Enterprise Content Creation

The Evolution of Content Creator Networks

John Andrews | @Katadhin

My first foray into social media was in late 2007. I was running on a treadmill at the Walmart Family Life Center (Walmart’s corporate gym in Bentonville), and Clint McClain stopped to ask me about emerging media.

“You know about this Twitter thing right?” he quipped.

“If you mean that I know there is something called Twitter then yes, I know all about it,” I replied.

Clint recruited me to join his emerging media team, which was great; I just needed to figure out what the hell emerging media was. I sure didn’t know anything about social media but I did have a good grasp of consumer marketing. That combination served me well as I learned about new media technology through that lens. What I discovered almost right away was there was some amazing content being created about saving money, Walmart’s core brand promise, and most of it was produced by people instead of brands. A simple Google search for saving money or saving money on groceries delivered great content from frugality bloggers, money-saving bloggers, personal finance bloggers etc. And the content was great and engaged audiences an authentic way that branded content never could!

Today the same money-saving searches will deliver much more branded content from bankrate.com, Bank of America and Dave Ramsey along with an ad from feedthepig.org coupled with some shared content from Ted Rubin that Google+ customizes from my network connection to him. A search for “saving money on groceries” also gives much more branded content than eight years prior but a great piece titled Saving Money Without Coupons by Jazmin Rode from frugalitygal.com written in 2013 is still an organic page one result.

From that early realization that content was a key driver of digital and social engagement; I have been completely committed to understanding and building content networks. Each day, my thinking evolves as the interaction of content, channel and consumer changes rapidly. My first influencer network experience was with money-saving influencers who helped build a network called Elevenmoms. This certainly wasn’t the first network but one key point of difference was we did not sell ads around the Elevenmoms content, but rather the content was the ad. Advertisers including Pantene, Campbell’s and Coke worked with the Elevenmoms to create original content that was relevant to their audience.

Despite the great organic engagement of influencer content marketing, scaled influencer networks have mostly sought to monetize the collective eyeballs of traffic into ad sales. To date, this model hasn’t worked well and highly-funded efforts from Federated Media to Conde Nast’s fashion blogger network NowManifest have had to retrench as their business models didn’t support the funding they received. One constant problem, ads around digital content tend to suck in terms of performance. From ad blindness, viewability issues to fraud, digital advertising is a losing battle even with the integration of big data yield demand and hyper-targeting/retargeting. You are after all, more likely to get hit by lightning than click a banner ad. The industry overcomes this by massive delivery of ads and all kinds of tactics to get you to click (a huge sum of clicks are accidental or from bots).

Walgreens Red Nose Day Content Creators, the #RedNoseClub

Organic content is highly effective because it has permanence that drives ongoing Share of Voice (SOV) levels along with driving lasting search optimization. Additionally, with social outperforming search for website referral, social content is becoming critical for brand engagement. Influencer created organic content has the added benefit of a naturally engaged audience. Influencer generated organic content engagement crushes branded content because their audiences aren’t typically bought or incentivized. The audience exists because of the content so organic messaging naturally works well on their channels. Aggregating influencers to sell ads against completely misses the point of what makes their content consumable in the first place and is frankly slapping an old model on a new type of media.

Content models are in a state of continual and rapid change today. What worked even six months ago likely does not today, the social media marketing space requires hyper-innovation and testing. We’ve updated our thinking from influencers to content creators essentially unbundling content, engagement and audience to better focus on the discrete elements of the model. We’re carefully managing each part of the process with learning’s form over eight years of direct community management at Ignite Social Media. Our Organish™ media approach blends content creator media with skilled content editors using engagement data to identify and syndicate high performing content. Done correctly, this approach offers large amounts of high-quality content, brand consistent messaging and targeted audience delivery across social platforms; all at a scale and cost that rivals the reach of paid digital media.

Enterprise content creation and distribution is a growing need currently facing most brands and retailers. We believe that the Content Everywhere™ model offers a measurable, scalable and efficient solution.

This story was originally posted at Carusele.com.

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