Hold on tight to your blog posts, kids. The platforms are coming for your content.
As Re/code reported yesterday, Twitter is planning to push past its 140-character limit and offer a product that will let users post longform text straight onto the platform. Some are viewing the news as a bold move by Jack Dorsey in his return to power as chief executive; in truth, however, it looks more like Twitter is playing follow the leader.
For the past couple years, major social networks have been begging brands, media companies, and individual users to publish content in full on their platforms instead of just sharing links. LinkedIn declared it wanted to become the definitive professional publishing platform, and more than a million users have published directly on the platform since. Medium has followed a similar path, raising $57 million recently, in part because of its reputation as an epicenter for brand publishing. And Facebook’s Instant Articles, still in the experimental phase, are crafted to encourage publishers to run articles and native ads directly on the platform. It’s only a matter of time before the option is rolled out to the media and brand world at large 1.
This approach is an obvious win for social networks because more content means more time spent on the platforms. And it’s a perceived win for brands and publishers because social networks promise a reach publishers couldn’t get otherwise. This is where the relationship between media and platforms is headed. By offering a native longform product, Twitter is just jumping on the trend a little late.
What this all means for us
The platforms aren’t wrong when they promise a reach that we can’t muster on our own standalone blogs and microsites. Increasingly, audiences—particularly mobile users—are dedicating more time on platforms where there are other people and less time on those standalone publisher sites. Sixty percent of digital media time is now spent on mobile, per comScore, and 85 percent of our time on mobile goes toward using apps.
For traditional publishers starved for ad revenue, the shift to social presents an existential crisis over ceding control of their audiences. For brand publishers, it leads to a slightly different conundrum.
For most content marketing programs, awareness is a significant goal. It’s a win if tens or hundreds of thousands of people consume a smart piece of content your brand created. And platforms offer a path to doing that. Contently founder Shane Snow’s posts for LinkedIn, for example, often get close to half a million views, an awesome level of mass exposure we could never reach here on The Content Strategist.
Simultaneously, though, there’s certainly more value in someone consuming content on your owned property as opposed to another platform. Magical things can happen on your site that can’t happen on platforms. People can explore more content. They can sign up for your newsletter—as about 6 percent of our new readers do—giving you a direct way to reach them in the future without a middle man. They can download an e-book and become a lead you nurture with more content over time. Heck, every now and then, they’ll even click over to the promotional part of your website and sign up for a demo.
No matter the reach that platforms can offer, owned audiences will always matter. A direct relationship with people matters. As Facebook showed us when they shrunk brand reach down to 2 percent, platforms have no incentive to help you reach your audience on your terms.
The coming challenge for marketers is how to do both—nurturing an owned audience and taking advantage of social platforms. Pulling that off means creating content for your owned site that’s so good people will keep coming back, while also figuring out how to take that content and leverage it on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. One company that’s really good at this is Buffer. It has a big presence on Medium that feeds into its owned content efforts, and it puts out killer SlideShares that LinkedIn users eat up.
Ultimately, there are a few key rules that every content marketer will need to follow while balancing their owned and platform-specific content:
1. Reuse content, but don’t just post everything everywhere. Flooding every channel with all your content is a losing strategy. The Internet doesn’t need more noise.
2. Share content where it’s contextually relevant. That stats roundup you posted would make a great SlideShare. That awesome thought leadership from your executive team should go on LinkedIn. Your most ambitious features should find a place on Medium. That new video series you launched will look great as an auto-play video on Facebook or Twitter.
3. Embrace the CTA. When readers discover your baller longform content on LinkedIn or SlideShare or Medium or (perhaps soon!) Twitter, don’t just let that be the end of the conversation. Include a CTA at the end of the post so readers can sign up for your newsletter, or tease an email-gated e-book. Steal that audience from the platform and take it for yourself.
Content marketers who figure out how to make content work in tandem on owned properties and social sites will be the big winners in the next few years. The platforms are coming for your content, and regardless of how many more characters they offer, it’s up to you to hold on to your readers.