Three marketing truths for an information dense world

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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  • drjrogers

    This is probably the best article I have read recently! This really resonated with me…. and will be shared with my students this week. I have been researching a lot for my doctoral work the past month around trust and its relation to loyalty (branding/SMM)- this was very Timely!

  • There is probably a ton of stuff in my book you could use for your research. The Content Code is basically The Book of Trust. It is the word that comes up over and over. Thanks for the comment!

  • drjrogers

    Trying to tie it brand loyalty stemming from user generated vs brand generated content.. while looking for a gap in research to fill. May focus on Gen X… I’ll have to add Content Code to my Amazon Wish list! 😉 Hope all is well.

  • Traffic definitely equates to tourists, I haven’t thought of it that way. If you want people to stay however, they have to like what they see and connect to it – eventually build trust in the place to live there and only then do they become your… residents, which translates to loyalists and advocates, which is what brands and companies are looking for the most.

  • Claudia Licher

    Hi Mark, great post. You made me wonder why I share… I think it’s because I want to inform people, to help them make an informed decision (if they need to do so). That would put me into category two. The alternative is that I enjoy looking smart (which I do), but then I’d share every single one of your posts 😉

    My two cents. “The people who share your content are the ones who will actually buy something.” That is often true, but not always. Some of the people who share your content, notably the ‘helpers’, will share content that they feel may benefit others. If I had bought half the stuff I’ve shared, my bank account would be in a very sorry state indeed! Instead I share content whenever I think “hey, this is something worth knowing”, via Twitter, LinkedIn, or even email if it’s for a specific person. Then they can decide what to do: buy or not buy. I agree with you that if content doesn’t ring true or look useful, it won’t get shared as much as the author would like. I wonder how many people are ‘pure’ advocates for the content they like, rather than buyers?

  • Brigitte Gleissner

    Really great information about why we share. So true, we share for emotional reasons and economic incentives might drive social engagement up for a short while but do not build any long-term trust or brand commitment.

  • Yes, that is what I chase down in the book.

  • … and that is where we need to focus! : ) Thanks for commenting Avtar!

  • Good distinction and I agree with you Claudia. Your final question would make an interesting research topic.

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  • I love how you boiled sharing behavior down to these three, Mark. You could break out self-identity motives further. I think people share things that resonate and represent their current self, attitudes, etc. Others share things that represent their aspirations.

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  • Very true Scott. More complicated than what I have here but focused for a short blog post!

  • Right on.

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  • Brian Finley

    Great points! I agree that it highly important to create valuable content and to ensure that it is being shared to the proper audience. As a salesperson I can attest that people are focused on emotions when looking for real value. Most people could be best source of referrals when you’ve built trust and dependability. I just thought of sharing this amazing brand that has truly established trust and reliability to me, Invisume. It is a platform that connects salespeople with best companies while ensuring 100 percent confidentiality. I’ll be checking out your book in amazon. Looking forward to more posts!

  • Hi Mark,

    There is really basic concept to this that many people miss unfortunately. Last June year when I started my blog I had no one and in a short time I had influencers sharing my content, commenting on my blogs and inviting me to contribute to their blogs.

    The reason is that I made the initial contact with them by offering comments that contributed to the conversation, extended it and exposed it to my network. It was an intentional strategy. They became my Google and I became their Google.

    By building a community of influencers I was able to get invited to great sites like SEMrush for both articles and webinars. I will be on radio in studio for several interviews in Philadelphia in April and I am connecting with NFL athletes now who are signing as clients.

    In order to get there I Identified 3 audiences:

    1. My primary audience – these are my customers and prospects. I had to learn what problems they have and then communicate to them how I solve those specific problems in a blog, video, podcast, etc… It’s very specific and very targeted.

    2. My secondary audience – these are the people I want to build relationships and partnerships with; the influencers. That means I have to contribute value to them; help them; and show them how to make it a two-way street.

    If they don’t want that then I have to move on. Key here is also not target the biggest fish, but those who do have influence in a niche with their audience.

    3. Everyone else who may or may not fall into the other two.

    Your article really resonated with me. Especially when you said “Here is a thought for you: The people sharing your content are the ones creating true economic value for your content marketing effort.”

    They can take you places you can’t take yourself; and you can help them go places they cannot go.

    The real key here is collaboration; and the new economy is built on it. It’s not hard to see who a collaborator is from who is not.

    I’m looking forward to getting to know you through your articles. I will be back! Now it’s off to share your fantastic article!!!!

    Have a great weekend!

    ~ Don Purdum

  • Thank you Don.

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