It's amazing how quickly content marketing turned into content mania, isn't it?
The rise of digital technology put marketers in a bind. No longer a captive audience, consumers were splitting their time across devices, social networks and websites. Today we spend 16 minutes out of every hour on social media. On Facebook alone, we're sharing 2.5 billion pieces of content every day, according to Nielsen.
Brands frantically tried to compete for users' fragmented attention, spraying content on every platform in a 24/7 race to stay relevant. But marketers can't even count on the steady stream of social feeds to reach consumers anymore -- Facebook, for instance, is telling brands to expect their organic reach to flatline altogether before too long.
And the bad news continues beyond social platforms.
The CEO of data analytics company Chartbeat, Tony Haile, puts is succinctly: "What You Think You Know About the Web Is Wrong." A review of their own data uncovered some hard truths, namely: no one's reading what you're writing. It seems that 55% of people spend fewer than 15 seconds actively looking at a page. And the number of shares a piece receives seems virtually meaningless. "We looked at 10,000 socially-shared articles and found that there is no relationship whatsoever between the amount a piece of content is shared and the amount of attention an average reader will give that content," Haile writes. Well, fantastic.
We're all posting and clicking and sharing but we're not devoting enough attention to get anything meaningful from it all. The recent trend towards digital detoxing and mindfulness shows that the tide is turning: people just aren't going to put up with the clutter anymore. Anything that doesn't bring value will be ignored or discarded.
So the "content marketing" tipping point is here. How can we move forward? By learning to tell better stories. It's time to make what New York Times bestselling author Harrison Monarth calls the "irresistible power of classic storytelling" work for your brand.
Monarth writes about a recent study from Keith Quesenberry at Johns Hopkins and Michael Coolsen from Shippensburg University, which analyzed 108 Super Bowl commercials over two years. Quesenberry and Coolsen found that regardless of the content, the commercials that told the best stories were the most popular.
"People are attracted to stories," Quesenberry told Monarth, "because we're social creatures and we relate to other people."
And, as Monarth notes, stories can evoke a physiological response: "Neuroeconomist Paul Zak's research indicates that our brains produce the stress hormone cortisol during the tense moments in a story, which allows us to focus." Meanwhile, cute images like baby animals releases oxytocin, "the feel-good chemical that promotes connection and empathy."
Another experiment Zak conducted suggested that emotionally charged material actually increased the likelihood of people parting with their money. "With both oxytocin and cortisol in play, those who had the higher amounts of oxytocin were much more likely to give money to someone they'd never met," Monarth writes.
What that means for brands online is easing off the daily content treadmill and focusing on content that connects with fans emotionally. Fewer posts about random calendar events, and more posts that engage fans in the continuing narrative of the brand, beyond the latest product release. It means using technology creatively and thoughtfully. And it means moving away from "sort of" being everywhere, to being fully present where they need to be.
The same basic tools we've used for thousands of years to connect with people, to draw them in and to hold their attention will always work, even if we're telling our stories 140 characters at a time.
You can check out last week's episode on the race between Uber and Sidecar to provide the most "human" ride-sharing experience right here.