In 2013, communications strategist Zan McCulloch-Lussier wrote about the overwhelming torrent of content that consumers face.
In the article for charity leaders, published in NTEN Change, he wrote: “48 hours of new video on YouTube. 684,000 pieces of content shared on Facebook. 100,000 tweets. This is just a sample of what happens every minute of every day on social media. Overwhelmed yet? The people you’re trying to talk to certainly are.”
Stats vary: but the challenge for brands to be heard amidst such noise is immense. McColloch-Lussier argues the only way forward is to curate content – on behalf of the audience – so you are seen as a trusted source of information. There is, in his view, no point in shouting louder. The only way to be heard is to become so trusted that your voice can be heard in a whisper.
A couple of years ago, I was invited to an event called The Digital Leaders’ Think Tank to talk about content marketing and social media. This was a small group of very high-level communications directors or CMOs. Two of the attendees came from large insurance companies. Both had spent a large amount of time and resource on building content marketing and social media functions, without much tangible result.
Their content message was easily summarised: “Look at my brand. Aren’t we great?”
In a world overwhelmed with content, this just doesn’t cut the mustard. To become a trusted voice, you need to create usable content that helps people do their jobs – or live their lives – better.
These companies needed to stop talking about themselves. Instead, they would have been much better off talking about the insurance industry as a whole: the benefits it offers, how you would suffer without it. The bigger the insurance market, the bigger their slice would be.
It was even suggested that they could and should talk with praise about other brands’ products. This caused some consternation – and gave rise to the dreaded word ‘co-opetition’. It sounds counter-intuitive to talk about another company in your own posting; but it is not without precedent.
There are analogous examples we commonly accept in the physical world. For example, our office in Holborn is near to Hatton Garden. There is a reason that all the retail and wholesale jewellery businesses cluster together here: they have, for generations, driven traffic to each other, and mutually profited. You know that if you are in London and want jewellery, Hatton Garden is the place to go. The same is true for meat at Smithfield, or flowers in Columbia Road.
The Hatton Garden effect works in the digital space, too. The more brands can collectively nudge customer behaviour, the greater the pie they will share.
It is a common misconception that successful content marketing involves an endless repetition of self-congratulatory blogs, tweets, and Instagram pictures. In fact, nothing turns off the user more than this.
Instead, McCulloch-Lussier argues, help your user to navigate their way through the noise. “Do the hard work for them, of finding relevant and interesting articles and videos… They’ll be relieved to have one trusted information source and turn to you again and again rather than search for it on its own.”
They’ll be thankful, and keep coming back.