(Please click here to read Part Two, which outlines my solutions to the following content marketing problems.)
The promise of social media was that brands would have real conversations with their customers leading to genuine engagement, brand advocacy, and millions of "earned" impressions, thus making the whole process unbelievably cost -effective. In reality, only a small percentage of CMOs believe their social media activities are cost-effective and delivering expected results at scale. Before getting to the solutions (and there are several), let's review the failed promises one by one.
1. Conversations: Not the Kind that Brands Hoped For
In the rush to set up social channels and fill up content calendars with cheerful greetings, marketers failed to answer the fundamental question: Why would anyone in their right mind want to converse with their brand? Short of clear answers, consumers decided for themselves, using social platforms primarily to voice complaints and deal with service-related issues--hardly the types of conversations that social proponents had dreamed about.
2. Engagement: Lower than the Lowly Email
With conversations out of reach, brands banked on social to spark engagement in the hope that accumulating Likes, Favorites, Retweets, Shares and Clicks, would add up to something meaningful. In reality, engagement rates per post are abysmal on Facebook (.7%) and Twitter (.2%). Even Instagram with its impressive 4.2% engagement rate pales in comparison to the average open rate of a brand-generated email!
3. Advocacy: Social is Not the Cause, It's a Symptom
There was supposed to be a new world order in which brands cultivated an army of advocates (including employees) to spread the good word. In truth, for most brands, social became more about placating detractors who complain loudly rather than nurturing a posse of promoters. The root problem here is that advocacy is a by-product of delivering a phenomenal product/service experience or having an employee-enriching culture, neither of which are caused by social activity.
4. Earned Impressions: Throttled by EdgeRank & False Fans
Falling back to the old PR standby, promulgators proffered "earned media" as a righteous and reliable metric for social media. Pursuit of this metric encouraged brands to build up their social footprints (particularly on Facebook), often accumulating non-fans hooked with sweepstakes bait. Then, along came the ever-tightening EdgeRank, which now throttles the reach of brands with over 500,000 fans to under 2%, relegating "earned media" to the trash heap of wishful thinking.
5. Cost-Effectiveness: The Jury is Still Out on This One
Initially relegated to interns and junior staffers who were "native" to Facebook and Twitter, it is no wonder that a preponderance of marketers considered social media to be a low-cost option. This perception has gradually dwindled as investments in software, staff and external partners are made to feed voracious content calendars and improve performance. Not surprisingly, only a modest percentage of CMOs today believe social is measurably cost effective.
Content Marketing is Also Under Delivering
As for content marketing, the promise was that if brands created enough content it would drive site traffic, nurture prospects, improve SEO results, and ultimately prove more cost-effective than advertising. For early adopters, many of these promises have come true, but for those just getting started, the situation is a bit grimmer given these realities:
- There is No Shortage of Content: With 27 million new blog posts daily, it is easy to get lost in the flood;
- Creating Your Own Content is Time Consuming: 69% of marketers say they lack the time to create content, which explains why 55% believe they don't have enough content.
- It's Tough to Do Well: Most brand-generated content is flat out ignored regardless of channel or type. Not surprisingly, only 45% of marketers claim to have requisite expertise, while 47% recognize that their content is not good enough to engage readers.
- Lack of Strategy: Despite increasing investments in content (8 out of 10 marketers say they plan to spend more on content), only 44% profess to have a documented content strategy, leaving little doubt as to why success has been so fleeting.
Stay tuned for Part Two of this article, which will outline how all of the above can be addressed.
content marketing failure / shutterstock