2017: The age of social satellites
As web traffic and user engagement continue to drop, columnist and Bitly senior content strategist Blaise Lucey says it's time to think about creating modular pieces of content that orbit your central piece of content.
When I started building content marketing programs in 2010, it was easy to get more web traffic. You targeted a keyword, hammered out two or three articles a day with those keywords littered throughout an otherwise forgettable block of text, and people came. Google surfaced anything with the right keywords. People found it.
By 2012, quality content was what got results. At an email marketing company, my team built a robust content program with the blog as the machine’s engine. The more articles we wrote, the more traffic we got. In one year, we saw an 800 percent growth in traffic.
Our goal was to build a blog that had so much helpful knowledge that our customers kept coming back for more. It worked.
Today, the idea seems quaint. Every business is attempting content marketing now. Social channels are saturated. User engagement is falling.
And that’s why 2017 is going to be the year of the social satellite.
The social duopoly
The best way to gauge how consumers are engaging with content today is to look at publishers. A publisher like The New York Times or BuzzFeed is getting millions of readers a day. So if they notice something, then the odds are good it’s going to affect your content marketing programs, too. And what are they noticing?
The slow, inevitable decline of web traffic.
“The trend across media is the slow decline of direct traffic to homepages,” M. Scott Havens, global head of digital for Bloomberg Media, told Digiday. Bloomberg is combating the trend by constantly optimizing the user experience in terms of site layout and site speed. But that only works if people are still coming to the site.
The original goal of content marketing — to create stuff that gets people to stay at your site and come back to it later — is fading.
A post-website experience
Nothing should ever replace your owned media properties, especially your website and blog, but, in the year of the social satellite, you have to build marketing strategies that reflect this new reality.
Enter the content campaign.
Rather than cross-promoting the same thing on a bunch of different channels and hoping for the numbers to mean something, teams should break out modular pieces of content for every channel.
At Bitly, my employer, we’ve created a content campaign formula like this:
- Influencer outreach
- Blog post #1
- Twitter chat
- Email announcement (FB Live)
- Facebook Live video
- Blog post #2
- Social push
- Blog post #3
- Social push
- Email announcement (Webinar)
By reaching out to influencers in January, we built an ongoing conversation around health care marketing trends with industry experts. The webinar is a culmination of our Facebook Live video, which had a panel of health care marketing experts discussing the industry trends, and all of the blog posts we’ve written.
If we had wanted to stretch further, we would have written a Medium post and posted something to LinkedIn, in addition to paid promotions — maybe thrown in a YouTube video or Facebook Instant Article, too.
All of these modular pieces of content build to one central piece of content — the webinar — through a cycle of micro-content that lives across different social satellites. It doesn’t matter whether people visit the blog or if they stay on Facebook, for example. The content lives within the satellite itself.
So you’re creating content inside the touch points, rather than urging consumers to break browsing behavior. But each one of these pieces of content points back to the webinar registration page.
Think about the central piece of content as your home planet. Your social satellites are all orbiting it.
A whole new world
It’s time to acknowledge that channels have changed as referral sources to destinations. Your users or prospects may follow you on Twitter or like you on Facebook, but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to click out of the social network to look at something more substantial than a tweet.
To adapt, brands have to offer quality content across the social satellites — content that can stand alone but entices people to visit the home planet for something big.
The central content can’t just be the company blog. It has to be a piece of premium content — a guide, an e-book, a webinar, a video — that can guarantee whoever visits is going to find it worthwhile. And hopefully, worthwhile enough to sign up for an email list or check out your social content more often.
Brands can’t be everywhere at once. But by creating modular pieces of content that build into something bigger, you can make sure you have something in place wherever your audience might be next.
Your home planet is always going to be your website. But today, your audience lives among social satellites. Your job is getting them to break orbit.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.