There is a huge crash coming.
Racing down the highway, approaching from opposite directions, are content marketing and social media marketing.
Many people think these two vehicles are complementary, one supporting the other, driving in the same direction. And potentially they could be. But that’s not what I see happening.
I think they are about to collide and cause a lot of companies some huge headaches.
Here is what I’m seeing…
With their Panda update Google bankrupted a ton of companies and forced the rest of us to focus more on the quality of the content we published, and less on the quantity.
For the last couple of years we have all been focused on creating quality content. At least, we have if we want Google to be nice to us and list our pages high up in the search results.
At the same time, feeling nervous about what Google might do next, a lot of companies have been pouring more and more money into social media. If Google isn’t going to give them the volume of traffic they want, then maybe social media can pick up the slack.
So we have two things happening. We are creating quality content for Google, and we are getting serious about social media.
Sounds good so far…but…this is where we come to the conflict and the upcoming crash.
It turns out that while Google responds well to quality content, social media doesn’t.
In fact, social media performs really well for you when you create very large volumes of trivial, useless and totally crap content.
For example, I could write a very, very useful article under the headline, “How to Maximize Clickthroughs on any Ecommerce Website”.
I would get very few shares or likes on social media for that article, however good it might be.
If I want to maximize my reach through social media, I would do better to write an article with a headline more like, “5 Things Every Marketer Can Learn From Miley Cyrus”.
The content might be trivial and ultimately useless, but I would get a lot more exposure.
Make no mistake, there is huge pressure on editors to start publishing less of the first kind of content and more of the second.
The Onion did a wonderful send-up of CNN when CNN devoted their top news spot to Miley Cyrus on a day when things were falling apart in Syria. Why did CNN devote that spot to Miley Cyrus? Because it gave them massive exposure through social media.
More recently, Marina Shifrin, a journalism graduate, quit her job creating videos because her boss had 0% interest in journalism and 100% interest in social media clicks and shares. She created a short video of her last few minutes at work.
Update, Oct 5th: Or read this article at PaidContent.com, which explores how sites like Gawker, BuzzFeed and other outlets that seek out social media friendly content sometimes cross the line and publish "real life" stories that are actually hoaxes. Sometimes journalist don't look too closely at a story when it holds the promise of being a big hit on social media.
Google demands high-quality content. Social media thrives on trivial content.
And there is massive pressure on editors to do well on social media.
What should we do? There is a risk to trying to invest too much effort into trying to please Google, simply because for all we know they might introduce another major update in three months that will pull the rug out from everything we are trying to do today.
At the same time, jumping on the bandwagon and shoveling bucket loads of trivial content to score big on social media brings its own risks. If we publish too much nonsense we’re going to damage the credibility of our brand.
What’s the answer? I honestly don’t know.
But I do think we are entering a very interesting, messy and disruptive time for marketers online.
It’s getting harder and harder to win with quality content.
And the downside of creating too much trivial content is that it will damage us in the long term.
For myself, I’m just going to keep doing what I do, with very little regard to what’s hot, trending or expected. I won’t “win” at social media. I won’t get to the top of page one with Google.
But I will still be me. And maybe, in the long term, that will count for something.
About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach. Read more…
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