I sat in on a presentation at a marketing conference this month in which the presenter equated the volume of online content to “digital pollution.” Thanks to social media, he argued, the web has become polluted. Blogs, videos, comment/rating engines, memes, and picture sharing sites are clogging up the Internet to a point that Greenpeace, the environmental activist group, might very well make it the focus of their future activity.
Yes, the volume of data, be it user-, media- or brand-generated, has polluted our digital ecosystem. Our time online is less productive and less enjoyable when we have to struggle with clutter in order to find the data that we need or want.
The argument that was missed – and what I find more fascinating about this situation – is that the content filling up the digital ocean is not necessarily garbage. In fact, much of it is worthy and necessary, albeit repetitive. The quality of the content being produced and shared is not the problem, the quantity is.
Given that there is valuable and worthy content being produced every day, maybe digital pollution is the wrong tag to associate with this growing problem. “Digital noise” might be a more apt descriptor. The incredible volume of content being produced every day has certainly made the Internet a very noisy place.
Content Marketing Key Player in Digital Pollution
Further, content marketing, the current darling of bloggers, marketers, and marketing agencies, has only contributed to this mess. Marketers and social scientists trip over themselves drafting best practices for content marketing. They preach about the importance of content marketing for brand building, community engagement, search engine optimization, and the establishment of social proof around a brand.
Others point to the necessity of user-generated content for effective advocate and influence marketing programs. In fact, influence marketing has, in large part, become popular due to the amount of digital noise online. How does one cut through the clutter? Influencers are touted as those who can elevate a business’s brand or product above the noise for all to see and experience. Yet, for the most part, they all rely on more content marketing to elevate that original piece of content.
At what point do we realize that we’re simply contributing to more noise? When will influence marketing – or social media marketing for that matter – stop being about content marketing and become an exercise in cutting through the clutter?
Rethinking Content Marketing
I will argue that digital content, no matter how valuable and targeted to its intended audience, is just noise. If the content produced does not connect someone who influences a purchase decision with potential buyer, or a prospective customer to a product they need at that moment, what’s the value of that content to the business? Yes, there’s potentially value in SEO back-links, etc. but more and more executives are demanding answers to the increasingly popular C-Suite question: What was the ROI of that campaign budget?
Content marketing strategy must shift away from best practice-lists that include how evergreen the content is, how newsworthy it is, and what tone of voice is used, to an exercise in mapping the customer’s life cycle, and inserting specific content in the path of the customer’s experience with almost surgical precision. Simply creating great content will do little more than add more noise to the cacophony of the Internet.
Focused content, placed in the path of a prospective or existing customer’s experience with your brand will do more to answer the ROI question than simply creating more quality content. So before you produce that next killer blog post, take a step back and ask yourself:
What is my customer’s current experience with my brand?
What are the steps that a typical prospect progresses through on their way to a purchase?
What are the steps that a typical customer progresses through (after a purchase) on their way to loyalty and advocacy?
What are the motivations of those customers at each stage?
Who influences those decisions at each stage?
Then you can ask yourself: Does the content I’m producing affect the prospect’s path towards a purchase decision? Does it affect their path towards becoming an advocate? How do I make this content appear in that path, be it on their phone, computer or in person, to ensure they don’t have to search for it?
It’s time to focus on the rhythm of content marketing, not just the notes.
*This is a guest post by Sam Fiorella. The author’s posts are entirely his own views (excluding the event of being possessed by an alien parasite that controls his mind) and may not always reflect the views of InNetwork.*
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