Generating great marketing content is one thing. Getting that content discovered, though, is quite another. In the early days of the internet, the focus for marketers was all on search discovery. Now, the emphasis is increasingly on passive discovery.
Search discovery was all about keyword-driven search engine optimisation. It reflected a pre-social media era of the web when everyone was assumed to be operating on their own, typing search terms into a browser.
To get a grip on how things have changed, just think about your own internet habits. Most of the best content you see probably comes to you via social media or through RSS (really simple syndication) readers. Essentially, the search is already done for you through your own browsing.
Amazon latched onto this more than a decade ago, providing users with recommendations based on their own browsing habits. Now, every consumer products company – from shoes to clothing to music to travel – understands that active search constitutes a far smaller share of consumer decision-making.
People are now used to social and algorithmic recommendations and , in short, are open to a far greater subset of choices than used to exist in the traditional funnel-based approach where consumers started with a selection of familiar brands and worked back from there.
This is an opportunity for more fleet-footed businesses to draw people in. Although social media platforms tend to be secretive as to the exact nature of their algorithms, there are a number of things that can be done to give your content a better chance of being seen. As Brent Barnhart notes in Sprout Social's guide to social algorithms: “social media algorithms tend to reward accounts that post on a frequent basis rather than every now and then”, and “the more engagement a piece of content gets, the more likely it is to be rewarded by the algorithm”.
The second big change in marketing is that consumers themselves are more self-directed. Internet reviews, word-of-mouth recommendations, and social media buzz can influence people much more powerfully than traditional marketing methods.
In terms of how your brand comes across, just as important as what customers are saying online is how you respond to and interact with these comments. As Hubspot's Marcus Andrews says in his beginner's guide to social media customer service:
“What people say about your company on social is really important – and it's why you need a plan to address comments, good and bad … [and for] reactively solving customer problems and complaints, proactively providing customer assistance and delight, and cultivating a brand known for something positive and inspirational...”
In short, the journey by which consumers make decisions has changed markedly in the past decade. Marketing has to change to reflect what stage of the journey consumers are at, from the initial building of awareness to more active consideration.
The era of one-size-fits-all marketing campaigns is long gone, and the focus is now on data-driven campaigns that recognise multiple entry points to your product. In this sense, customer insights, social listening, and analytics are critical.
Of course, none of this removes the need for the human-directed creation of great story-telling content that engages people and draws them toward your brand; but the ability of digital technology to distribute content at scale, maximise engagement and track the customer journey cannot be underestimated.