Many were stunned last week when the Boston police announced via Twitter that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was in custody, and earlier this month the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) raised eyebrows when it said companies may use social media to release key information as long as they tell investors in advance which platform they will use.
Maybe it was a conversation I had with the president of a Major League Baseball franchise four years ago during which I told him that he had the opportunity to control the flow of news in and around his team by announcing everything they did on the team’s blog.
This, in turn, would condition both media and the team’s fans to come to the site to seek out the latest information, from player signings to in depth coverage, and would then provide the opportunity for the team to redirect (more so with fans) visitors to purchase tickets and apparel and enhance the team’s revenue stream.
So while traditional media has historically owned news publishing — in its previous form or both off and online as it exists presently — that is clearly no longer the case. Whether it be an individual of note, a brand, or an organization, today we are all self-publishers.
This, however, creates a quandary that many have yet to demonstrate a capability of managing.
Being a self-publisher means you are a content producer and distributor. That content, in turn, must appeal to the audience you are serving. It’s not just enough to post photos of your product and tell your Facebook followers how amazing you may be. Brands and organizations must deliver both original and repurposed content in a savvy, nuanced manner — not too often, not to infrequent, not overly self-serving — with the understanding that you’ve entered into a social pact of sorts with your followers and there is an expectation of meeting certain standards.
For example, bigger beer brands are notorious for making their content solely about themselves and Miller Lite’s Facebook page is no exception. They are kind enough to tell us rather frequently that it’s “Miller Time,” and the vast majority of third-party content they introduce are things the brand is sponsoring, like country singer Luke Bryan, who Miller Lite has sponsored since 2008, and the forthcoming film “The Internship,” with which the beer has a promotion.
Give the brand credit for rolling out this amusing video featuring actor Ken Jeong, but how about asking Facebook fans and Twitter followers where their favorite bars are or simply what sports teams they are most passionate about and why?
It’s also not just brands that are doing a poor job in social content distribution either. Even longtime publishers haven’t mastered this yet, as Conde Nast’s Epicurious foodie website demonstrated after the Boston bombings when they tried to console Bostonians with some self-serving recipes.
The self-publishing era has put a premium on quality content development and distribution. It’s why every PR, advertising, and digital agency has jumped on the latest bandwagon calling themselves “content agencies” over the past six months or so, whether or not they truly understand what that means.
Much like an organization would do in any customer service transaction, the quandary lies in a brand’s ability to serve its audience in a manner that is most comfortable to the customer while at the same time furthering its mission. Thus far, many brands and even media outlets are failing (#fail) to understand this new reality.
Will that change? Of course it will, because today’s consumer has little patience for selfishness. Unless, of course, it’s their own.