Three marketing truths for an information dense world

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marketing truths

I recently gave a speech at SXSW about my new book The Content Code and have been asked by a few people if I could re-cap it in a post. I’d like to cover three big ideas I discussed from my research that I think are essential truths for this new marketing world.

1. Content is the starting line, not the finish line.

Most of the marketing conversation today is about content, more content, better content, optimized content … but today we need something more than that to cut through the noise and become the signal with our customers.

We face a menacing wall of information competition and if you think it’s bad now, it is going to soon become much, much worse. By 2020, the amount of information on the web is expected to increase by 500% — and that’s the low side of the projection. How are you going to win in a world with five times more information than what we have now?

Now of course everything starts with great content. But in addition to having a content strategy and a network strategy (focused on building a relevant audience), today you need to have an ignition strategy. The economics of content marketing only derive from content that MOVES. So we must understand this complicated mechanism, gear up for it, and master it. The Content Code book describes the six possible ignition strategies a business can use.

2. You’re probably focused on the wrong audience

An essential part of any marketing program is connecting to the right audience. Maybe this is in the form of personas, perhaps through research … maybe even through instinct. But I want to challenge you to reflect on the marketing realities of today and ask you if you’re still discovering and rewarding the RIGHT audience?

Focusing on ignition is not only a strategic imperative, it is an economic one. More than 70 percent of adults say that content shared by their friends influences what they buy, a number surely to go up in a millennial generation who basically only trusts what they tell each other. 85 percent of those who share content say that the time they spend reading it helps them understand a brand or service. The act of sharing is creating advocacy.

Here’s the bad news is — most people don’t share content. Facebook tells us that one-half of one percent of a brand’s fans share their content. Twitter reports that on average, its users only share one out of every 318 tweets they see.

So you can begin to understand that once you find those amazing people who do share, you better hold on to them! The people sharing your content are the ones creating true economic value for your content marketing effort. This may fit into a traditional “persona” or it may not. You need to adopt a new mindset and embrace your sharers, whoever they are.

This may represent as little as 2 percent of your total online audience — I call it your Alpha Audience — and this is the true bedrock of your business. It is your proprietary audience in a way, a group of people who are raising their hands and saying “market to me!”

Are you still focused on mentions, sentiment, and followers, or are you focused like a laser on finding, nurturing, and rewarding your precious Alpha Audience?

3. You can trick people to click, but you can’t trick them to share

People share content for three primary reasons.

  1. It is an extension of their self-identity. It makes them look cool, smart, or funny, for example.
  2. It is an act of kindness and generosity. They want to help others by sharing relevant content.
  3. It has nothing to do with the content at all and everything to do with the brand or person behind the content. This entity has created a Heroic Brand beyond content, SEO, and promotion. People share because of who they are and what they represent.

Notice that coupons, deals and SEO are not on this list. People share content for intrinsic and emotional reasons, not necessarily because of economic incentives. Yet, the first thing brands do to try to ignite their content is invest in SEO and promotions, right?

Of course there is a place for that, but if people share because of emotional reasons and love for a brand, shouldn’t we be investing in marketing activities that generate trust, not just “traffic?” Traffic equals “tourists.” The people who share your content are the ones who will actually buy something. And that demands a focus on building reliability, consistency and trust.

SEO and advertising are easy and familiar. But we are in a competitive age that will not reward the easy and familiar. It is going to reward those who create trust, and even love for their brand and content. You can trick people to click but to get them to share you need to create something more meaningful that demands that it be shared.

This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. To learn more about tech news and analysis visit Tech Page One Dell sponsored this article and my book, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Travis Wise

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