For those who have not discovered him yet, Brian Solis is a social media guru who has turned the medium into a science. If you can, pick up his book Engage! and read it with a bottle of aspirin nearby, because you'll have a headache about a third of the way in. Ever since I discovered him he regulalrly posts an explanation of something that has been noodling around in my brain. It's kind of scary actually.
For example, today he posts a piece about infographics (that are all the rage now) and explains why they are so badly done in general. He asks, "Are you trying to seek the embrace of your customers and the people who influence them or are you designing for those who will approve and fund your campaign?"
In that simple question he wraps up about 6 months of discussions I've had with companies about developing shareable, engaging content.
I morphed my business out of PR a couple of years ago into whate we called a strategic earned media concept. We created content designed to not only be acceptable and valuable to B2B media but to their readers as well. Everything we did was designed around those two strategic targets. But the more content we created around that idea, the more we realized that our sponsoring companies had no idea what to do with it and had very little idea why it was valuable or why it seemed to work. It was strategic communication and no one we worked with had ever seen anything like it. Scared the crap out of them.
So in the past few months, we had pivoted once again into showing companies how we make the decision to create and/or share content, by using social media to identify key customers and attract their attention. We had no idea what to call what we were now doing, so we called it "content marketing" because it seemed to be the closest to what we did.
Boy, were we off. Solis defined it for us. It's social production.
Most technology companies develop a solution to a specific problem and then assume that other people will have the same problem. That's the basis of their business. That assumption is also part of their marketing. Occassionally, they are right. Most of the time they are not, but they plow ahead believing their assumption to be correct, until they are completely bankrupt. When you have a limited amount of revenue, going off half cocked like that seems to be a good idea because doing real market research is expensive.
Social media, however, gives you the ability to actually learn something specific about people who drive the market. You can learn what they are interested in and what media they consume. And except for the cost of personnel and time, it is virtually free. That kind of knowledge creates relationships that can show if you actually have a good idea, what can make it better, who to sell it to and how to sell it.
But you can't do it by slappng together a pretty infographic or a punchy press release that is based on your assumptions, because (1) your assumptions are proably wrong and (2) almost every competitor is doing the same thing so you have no differentiator. You actually have to spend time on production of social content beyond wht you have done in the past