Content is King. But it hasn’t seemed that way. As we crossed into “Web 2.0,” every user with an opinion was King. Not long after, we entered into the “Age of Apps,” which created a true give-and-take between brands and consumers. Simultaneously, consumers started having conversations with the universal megaphone of social media. These empowered consumers started talking about our brands more loudly than our brands were talking about themselves. So we joined in, bringing every brand that might have something to say to the social media party, jumping into conversations, hoping not to get kicked out for rudely interrupting. But the rest of the world figured out that we were only waiting for someone to ask us “what do you think?” so we can reply with “we think you should buy Brand X!” So now what do we do? We return to the universal truth …

You have to give before you get.

Content marketing is generous King. But it’s rarely been the first thought of any brand; “How much can we give away for free?” We know the Groupon Effect causes a temporary bump in sales without a gain in long-term clientele. Giving temporary deep discounts is really only an effective short-term strategy. Giving away product in a sweepstakes is GREAT for lead generation, but who’s going to buy if there’s a chance they’re going to win? So that is how we’ve returned the marketing crown to its rightful owner, content. But remember …

The value of content is that it informs, entertains, or reflects an identity. But it does not sell.

Content marketing is not direct response. It’s not instant gratification; it’s the long game. Content does not inspire conversion it inspires conversation. Good content inspires consumers to talk to the brand, about the brand, and even for the brand. Better gets a Like, Favorite, stars and hearts. The best gets the envious Share, Tweet, Post, Repost, Retweet, Wundertweetpostbump, etc., until the amplification turns your initial $1.25 per engagement of paid media spend into an $.04 eCPE (effective Click Per Engagement). These numbers happened for our Las Vegas Kiss Cam animated gif on Tumblr.

http://lasvegas.tumblr.com/post/113990961656/what-happens-in-vegas-stays-in-vegas

We entertained. And for a brief moment in time, some users out there laughed enough to share us with their friends. All over the world, even in China where our client didn’t spend a dime, Las Vegas brought a smile to people’s faces.

That’s the real way to a consumer’s heart. Give without asking, entertain without selling. Because our only focus was on the giggle chamber (the left ventricle, technically) of the consumer’s heart, our content succeeded. We weren’t kicked out of the social media party; we were passed around like a [insert inappropriate party drug reference].

Campaigns succeed by converting. Content succeeds by being engaging.

Of course, sales matter. You don’t win Effies by not moving the needle. But we can’t push our sales messages into conversations anymore. There are tons of bad blogs out there, brands telling only their own story, tricking people into swallowing a soft yummy shell of content around a hard-selling nutty center. We can’t do that to our consumers anymore; they’ll choke. Then they’ll sue for negligence because they have nut allergies and we didn’t warn them first. They, at least, sure won’t take anything we give them in the future without questioning our motives.

Corporations are now people; brands are now friends. Social media made that happen long before SCOTUS.

You do not have a single person in your life with whom you do not have an emotional bank account. Every relationship is ruled by these accounts. Every brand has one with consumers too. Your next sale isn’t just about quality anymore, or value, or cost, or history, or whether your widget weighs a quarter gram less than your competitors. Your next sale is about your relationship with your consumers and your potential consumers. Do you make them laugh? Do you inspire new ideas? Do you bring them flowers “just because?” When you give good content, listen and tell their story, without asking for anything in return, that emotional bank account grows an until that consumer just loves you. Then comes the conversion.

“Business moves at the speed of ideas. And you don’t have to like it, but you can’t ignore it.” – Gottfrid, Happyish (Showtime)

Happyish is showing off agency life in a way that’s both current and OMG too real. The young bucks are brought in to usher a long-established, large agency into the digital world, and the old guard has two choices: pivot or perish. Being a user experience designer of a certain age, I find myself identifying and empathizing with both sides. OF COURSE our brands need social media accounts and strategies, but I reacted like Thom (the protagonist OG) in that I couldn’t understand why a brand like Pepto Bismol has a Twitter account or why 7,400 people would want to follow them. But then it hit me like a burrito bomb. And I have to give Pepto’s agency respect for both responding smartly to Happyish and for having the most subversive social campaign I’ve ever seen. Pepto, as you might imagine, doesn’t have a lot to say about or to the world. But it doesn’t fall into the trap of selling its product on social either. Instead, it creates observational (and occasionally funny) content. A lot of it is about pizza. A LOT. And sausage and bacon and quesadillas and all kinds of delicious food that, if you’re inspired to eat it, will make your stomach revolt. Should you indulge, you’re eventually going to need Pepto Bismol. And THAT is the long game of content marketing, the game we all had better be playing now.

Long live the King.

Originally published on R&R Partners blog

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