Content is not king. It is important–vital, in fact–but it is not king. A new study from TrackMaven demonstrates that while brands continue to pursue greater content production strategies, they are getting less engagement for their effort. This is an outcome that a simple supply-and-demand analysis could have predicted, and it demonstrates once again why customer experience is the real king.
Even without examining data, it should be apparent why customer experience has a stronger claim to the throne than does content. Content can attract attention but it cannot hold loyalty. You do not stay loyal to brands that produce the best content but the brands that provide the best customer experience at the right price (excluding, of course, those brands were content is the product like Disney or FOX). No one has ever said, “The product is disappointing, but I’m not going to switch because the brand produces great content.”
In the consumer half of your brain, the idea that customer experience is more important than content seems pretty obvious, but the marketer half of our brains clings to the belief that content is the ruler. This may be a holdover from a time when creative Mad Men ruled our industry, but media has splintered, the number of channels has risen, and the content available to consumers has exploded. The marketing equation that worked in the era when an advertiser on “I Love Lucy” could reach 70% of households is different than the one today with millions of websites, YouTube channels, Spotify lists, blogs, mobile apps, Video on Demand, streaming and cable channels.
In recent years, the growth of social media and access to low-cost online publishing and distribution tools has led to the belief that brands are publishers. While some brands have opportunities to publish content that reaches a critical mass and produces marketing returns, most brands struggle to realize the promise of their content marketing strategies. The reason is best explained not in marketing terms but economic ones using the law of supply and demand.
What happens when the supply of something rises but demand does not? The price drops. Over the last decade, the supply of content has exploded. Brands that used to produce a new campaign or press release every few weeks or months now try to engage consumers with fresh content several times a day via social media. And it isn’t just brands–consumers today have countless content options from BitTorrent to YouTube to VOD to websites to their Facebook news feeds.
While the supply of content has risen, what has happened to the demand for it? Consumers may be multitasking more, but they still have just two ears, two eyes and so many hours in the day to consume media. Media consumption has risen, but nowhere near the pace of media production.
In situations where supply grows much faster than demand, supply-and-demand models indicate that price must drop. While the decline of traditional media is well known (with TV viewing by 18-24-year-olds dropping by almost 8-and-a-half hours per week in four years and daily newspaper circulation falling in nine of the last ten years), the “price” consumers pay for content is also dropping in digital and social media.
Content distributed via blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter may be free to consumers, but people pay a price for this content with their attention and engagement. The decline in the organic reach of brands on Facebook is not news to marketers, but a new report from TrackMaven further makes the case that as brand content has grown, consumer engagement has shrunk.
TrackMaven analyzed 50 million pieces of content from almost 23,000 brands across six digital channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and blogs) with a combined total of 75.7 billion interactions. The report notes that “From its highest to lowest points, the output of content per brand increased 35% per channel across 2015, but content engagement decreased by 17%.” The engagement ratio at the end of 2015 dropped to 2.19 interactions per post per brand per 1,000 followers, a rate of 0.219% of followers per post (not a whole lot better than the current clickthrough rate of display ads of 0.16%).
The way to overcome content challenges is to give people the right customer experience that encourages them to create content and spread the word for you. While the supply of entertaining, informative and emotional content may continue to rise and diminish the “price” of your brand’s content, the supply-and-demand mechanics for trusted, authentic, peer-to-peer content is quite different. As noise rises, the demand for trusted content increases, which is why a large number of studies demonstrate people want, value and trust content from people they know.
Content is vital–furnishing the right content to the right people at the right time can deliver people to your door– but customer experience is what keeps them inside your brand kingdom and encourages them to invite others. In this way, content is more like the public mass transit system of your realm, but make no mistake–the king is customer experience.
Long live the CX king!