How Facebook and Twitter created an industry demand for audience development experts

Why the monetisation of the social media giants have created a race to hire audience development experts

I watched marketing author Jay Baer present trends in content marketing recently, and he showed this slide:

Facebook organic reach vs Facebook stock price from Ethology — Oct 13-Feb 14

It shows the inverse correlation between Facebook’s share price (rising steeply) and the organic reach of a post on a Facebook page.

Jay was making the point that the major social media websites have now transformed into public companies with tough profit expectations. The conclusion was that with demanding shareholders and big promises, brands can no longer expect freebies from Facebook and Twitter.

A bad taste in marketers’ mouths


While marketers knew that social media was going to be monetised, we thought it would be up to them to come up with an advertising model (display!) that we would suit us. But now, after carefully building a profile and audience around our brands we are being asked to pay to communicate with that audience — via sponsored posts. And since we’ve always expected these channels to be free, we’re struggling to deal with it.

The fact is that Facebook and Twitter have designed and evolved themselves to become indispensable content broadcasters. LinkedIn’s huge investment in content in recent years has created significant business potential. Promoted pins on Pinterest will be with us before we know it. Instagram have been experimenting with sponsorships. Snapchat have launched Discover.

What these changes to the digital landscape mean to me is that marketers need to work digital channels a lot harder. Creating great content is no longer enough — it just won’t get to your audience. Even to the audience that “follows” you!

If content is apparently king, who cares if no one knows about it?

King of who?

Content distribution is just as important as content creation

Distributing great content is the new frontier. That means it needs people and energy and commitment and money behind it.

Publishers (the ones that want to win) not only need to pay to distribute their content, but they need to make sure they post the right content at the right time. All the time.

This week, Melissa Dick, Editorial Director at ASOS, told an audience that she is transitioning her team to spend just as much time and investment on content distribution as they are content creation.

There were two key points that resonated with me as she discussed how to win with content in a competitive market:

  1. Accept that your content is not often going to reach its potential without paying to seed and support it
  2. Embed an audience development strategy and responsibilities into your team

ASOS aren’t the only ones transforming their content efforts. Recently, we’ve seen the NYT Innovation Report spur a hiring spree of audience development staff, and it looks like they’re making some progress. AOL boosted their team in the last year. Conde Nast is looking for a “Growth Hacker”. Bloomberg is on the hunt. Digiday is covering every movement in the field, led by Lucia Moses.

Hard to deny the huge hiring trend for audience development experts.

Audience development is a multi-faceted field

Hiring an audience development expert? This is who you’re looking for…

It’s a combination of teamwork and team leadership, SEO, UX, analytics, data, social media, editorial, subbing, community management, PPC, attribution models, competitor monitoring, product development and everything in between.

It needs to be approached at this holistic level.

It’s a team game. Effective audience development needs to be a tidal wave rather than a ripple. To make it work, you have to find ways of activating and inspiring lots of people who have lots of different incentives. They probably won’t be obliged to do any of this work, so audience developers need to combine carrot and stick to get the work done. You have to work hard to get buy-in from senior team members, identify support and give responsibility to the content creators that already have the social media, SEO and web analytics skills that need to spread throughout the team.

And set quantifiable targets — posts per day, engagement rates, audience growth numbers. They will probably need to flex, but benchmarks help create focus.

Who should be in an audience development team? Look at the skill and resource gaps that could give content creators the biggest boost and support. Look at who is responsible for content distribution — do you need to hire a dedicated team member? Is there an analytics expert on tap to discover and share insights? If not, find one or budget for it now. Who are the most talented digital storytellers? Find the experts and point them out to the rest of the team.

This is just the beginning! But if there’s one thing you remember from this article — if you are a content business or a business with content, you must accept that your content is not going to get to the people you made it for without a plan.

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