I’d like to share an email I recently received …
I am the founder of a sporting goods company in the Pacific Northwest. We occupy (and dominate) a small but profitable extreme sport niche.
We are certainly a conversational company with passionate fans and we have worked hard to engage and build a social media audience to the point where we have 13,000 fans on Facebook. In late 2012 we hired a full-time community manager and content producer. This is an extraordinary step and a huge commitment to content marketing for a company with only 17 employees!
In the last 12 months our reach on Facebook has declined by 90 percent. Despite spending MORE on higher quality video, our views have stagnated. Engagement on our blog is down by 50 percent even though we are investing in more consistent posting and highlighting great customer stories and adventures.
The more we spend on content marketing, the worse the problem gets it seems. Can you help us?
There could be many reasons behind this fellow’s problem. Competitive activity shifts. Customers turning to new social media channels. An ineffective community manager.
But more than likely, there is at least one systemic factor behind this decline — there is an increasing amount of competing content in his market niche. A strategy that worked last year is not good enough today. William’s decline in Facebook reach is extreme but not unusual. According to AgoraPulse, From July 2013 to July 2014, 71 percent of company Facebook pages had a loss in organic reach of at least 30 percent, a cataclysmic decline.
According to Facebook, there is simply too much stuff. The average Facebook user now has the opportunity to see nearly 2,000 Facebook posts a day. The company has no alternative but to ratchet the news stream back.
This is Content Shock happening right before our eyes.
“Overload” versus “density”
A year ago I coined this term “Content Shock” to describe our era of particularly difficult marketing. Content marketing works well … and as more and more people figure that out, market niches become flooded with higher-quality content alternatives for the same consumer attention.
It is important to know that this business challenge before us is NOT created by “information overload.” It’s defined by “information density.” There is a big difference.
More information (“overload”) is actually great news for consumers. The competition for attention will force better content and more choice. We now have the accumulated knowledge of the human race at our finger tips and that is a good thing, even if it might seem overwhelming.
But unless the amount of content saturation is low in your market, trying to cut through this information tsunami (“density” – the business side of the trend) is going to be a significant challenge for many businesses — like the sporting goods company in the letter above. Without changing something dramatically and NOW, the effectiveness of William’s content marketing efforts are declining week by week. He is basically throwing money away.
And it’s going to get worse.
The problem intensifies
Research from CMI/Marketing Profs and others shows that business content “production” is going into hyper drive in 2015 and beyond. In fact, between now and 2020, the amount of information on the Internet is expected to increase by 500% (and some experts believe that number is conservative). So let’s get our heads around that fact. If you can imagine the vastness of the Internet, in the next few years, we are going to have five of those.
If you think getting your message through is difficult now, well … fasten your seat belt.
Most marketers “get it.” The Content Shock topic has been featured in dozens of podcasts, webinars and conferences. There were a remarkable number of blog posts written about the subject — more than 700 so far. And of that total, less than 10 posts had an outright dismissive response to the primary position of the article — information density will dramatically impact the nature of business competition. If you are actively working in marketing today, you know that Content Shock is not a theory. You’re already fighting through it every day.
While the idea of Content Shock might have seemed provocative or even controversial a year ago, it is mainstream thinking today. If you look at the major themes of the traditional “forecast posts” we see at this time of year, there are three themes stated nearly everywhere:
- Paying to get our content viewed
- A need to focus on new content distribution strategies
- A move away from crowded places like Facebook and into less noisy channels
All of these trends are predictable consequences of increasing information density and Content Shock.
And that brings us to today.
The business imperative of finding a way to claw our way through information density is not only real, it is the most profound and important trend in the marketing profession — today, and for years to come.
Information density is like a hammer pounding on the marketing industry anvil. It will forge entirely new platforms. new advertising models, new content types. As we strain against the winds of the content hurricane before us, it will influence the nature of our jobs, the skills we need to compete, our budgets, and most certainly our strategies.
This is neither good nor bad. It simply is.
You can see this as exciting or you can see this as depressing. Just don’t think it is OK to stay the same.
Is content marketing still about content?
A common notion in our field is “Great content will always rise to the top.”
This is a comforting thought and something that was certainly true in the early, less-crowded days of the web.
Perhaps it is still true today if you are fortunate and your business resides in an established and dominant position in an industry niche (in essence, creating Content Shock for your competitors!).
But for most of us toiling in the marketing trenches every day, we know this mantra rings hollow in 2015.
Great content does not necessarily rise to the top. Great content is merely the starting point.
It is the table stake to get us into the game.
Content sitting idly on a website — even superb content — has as much value as the world’s greatest movie script locked in a cold, dark vault. It is doing nothing. It means nothing. It is certainly not rising to the top or creating measurable value for our organizations.
The conversation in 2015 and beyond must be, “what now?” What comes after “great content?” How do we IGNITE our excellent work to cut through this intimidating world of information density? How do we become more clever, more resourceful, more strategic in the distribution of that investment so that people actually SEE it, ENGAGE with it, and SHARE it in a way that creates business value?
If Content Shock defined the marketing conversation in 2014, “IGNITION” must be the keystone idea moving forward.
Content marketing for most businesses is not just about the content any more. It’s about the content ignition.
Don’t just write. Ignite.
Let’s move forward and explore this conversation together in 2015 shall we?
- Rachel Strella wrote a great post called Four Ways to Ignite Your Content as a response to this post.
- I addressed the major dissenting points on the topic of Content Shock in a post called SIx Arguments Against Content Shock. This fleshed out the concept in detail.
- I ended the original Content Shock post with a question … What are you going to do about it? One answer to this question is in a post called 10 Strategies to Battle Content Shock.
- Here is a post that demonstrates that Content Shock is predictable, from a historical perspective. Each time we close out a digital marketing era, our work gets harder.
Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.
Illustration courtesy of Flickr CC and Loupiote