You can tell a lot about what’s hot in the world of social and digital marketing by looking at a conference schedule. In the case of Brighton SEO and Social Media Week London, one word dominated the sessions: content.
Wait a minute? Wasn’t content hot last year? And the year before? Does this mean content marketing is here to stay? Well, yes, content marketing has got a little more mature, and cheaper to carry out. But this also means more companies, big and small, want to get in on the content space, and not all of it is good. Or, as Dazed’s Will Hayward said in his opening speech for Social Media Week, “Bad content is the new banner advertising.”
So a week on, and beyond the instant analysis on Twitter, what were the main points coming out of SMW and BrightonSEO? (A quick caveat. This is obviously based on the sessions I was able to make).
Moving beyond content as we know it
So, let’s deal with the problems first. For Hayward, the content bubble is about to burst and head towards the trough of disillusionment in the hype cycle. Plenty of brands are putting budget behind content without a clear idea of what they want to do with it.
As content marketing gets more mature and those who are really good are exceptional, it also means that consumers are getting bombarded with more messages across platforms and will switch off; “content fatigue” as Twentysix’s Head of Social, Kristal Ireland, referred to throughout her session at BrightonSEO.
And not every piece of branded content is good. In fact some are very mediocre. As BrightonSEO’s closing speaker Dave Trott highlighted in a brutally honest keynote, 89% is advertising elicits no reaction or recall. That just as equally applies to content.
So, that’s the bad news. Does that mean we should all be slashing our content budgets and moving elsewhere? Not necessarily. Even in their warnings, there was plenty of positivity from the speakers. For Hayward, it came down to trying to be different and standing out. His examples from Dazed didn’t quite resonate with me (I’m not exactly in Dazed’s target market), but his point that it doesn’t just have to be quick hits. If the story is told in a different way, it will get attention.
But it’s not just about attention (although, as Dave Trott said, if you’re not making an impact, you may as well not bother). One other theme was the human element of social. For Trott, while the medium has changed, the end goal of reaching the consumer hasn’t, while for Ireland the best campaigns she highlighted all had a strong element around human interaction. Again, it’s easy to focus on the brand message, but especially on social, if this isn’t appropriate for the platform and has no human connection, it will probably fail.
None of this is exactly groundbreaking, but as larger budgets are assigned to content, whether through brand websites or social, the basics can often get lost.
Nescafe’s Tumblr trial
Speaking of different, Nescafe's decision to move their website onto Tumblr was certainly that. Whether it will be successful or not is another question.
Their strategy behind it is worth chewing over. The logic that a brand website is dead and the need to be more inclusive in conversations is a leap, but not an unreasonable one. They may be one of the first to make this leap, but they're not the first I've heard looking at this route.
The creative has led to one of the best looking Tumblrs I've seen. There's a lot of thought and strategic planning that's gone into it, especially when considering how the likes of publishers, especially BuzzFeed, distribute their content these days.
And yet, we come back to the question of human connections. Tumblr is a fascinating platform with plenty of communities and sub-culture. If you can tap into this, you potentially have a strong set of brand advocates doing your work for you. But if you’re just broadcasting images, no matter how pretty, it doesn’t make the best use of the platform.
There were unsurprisingly plenty of questions around SEO that the Social Media Week session didn't really answer. It's still early days, but for this to be successful there has to be a strong engagement KPI behind it, rather than just publishing. Is a beautiful, visual Tumblr the right angle to play? Maybe Derek Zoolander was right when he asked if there was more to life than being really, really good looking. Time will tell.
Broad themes around content fatigue are always an enjoyable listen but where the sessions, particularly at BrightonSEO, come into their own is when they get a little more tactical and granular, with particular bits of insight. The below are ones that I think are worth sharing (notes are my own, not direct quotes).
Kristal Ireland’s session had a number of interesting nuggets. For Ireland, anybody working in the social field needs to have a paid and biddable strategy and expertise. Yes, you’re working in a creative field, but gone are the days that you could put out content on social and just expect it to fly, especially as Facebook’s organic reach moves towards zero.
The really successful strategies make good use of the granular targeting and marry them up with other bits of the business. Ireland used the example of Tesco, which targeted her with a an advert for new mums. Clicking through, the landing page used the same imagery and was focused solely on aspects of new parenting. Again, think of how many times you see creative, only for the link to have little relevance to the messaging that got you clicking in the first place.
One other nugget was around the growth area of personal assistants. People will use Facebook’s M for transactional recommendations. What M starts recommending is worth keeping an eye on.
It’s not just virtual personal assistants though. SEM Rush’s Michael Stricker highlighted the large amounts of inbound traffic coming from dark social. According to Stricker, over 50% of links from social are under-reported, due to the way they are shared. Voice search (M and Siri again), apps, sharing habits via the likes of WhatsApp and more are regularly lumped in the direct traffic box by Google Analytics and other platforms.
Interestingly, Stricker also mentioned the Internet of Things as a growing source for dark social. As more devices connect to the web, the number of potential sources of traffic grows. If you’re just set up to track referrals from the usual platforms and aren’t thinking about these devices, that under-reporting gap is only likely to get larger