Content Marketing: Where Do We Go From Here?

Content Marketing: Where Do We Go From Here?

rollercoasterThe pace of change in the online world has always been a fast one, but the last couple of weeks have proven to be quite a roller coaster of cringing and full-blown criticism. The culprit? Why, Facebook, of course! As you may or may not be aware, Facebook continuously tweaks its infamous EdgeRank algorithm to ensure some kind of filter in its users’ newsfeed. Thus, as of early 2012, only 16% of brands’ posts on average were said to actually reach fans newsfeeds. But as of September 20th, with yet another round of important changes with the EdgeRank algorithm, new research showed this number actually decreased as fans would increase. So for Facebook pages with more than 1 million fans, the average reach was now actually… 5%!

NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH

The direct impact of these changes with EdgeRank and less posts showing up in fans newsfeeds? Brands now have to pay “promoted posts” to spread content that used to reach its audience naturally, through savvy and dynamic community management. And the price tab can get quite hefty, in particular for brands that had built substantial communities, in many cases through buying Facebook Ads to begin with. The reaction has been harsh, to say the least. Here is a sample of posts on the topic:

So while the use of Facebook for individuals is still free (and always will be?), this recent coup by Facebook has ruffled quite a few feathers for brands active on the network. Sure, Facebook has since introduced the new “pages” feed on the left hand-side navigation bar, but will it be enough? Following my most recent post, How to get Facebook engagement… without having to pay for it? some folks commented how this kind of change suddenly makes Google+ more appealing. I am not convinced about this tit-for-tat approach, since brands invest where people are and like to hangout (pun intended), and this ain’t happening on G+ but rather on Facebook. Nevertheless, the almighty shell of Facebook, which started showing cracks after its wobbly IPO earlier this year, is more than ever questioned by the business community. This is a good thing for brands, now reevaluating their strategies and social media tactics. Not sure it’s as good for Facebook, though.

EARNED (SHARED) MEDIA VS. OWNED MEDIA

For many, this series of changes marked the realization that Facebook remains a shared platform, where rules can and will change, and that brands should always prioritize owned media first and foremost, where they can exert a better control over content platforms. A content-rich transactional website, a quality blog, database marketing with segmented newsletters, webinars, case studies, photos and videos are just a few examples of owned media tactics. Besides the obvious benefits and drawbacks of investing in more traditional paid media, organizations now hold many more ways than ever to act as publishers on their owned media and engage with customers, loyal fans and potential clientele across the web, through social and interest graphs.

Defining Paid, Owned & Earned Media

How Forrester defines owned, paid and earned media

CONTENT MARKETING: WHAT’S NEXT?

Knowing the rules of the game are changing so fast, how can we and how should we revisit our strategic approach for brands building a strong presence online? There are two schools of thought on this one. On one hand, there are folks like Mark Schaefer who says the more brands invest in content marketing, the less it will become a key differentiator. In fact, the level playing field has turned to a content arms race, he claims.

“Social media is a mainstream marketing and communication channel that will increasingly be dominated by those with the fattest wallets” – Mark Schaefer

On the other hand, there are those who, like Gini Dietrich, claim that Facebook promoted post remove the level playing field. In essence, this approach views recent Facebook changes as more proof that we ought to pay closer attention to, and invest in, our owned media. Or, perhaps, to invest in paid media that achieves specific business objectives rather than simply increase likes and shares. Personally, I tend to agree with Gini’s view for the next 2-3 years, yet I do believe content marketing will eventually level off.

I agree that content marketing is the new advertising, and that, just like with advertising, mainstream channels will eventually be dominated by those with bigger budgets and resources. But in the meantime, there is still a vast majority of small and medium businesses (SMB) that have yet to get a proper content marketing strategy in place, including a decent and optimized website, quality newsletters and dynamic social media presence. A recent study (in French) by CEFRIO found only 15% of organizations actively using social media in the province of Quebec. In other words, we’re nowhere near the day when things level off. For many SMBs, simply harnessing the potential of owned and shared media is a feat onto itself, and many have yet to be convinced paid media is not the ultimate solution – even though it’s an easy, albeit ephemeral one.

Thus, the challenge is now to assess where to prioritize efforts, knowing platforms like Facebook are not (and never were) free and knowing that our competitors, too, are asking themselves the very same questions. Early adopters will continue to reap the rewards for a while, so it’s still time to address the situation and invest in content marketing accordingly. Just make sure you don’t put all your eggs in a single basket, as appealing as Facebook may be…

 


Frederic Gonzalo
Written by Frederic Gonzalo

Senior marketing and communications expert & speaker with 18 years expertise in the travel and hospitality industry. Consulting since early 2012, I provide strategic planning, social media & mobile development counseling to small and medium businesses alike. Reach me at frederic@gonzomarketing.biz

6 comments
France Lessard
France Lessard

There was a time where newspapers were distributed free of charge and where it was not necessary to pay for the TV signal. Facebook becomes a (traditionnal ?) paid media like everyone else. The transition period, however, is difficult to understand for the SMB user.

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo

So true, France. It's really sad how they never had a monetization strategy, and how they are now trying to switch things around. That's why brands need to invest in owned media, as it's almost always a sure bet for the long term... Cheers, Frederic

Adi Gaskell
Adi Gaskell

Good stuff Frederic. I think it's more important than ever before to own your community as much as possible. If you talk about social media to most online folks, branded communities aren't often on their radar. It's all about Facebook or Twitter. Putting all of your eggs into a third party basket is a very risky strategy.

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo

Absolutely right, Adi. It's also a matter of having a proper strategy in place rather than focusing on tactics alone... Cheers, Frederic

Gazalla Gaya
Gazalla Gaya

Very interesting article, Frederic. I'm putting together the essential elements of content marketing in 2013 and the way I see it, although social media has a place, it's a restricted space. I think that going ahead, brands need to own their content and so blogs, whitepapers, case studies, newsletters will do better for them. Social media of-course is important to give our content wings and be seen by an unlimited number of people. But brands cannot rely on social networks as they keep changing their rules. In the long run, it's going to prove unaffordable for smaller companies to spend if Facebook's policies catch on with other social networks.

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo

You got it, Gazalla. Social media can indeed give wings to great content, but they are but one element of the strategy. They should never be THE strategy. Cheers, Frederic