It’s hard to get both.
Pageviews, clicks, shares… that is the common currency of online marketing these days. Don’t kid yourself. When brands talk about engaging consumers on social media, they’re not really talking about any depth of engagement or a better way for them to build a direct relationship, or how to have more real interactions between real human beings. What they’re talking about is vanity metrics (as my friend, Avinash Kaushik calls them). Social media is no different than online advertising. They’re driving at clicks, shares, videos views and more likes.
What’s a brand willing to do for a click?
Take one look at your Facebook newsfeed, and you’ll see a never-ending rabbit hole of ridiculous content. Donkeys kicking humans, kids doing things that adults shouldn’t be doing and oh, the cats! Instant gratification. The America’s Funniest Home Videos set on a never-ending loop and shared incessantly with your social graph. I get suckered in just like the next person. I can’t tell you many nights I have spent in a black hole of YouTube recommendations. It’s starts off innocently enough. I was just watching a trailer for a new movie or checking out a music video, and the next thing you know, it’s three in the morning and I’m watching some random video from Japan where some obscure individual is riffing on a banjo cover version of a Metallica tune. And yes, the only thing that I can think to myself is: "how did I get here?!?!?!?".
Are things getting better or worse?
The New Yorker ran an article last week titled, Sucked Into The Clickhole. ClickHole is an actual website. It’s owned by the parody news website, The Onion. The site’s tagline is this: "because all content deserves to go viral." In one sense, it’s hilarious because of how well they have been able to parody sites like Buzzfeed and other listicle-fused online channels. On the other hand, it’s depressing. I read the article and realized that a lot of their articles I had seen on Facebook, clicked on and spent an embarrassing amount of time with. I’ve seen people that I know, like and respect sharing this content on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and beyond. Hey, we all need a laugh, right? One concern, is that I wonder how many people know that this content is actual parody (or close to it). Another concern (and the one I think about most) is this: what’s the true value? What does this actually add to one’s life?
Most of us get sucked into this tabloid type of thinking. Whether it’s celebrity watching or for simple escapism. It has its place in our word (whether we like it or not). The challenge for brands is this: is that what you think people need most from you? The channels are the channels. They are ambiguous. Brands can decide to become a part of a digital culture… or to shill at that digital culture. Where would your brand like to place that bet? Where do you think the real depth and connections happen?
We’re being fooled. We’re being fools.
Brand (still) have an amazing opportunity here. These channels are simply engines of publishing. Some of them are text. Some of them are images. Some of them are audio. Some of them are video. Some of them are more engaging in long form content. Some of them are more engaging in short form content. The choice is yours. The ability to be great is yours. Fleeting, clicks, pageviews and shares may simply be nothing more than a mass media reaction. In other words, trying to apply the traditional metrics of reach and repetition to a brand new publishing platform. There’s no doubt that more lists, images and radical headlines would bump up the numbers on this blog, but that’s not the real intention. The real intention is to help make you (and me) smarter. The real intention is to get all of us to spend some time with something, in a world where it’s easy to get lost in a bunch of silly lists or blogs posts that are completely content free by the time we’re done with them. It’s not that the content here on this blog is holier or mightier than a list about how to get more people to share your content on Facebook, but it’s a brand philosophy about wanting to create more depth in a world where the content seems to be getting more shallow and shallower as each week rolls on.
So, what do you want your brand to stand (or fall) for?