-defined by the content but increasingly dominated by the consumer who is becoming the real publisher. Are you ready to be the audience?

In a sense the success of content marketing and the evolutions in the digital space have added to the volume of content out there nowadays. But that’s not the main factor. It was going to happen, anyway, driven by the consumer. Content curation is not the “cure” to solve the challenges of volume, eternal repetition, too much repurposing and so on. Because the “consumer” starts curating himself too. Just read between the lines of this content curation software review. In my opinion it is naive to think that consumers will massively start following brands that put out curated content ‘en masse’. They have all the power to do so themselves.

Sure, it will still take some time before people will do that on a large scale. But they will. And on top of existing professional content marketing software and existing social media tools, new integrated tools will empower the consumer to take control over the content he consumers, curates, creates and shares even more.

Curate content. For your teams, your customers, “your” communities, your goals. But never as the basis of a content strategy or to become a large publisher yourself in the strict sense of the word. Yes, you will keep putting out content that goes viral and is picked up by masses of people. But it will become harder. The masses are going to put out the volume and the things that go viral. Focus, segment, personalize and make the content marketing process a reciprocal one.

In my opinion, this is your main challenge for the future. Not brands as publishers but brands as people creating networks of value capturing the content and signals of the true publishers and curators of tomorrow: consumers. Big data. And making your target audiences of today part of your publishing or even totally reversing the process. Create as a response. Are you ready if that happens?

Brands were broadcasters. Next they became publishers. But many quickly interpreted this as broadcasting 2.0. In a few years brands will be audiences. That’s my prediction. And maybe then we will really be able and forced to be customer-centric in the true sense. You will still create content. You will still curate content. But most of all you will turn data and content of others into action. You will respond, pro-spond and predict.

All this will not happen overnight. Many organizations still need to adapt to many changes, including social media and content evolutions. Because, make no mistake: for most organizations social, content, etc. in practice still need to be put in perspective. Learn how to use content marketing. But already learn how to use it in a customer-centric and integrated way, with streamlined processes and an agile mentality so you are ready to adapt for the next step where your audiences will become the publishers. Get what social really means and understand social is relationships with an additional dimension of connected spheres. Know the people you’re connected with where it matters. Shift from sharing – often an excuse for broadcasting – to answering and providing value.

I was among those many marketers that said brands would one day become publishers. Now I’m predicting they will increasingly become interpreting audiences, this time in public instead of in face-to-face conversations. I would love your thoughts, even – and especially – if you utterly disagree.

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