The recent real-time marketing coup by Oreo and its agency, 360i, during the Super Bowl blackout has had people talking about the next wave of social media marketing and advertising. And while that singular image of a delicious cookie, accompanied by a hyper-timely message, may serve as inspiration for other companies looking to evolve their own digital marketing initiatives, the reality is that few companies will ever be able to do what Oreo did. They simply lack the creative and human resources to be “always on” — producing real-time, inspired, first-party branded content to delight their fans. Most companies have very small teams responsible for social media marketing, and, in many cases, just one or two people responsible for developing the voices for their brands online.
When you don’t have the resources to drive your social media marketing with exclusively owned content and five pieces of new content per day, there is a wealth of third-party content that can just as effectively help reinforce your brand’s identity — I would say actually do a better, more “authentic” job of letting your customers get to know you and your brand. And it isn’t simply content curation, but a much higher art form. Just finding and sharing someone else’s article isn’t enough to build your brand. Here are five things chief marketing officers need to know about making third-party content a driving force in their content marketing strategy.
Ain’t No Party Like A Third Party To Shape Your Brand Identity
Whether it’s the photos on your Facebook news feed or the art hanging on your wall, what you share says a great deal about your personality. This is no different for a brand, or, more specifically, a company’s social media marketing strategy. A company that exclusively produces original content might earn itself some sort of bragging rights, but curating content from a diverse pool of trusted and informative third-party sources will garner more respect and attention from followers than most original content. By sharing content from third parties, you and your brand are acting more human — these acts of sharing are little daily votes that let your fans and followers know who you are and what you stand for. They allow you to share your “single-minded value proposition” through little snackable pieces of content built by others. And the content can be varied — it could be a blog post about an area you care about, a picture of someone using your product in a novel way, or even a critical review in which you acknowledge your own shortcomings. The biggest thing is that there are other things happening around your customers and fans that involve you and your brand: You need to join them in their world.
It’s Not Curation Without Voice
Social media is still about people — their personalities, their views, and their conversations. Technology can help discover and curate, but it can never replace the nuance of the brand’s voice — a voice that needs to be approachable, authentic, and human. Whether it’s inserting a personal anecdote or cat GIF, people want to see that these brands they’re following aren’t spambots pumping out mindless recycled content. They want to hear what the brand stands for, what it cares about, why it exists for them. Just adding, “Interesting,” “Good read,” “Check this out,” etc., is lazy and ultimately detrimental to a brand’s social media following. If consumers want an RSS, they can easily find one to sign up for on their own. Successful marketers present the story as only a piece of the big picture, adding the “why” or the “how” to show that this makes a difference for the reader and ultimately furthers the brand’s goals.
Enable Technology To Enable People
It’s no secret that it’s tough to staff a 24-hour, always-on-call social media team. Most community managers at brands big or small have long lists of tasks to perform on a daily basis, and finding great news, stories, and studies to share on their social networks from the millions of sources on the Internet, 10 to 20 times a day, is just one of them. Your social media team is probably pretty good and talented but most likely overworked. Technology can help them. Whether it’s more efficient curation and publishing tools, or just the freedom to take advantage of mobile applications to keep up with the always-on social stream, enabling your team with the right tools can make them more effective (and happier).
Your Third-Party Sharing Can Shape Your Owned Content Strategy
In nearly any field or art form, compiling material from other sources can result in great success for you or your brand and, in turn, help further your original content. The Huffington Post has become one of the most-visited websites based on a foundation of sharing content from other sources, while mash-up artists like Girl Talk, with dozens of layers of blended samples, continue to sell out venues around the world. These disparate pieces of third-party content end up shaping the brand’s concurrent or eventual original content — whether it’s a headline on an original HuffPost story or a musical composition based on an original melody and chord progression. For marketers, the more content you share, the more you begin to understand what your community responds to, just like a dance artist would gauge fans’ reaction to a sample they’ve been using. Marketers should use the data learned from third-party sharing — clicks, comments, number of retweets, number of new or lost followers, etc. — to help shape any owned content creation initiatives. Remember that you are sharing content for your fans, not you.
Curation Is Not A Four-Letter Word
A logic gap still remains with many companies when it comes to sharing content that they did not independently produce. Whether it’s due to fear, accountability issues, the “we’re better than that” mindset, or other issues they may have, companies need to get over it. The biggest and most revered news outlets in the world, such as General Electric, make third-party content an instrumental component of their content marketing strategy. Companies that are unable to accept the idea of content curation will eventually face a harsh reality: Audiences don’t discern between what is first-party and what is third-party — they only discern between what’s interesting and what isn’t. If you’re producing the latter, your social media practice may be doomed.
Joe Doran, co-founder and CEO of Rallyverse, is a seasoned and accomplished senior executive with 15 years of experience managing digital media, advertising, and social media solutions in high-growth companies such as Microsoft, General Mills, and Media6Degrees. He is a sought-after expert in interactive advertising, advertising technology, and social media, and an active investor and advisor to a number of social and advertising companies.