When social media first became big news, the general public were largely naïve, and it didn’t take much for a brand’s content to thrive online. As long as there was something disruptive, or share-worthy, the chances of organic viral success were relatively high. Paid media agencies looked on in panic as they struggled to get a foothold in a media environment that was not controlled by advertiser spend. Brands like Nokia, realising paid media placements could do nothing to change perception of their flailing mobile devices, compensated for poor sales figures by focusing on Consumer advocacy, building a network of trusted influencers who spoke positively about their products, campaigns and developments.
However, this organic Nirvana did not last long. The naïve public, led by the dissonance of Gen Z, quickly became the cynics and people ‘de-liked’ brand pages as quickly as they’d liked them in the first place. Unless your content included some earth shattering information of actual interest, online influencers were reticent to share blatant advertising campaigns, having realised most organisations were in fact just using them to spread a brand message.
Also, sudden monetisation and ever changing organic algorithms of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn quickly limited a brand’s ability to reach their consumers online, en masse, without investing significantly in paid amplification. Media agencies saw their opportunity and quickly developed paid social divisions to claim back the social media territory. And once again the advertisers with larger budgets were comfortable knowing they simply needed to spend in social to spread their digital content far and wide.
Yet, as content discovery became the new buzz word, new platforms appeared that helped surface online content to its target audience, in an ethical and transparent way. A digital brand strategy was no longer about building an audience, going ‘viral’ or pushing people to a specific campaign microsite. Because let’s face it – there are not so many people out there who could really care to spend their time going to your brand page and doing whatever it is you hoped they did.
Instead savvy, content marketers saw if they could perfect the science of story-telling, using bit sized content and multiple sources, then they were no longer at the mercy of Facebook – but rather could reach a similar sized audience in parts – by segmenting their content and pushing it out via cool new platforms such as Medium and Contently, supported with a careful combination of native advertising and branded content. Also this meant that the content itself could be more tailored around the nuances and topics that distinguished each platforms. Which in turn increased relevance, as well as reach.
In addition little integration widgets such as Click to Tweet, now allow readers to Tweet pieces of content directly from the place they were reading (as opposed to old fashioned article links).
All this suggests to me it’s now key for content marketeers to have a good understanding of both the paid and the organic media space. There will always be a role for paid media – especially in achieving the reach and frequency required to get a message to a high percentage of your target audience, cost effectively. However the strength of content marketing and therefore its impact relies on the competency of the curator and strategist to understand which content is appropriate for whom and which organic or paid platforms / methods work best to deliver this content and reach their intended audience. Which is a great thing for both brands and online influencers that deserve to get noticed, but simply can’t compete with the deep pockets of Global brands.
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