Why Quality Beats Quantity on Social
Winning strategies in today’s algorithm-powered attention economy
Back in 2006, when social media was in its infancy, many of us went by the mantra “be nice, be active, be everywhere”.
The ‘shelf-life’ of a piece of social content was as long as it stayed ‘in the feed’: when someone opened their Twitter stream, was yours one of the hundred or so tweets that users would scroll through?
Chronological feeds, with the most recent posts at the top, meant that many brands posted with metronomic regularity, building an audience who would, so the theory went, expect your tweets and Facebook updates at regular days and times.
But the all-mighty publishing schedule became the tail that wags the dog.
The need to feed the social content engine meant many brands never stopped to ask “What stories should we be telling?” and “Why are we telling them?”
Fast forward to today. Scroll through many corporate social feeds and the emphasis is clearly on quantity, not on quality.
We understand why this happens. Many of Carve’s clients operate in highly complex global environments, under internal pressure to share stories, when often there aren’t the resources or expertise to tell that story properly. The result: hundreds of social updates a year that tick the ‘publishing regularly’ box – but do little else.
Brands need to recognise that the rules of the game have changed, and that their content strategy has to adapt accordingly.
The Carve social content playbook is founded on three fundamentals that should form the basis of any social strategy today.
1. Pay to Play
Firstly, social is not “free”. Yes, the current occupant of the White House does not promote his tweets, some brands have enough social cachet to drive massive organic engagement, and there is always the capacity for viral / trending stories to create a short-term impact. But for the vast majority of brand and corporate communicators, today we need to pay to play to make an impact on social. This has two major impacts on existing social business content publishing models: A. Reach beyond owned communities. Many brands obsess about building large, relevant social communities. Yet with organic reach at an all time low, and with social algorithms increasingly geared to people, not organisations (see Handover the Mic, below), this is less important today. Promoting content allows brands to reach beyond owned communities, hyper-targeting the customers, talent, influencers and industry stakeholders that organisations rely on for success. Today, for most organisations, paid content trumps owned and earned content coverage. B. Promoting content extends its shelf life. When promoting a piece of content it can be seen at any time during the selected time window. For example, we know senior leaders login to LinkedIn irregularly. So when promoting a piece of personalised content to targeted CEOs of manufacturing businesses, we might give that a month-long promotion window. That content is then highly visible in the feed during that entire period. So, with some notable exceptions (time-sensitive news, crisis comms, events, CRM etc.), there is less need to publish to meet the chronological feed.
2. Relevancy Rules
As the social networks moved one-by-one to algorithmically defined (rather than chronologically defined) feeds, another significant impact is the importance of relevance.
Just like in Google AdWords Quality score and Facebook relevance score (which rewards / penalises sponsored links / ads based on their relevance measured by click-through rates and other metrics), relevancy has a real and increasing importance to social brand communications.
For Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Line et al, success is measured by stickiness (the time active users spend on the network) and revenue per user. And despite the Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary committees not really getting it, the model is simple. They win by giving their audiences what they want. That means algorithmically penalising poor content and elevating sticky content based on user engagement.
What does that mean for brand and corporate communicators?
Well, posting poor quality content isn’t just a waste of time, resources and audience bandwidth – it’s actually harmful to your efforts. Imagine you are a technology firm that wants to engage IT directors. Every single piece of poor-quality social content seen but not engaged with by that audience decreases the likelihood that that audience will be served your content again, and increases the potential cost of doing so. So when that firm finally has something genuinely interesting / engaging to share (a ‘hero’ piece of content), the chance of reaching who they want to engage with has been decreased, and the cost to do so will increase.
Therefore the emphasis today for brands has to be on quality, not quantity. On signal, not noise. That means high-quality content with a clear message / purpose, optimised in the right format, promoted to relevant hyper-targeted audiences. Everything else detracts from the ability to tell our stories, build trust and create value.
3. Hand over the mic
That creates a challenge for brand and corporate communicators. Beyond promoting to targeted audiences and focusing on high quality content, that means handing over the mic to advocates and influencers.
Empowering employees, customers, leaders and stakeholders as trust agents is today a critical communications capability. By systemising storytelling through trusted third parties, brands build increased reach, increased relatability, trust and algorithmic cut-through.
Advocacy platforms can help enable enterprise-wide UGC (User Generated Content) story collation and amplification, whilst Connected Leader programmes help build the visibility, connectivity and influence of leaders.
Measure what matters
In conclusion, brands and corporate communicators need to update their social content strategies to win: investing in high-quality content, promoting every story, and empowering influencers and advocates to amplify and evidence key messages. That approach, linked to measuring ‘real world’ impact (see Carve Analytics) is the key to winning in today’s algorithm powered attention economy.
Carve is a global social agency. We help world-leading organisations build meaningful relationships with the people who matter to them.
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