Tagged: social media revolution

What next after content marketing?

(Way) back in 2008 I wrote a rather lengthy paper on the theory of social media.  Interestingly, it has become the blogging equivalent of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon in that it has hung around in my list of current popular posts ever since.  Within this I suggested that the key assets for operating in the social media space were content, conversation and community.  I also proposed that we were likely to move through these in sequence: content being the easiest thing to deal with, followed by conversation and ending up with community.

Well – we certainly have embraced the content thing.  So, if my theory holds – could the next big thing be conversation marketing?

Presentation1So I turned to Google Trends.  What this showed (see blue line in the diagram above) is the extent to which content marketing has exploded over the last two years (albeit four years after I proposed it in my paper).   Interestingly, this is plotted against Facebook marketing (green), which we can see peaked as a subject of interest in late 2011 and Facebook engagement (purple) which peaked a little later.  We now talk more about content marketing than we do about Facebook engagement (at last).

As an aside, the content marketing that brands are doing, doesn’t really correspond to the type of content marketing I envisaged.  I was proposing an approach to content that was about creating a network of information threads within a brand’s relevant digital space, not simply ramming the channels with stuff.  However, I think we will come around to my way of thinking in time – possibly as brands become more conversational, and thus more in tune with what content (information) consumers want, as distinct from the content brands want them to have.

However, Google Trends didn’t really turn up any evidence to suggest that conversation or community might be the next things.  In its (or my) defence, this is probably because we haven’t yet created ‘the word’ for what conversation or community based marketing might be.  Key to the birth of any new thing is christening it with a name.  So I guess we have to look elsewhere for evidence.  Here I would return to the post I wrote a few week ago about Edleman’s Brandshare Report.  Here we see very clear evidence that consumers want to have conversations with brands, albeit conversations that start with the issues consumers want a response to, rather than the issues brands might want to have conversations about.

Content marketing, even when you do it right, is actually very easy.  It doesn’t involve changing the model of marketing or actually involving the consumer too much.  That is why I suggested content would be the first big thing to arrive (once brands had got over their initial obsession with Facebook and Twitter).  Conversation marketing is harder because it involves seeding an element of control, if only in terms of letting the consumer decide what conversations they want to have.  It involves changing the configuration of marketing resources with a shift towards investment in people and processes, rather than agencies and media.  It also involves recognising that you can’t have a conversation with everyone all at once – and thus you only create positive ROI by extracting much higher value from a much more limited ‘reach’ (subject of the e-book I wrote last year).  In fact it involves abandoning the idea of reach as a sensible metric altogether. It also corresponds to what I am calling the concept of ‘Hot Marketing’ – the creation of genuinely valuable (hot) relationships, albeit much fewer of them at any one moment in time than when were creating (cold) relationships with entire audiences.

This additional level of difficulty is the reason I think it is going to be a couple of years before brands really get to the place where they understand how to create value from conversation.  I also think brands will need to get over the current obsession with ‘brandfill’ content strategies before they will have the operational space to move onwards.  I guess this puts the concept of community marketing back to at least five years’ out.  This is a shame, especially since I have spent most of this year banging on about forms of community!  However, effective communities involve creating a much greater level of shared interest and collaboration between brands and consumers than most marketing folk are prepared to countenance.  In fact, we will probably only get to the community phase by reinventing the concept of marketing as we know it.

Looking back at my 2008 piece, I am still pretty happy with its core conclusions.  I would stand by everything I said within it and I think what I predicted is basically panning out – although perhaps not as quickly as I thought it might.  But there again, I am aware that one of the features of any revolution is that one tends to overestimate its impact in the short term, but underestimate its impact in the long term.



Social media and the future of retailing

It has long been my mantra that the social media revolution is all about the separation of information from a restrictive means of distribution.  The interesting thing is how this schism plays out across other areas: for example, the separation of trust from institutions (trust being the information side of the equation and the institution being the distribution side), journalism from journalists, or music from the music business.

A couple of weeks ago I was shopping in John Lewis in Oxford Street, and this caused me to reflect on how this separation was playing-out within high street retailing.  I was aided in this reflection by the recent excellent series of documentaries on the history of British retailing by the BBC’s Robert Peston, the last one of which was examining the whole digital revolution in retailing.  Effectively what Peston was identifying was a growing separation between visiting a store, where we go to experience products, and purchasing those products which we tend to do on-line.

In the pre-digital world the information (the products) had been tied to a means of distribution (the store) and to a large extent it was the nature of the store – its size and location and thus its cost – which determined what products could sit within it.  This mirrors the way in which media, as a means of distribution, has shaped the information that sits within it.  But now retailing information is being separated from its (restrictive) means of distribution – product display is  being separated from product purchase.

The implication in all of this is that information side of the equation can (in fact must) adapt itself to a world where is has no default distribution partner to shape its destiny.  From a retailing perspective this means that certain types of physical store need to move away from their distribution function and shift into becoming providers of information and experience (albeit it you may still purchase items within a store, but probably by doing it using a mobile device and having it delivered to your home, rather than taking an item to a check-out desk and then having to carry it home).

Clearly there will be some types of products that will remain more distribution dependent  – groceries or any other product required for immediate usage or consumption for example – and the stores that provide this are what will form the mainstay of what will become a much reduced retail estate as the non-distribution dependent elements shift entirely into the digital space.

I do love it when a theory appears to have a universal application!

Read Jeff Jarvis’s Kindle Single, Gutenberg the Geek

I would strongly recommend reading ‘Gutenberg the Geek’, a Kindle Single published a couple of days ago by Jeff Jarvis.  He makes the critical connection between what happened around the invention of the printing press and what is happening in the social media revolution.  He views this both through the similarities between Gutenberg’s life and experiences and those of the likes of Steve Jobs, but also the similarly revolutionary effects caused by both the introduction of print technology and social technology and the fact that we can now see ourselves as passing through the end of the Gutenberg era.

Having been banging on for years  about the importance of understanding Gutenberg in relation to social media – frequently to blank looks from marketing folk – the fact that Jeff Jarvis is now on the case makes me feel much comforted.

Some more leaking wikis

Here are examples of more leaking wikis.  These are much better than Wikileaks, because they they more closely respect the basic process rules that will ultimately determine success in this space.  They are not trying to turn themselves into institutions or flaming bolts of truth that streak across the sky.

Leaking wikis: they only work if they stop being publishers

Clay Shirky has just published some thoughts on Wikileaks.  He makes some very good observations, not least the importance of ensuring that we use legitimate democratic means to work out how, as a society, we will deal with Wikileaks.  But perhaps the article skirts around the difficult and necessary question of determining exactly what Wikileaks, and the forms of leaking wikis that may be to come, actually are.  And this is an important question to resolve as part of working out what to do about it / them. Continue reading

There are only 10 people critical to your business and social media can help you find them

There are only ten people critical to your business and social media can help you find them.  That’s a pretty big claim.  If it is true (and I think it is) there has to be a drawback.  And here is the drawback.  Those ten people are the people who are critical to your business right now.  In a couple of minutes / hours/ days it is going to be another ten people and another ten after that.  But … there will only ever be ten (or similar such relatively manageable number) at any given time.

This observation has a whole host of implications.  Foremost amongst these is Continue reading

Diaspora – keep an eye on this

Diaspora is an alternative to Facebook.  One might say how on earth could anyone challenge Facebook, especially with a service that basically does the same thing, but just does it a little differently?  Well, what Diaspora does is give a much greater focus to what a social network is all about – i.e. connection with small groups of people that you probably already have a relationship ‘in the real world’.  Consequently it also makes privacy and ownership of information a much bigger deal (the Achilles heel of Facebook).

Diaspora was launched in September and it may not get off the runway, but it is gathering interest right now – so worth tracking, because Facebook is vulnerable.

Facebook will eventually fall over because Continue reading

When social media becomes the metric

There is, of course, a huge debate about metrics, measurement and ROI in social media.  This tends to be framed in terms of   “if I do some social media, what am I going to get out of it and how will I measure that”.  Last week I came across an a new take on the whole metrics issue – not measuring the impact of social media activity, but seeing social media activity itself as a metric. Continue reading

Wikileaks: a sign of the mess to come

The recent Wikileaks / US cables saga, and the previous Iraq leaks saga, illustrate very neatly the problems ahead as we struggle to come to terms with the social media revolution.  We are in a place where the world is changing, but we have yet to develop the rules and processes we need to adapt to this new world.

This new world is the world of greater transparency, where almost everything must be considered to exist in the public domain. Like it or not, this world is not going to go away; it follows inevitably from the fact that information cannot now be locked up and contained within institutionalised channels.  The ability to publish information is now, as Clay Shirky says, “global, social, ubiquitous and cheap”. Continue reading

Paper.li – content as raw material

Here is an interesting thingy brought to my attention courtesy of Neville Hobson.  Not sure whether it will take off, but I will give  go just to try it out.  Essentially it creates a piece of content (that it will call, in perhaps an unconciously retro way, my Daily Newspaper) out of my Twitter connections.

This is one more example of the fact that content can no longer be considered a finished product, only ever a raw material.  It only becomes a finished product in the hands of its’  consumer, and even then that content can be spun back out into the social maelstrom.   In effect, content is created via acts of interogation or connection rather than publication.   This is the Big Thing that newspapers (and other traditional content publishers) can’t get their heads around, as I have logged previously.

It also is another example (along with a Twitter tag) of McLuhan’s lightbulb – a medium that has no content of its own, but creates a social effect through the space it brings into being.