Social Media’s Insatiable Appetite For Content

Lion Hungry BeastThe average content posting by an advertiser on a Facebook page has a shelf life of about 18 hours, according to a recent analysis led by Colin Sutton, U.S. director of of OMD Word. Sutton’s team defined shelf life as the length of time that users provide feedback after content is posted, and it was less for Facebook than other social media platforms.

That short shelf life, especially on Facebook, is not surprising. For one, Facebook is the dominant social network. It has massive user adoption, and its essence is a stream of fresh updates, not perishable archives. Social is all about content rivers and news feeds.

Moreover, most Facebook new and archived content is not indexed in public search engines for latent discovery, interaction and feedback. In contrast, a blog post I wrote about the resurrection of handwritten letters receives a surge in traffic every few months because of its search engine visibility and seasonal search behavior.

So how can marketers create greater presence and longer content shelf life in social channels? Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling.

  1. For starters, you have to publish a higher volume of new and relevant content. Not only must your message be engaging, but it must publish frequently enough to coincide with when your fans and prospects are focused on the stream. Nobody pays full attention to his social stream, so you’d better be there when he/she is.
  2. Given sporadic attention paid to the social stream, brands should publish variations of content to increase the odds of connecting at the right time. Segment larger content assets into smaller, multiple components that seamlessly link to one another.
  3. If marketers stop advertising on Facebook, their posts are likely to reach only about 20% of their fans (or less). Therefore, not only should you sustain advertising on Facebook to continually generate fans you can message, but you should engage in sponsored stories to amplify your content and user interaction — hence, extend content shelf life.
  4. Diversify your content syndication to multiple social channels. If your brand is a consumer one, most of your social interaction may reside on Facebook. But be sure to maintain content presence in other venues (like YouTube) to increase the odds of driving more meaningful connections. The OMD analysis confirmed that YouTube lends itself to longer shelf life for content. Why? Because it’s the world’s largest video network, whose archives are fueled by a high volume of searches from the world’s most popular search engine.
  5. I’ve mentioned archives a number of times, and I’m going to do it again. Given the perishable nature of content in social streams, it is critical to complement and integrate your social syndication efforts with content publishing and archiving on your own hosted websites, which are likely to be connected to major social graphs, anyway (including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and good old email). Your own websites’ high visibility in search engines, along with potentially deeper experiences, will extend the shelf life of your growing bank of content.

Social has introduced a new paradigm of paid, owned and earned media — and it’s real and here to stay. In doing so, social also has introduced a new dichotomy of “streaming versus permanence.”

Yet to be a successful marketer in a digital world, it is critical to seize the strengths of both streamed and permanent content, and make them feed off one another throughout your entire marketing communications mix.

You must tap into the immediacy and impact of the social stream, while leaving the door open for more immersive exploration and discovery in permanent venues over the long term.

This article also ran in MediaPost.

(Photo: Xeris)

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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