LinkedIn launched in May 2003, yet increased to 20 million viewers three years after that date. The 277-million profiles strong network is currently expanding the content side of its ecosystem, making more explicit how you can use content for business intelligence, for example.
Google had its initial public offering in August 2004. Since then, it has overtaken the lion share of marketing budgets with a roster of products and platforms where ads are becoming content in their own right.
What will it look like in Ten years?
We may not remember what the digital experience was like more than ten years ago; we will probably underestimate what it will be like in the next decade. Already content is bigger than Google.
Tech portability and ubiquity of access are becoming a challenge for many brands, including the telecoms and cable companies that provide that access – more tools and better content are creating just a break-even situation in social streams.
The highest form of preference in commercial terms continues to be a transaction.
Online, commerce-enabled sites are still the place where it happens. However, a roster of applications and social platforms are starting to bridge the distance between site-as-destination and unpredictably irrational purchases in other channels.
Three challenges for marketers
Content to represent the voice of the brand can and should be created once and published everywhere. In reality:
1.) Marketers find themselves recreating the same content for different channels by different groups. Even re-inventing content happens in one division with one team and them starts over once a new team is on board.
2.) For many marketers it is hard to justify an investment in content areas not directly related to driving traffic and/or conversion. Hence the lack of integration with other content-producing groups.
3) A campaign-driven approach makes the content expiration brief and re-imagining expensive; in essence, by treating all content equally to serve mostly one to two main goals, marketers find their digital properties lack depth and interestingness in all the places that would make them timely.
This is where content marketing and social technologies shake hands for mutual benefit.
I still do wonder if organizations realize that the pros involved in social media on behalf of their brands hold a lot more than just the responsibility to the dialogue with customers – and employees. Why do we continue to forget their power to amplify your brand?
Social interactions enhance the value of personal relationships, and online they do so mostly through content.
Social Capital is Real
In early May 2008, a brief exchange with Heath Row provided useful take aways on the value of social capital. Extrapolating from the value of the three things a social capitalist does well:
1. She makes sure that the right people meet each other at the right time to create the most value collectively.
2. She does all of her work tapping into her personal network in order to benefit from the group mind, collective skills, and shared knowledge available to her.
3. She does so in such a way that shares a model and set of practices that other people can learn from and use to do the same themselves.
Sounds familiar? How much ground have we covered in fourteen years? (actually closer to 17; for the ones counting)
The one insight Heath had circa 1997 (at Fast Company) was … that the connection people felt to the periodical was similar to the connection folks feel with other people. In other words, the magazine was a Social Object#. Hugh MacLeod spotted the purpose-idea and provided a definition:
The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else. Human beings are social animals. We like to socialize. But if you think about it, there needs to be a reason for it to happen in the first place. That reason, that “node” in the social network, is what we call the Social Object.
It is immersion in social streams that is providing the most practice to marketers-turned-content-creators. Because they understand the million dollar content question: how the marketing is the service is the product#.
With content then, three areas of opportunity exist to deliver meaningful experiences.
1. Delivering the right experience to the right people at the right time – a rather modern way of looking at "campaign"; maintaining the temporary nature of what is now by making it new to you at the moment of highest advantage.
Evolving initial attention into habit.
2. Developing content assets while learning what works – a timeless way of building that takes into consideration the environment in which it flows (i.e. the networks, social graphs, and feedback loops) as well as the stock or specific assets, experience, interestingness, and direction the brand brings to the table.
Making the content usable, not just sharable.
3. Providing a platform as a vehicle for others to tell their story – perhaps the most important aspect of content production resides here; where marketers-turned-content-creators design the architecture of an experience that is user-results-driven. We are starting to see examples of content as service with cards — they don't merely deliver content, they deliver an experience.
Enabling distributed context, not just content.
For lack of mass-ification of the experience, much of the social Web is still working on discovery and distribution. Engagement comes after it. Why we still get things done through search and false positives in interaction like favorite Fridays, and what color is xyz are not selling squat (unless we are talking about your parachute; Google this).
LinkedIn is building its platform, and it should not come as a surprise that it is leveraging content to deliver meaningful experiences to do that.
For a detailed example of how social interaction trains you to become this kind of publsher see my post Should You Outsource Social Media? of May 10, 2010. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
[image courtesy Wikimedia]