Becoming a Content Mill is Not a Viable Social Strategy

A revolution is coming, and it won’t be televised. This, according to Michael Malone’s piece in Forbes, which is based on his research for his latest book, “How Companies Win: Profiting from Demand-Driven Business Models No Matter What Business You’re In.” Malone refers to an upcoming industrial revolution that America misses out on:

The biggest structural economic shift, the one Venky has discovered and which is the launching point of the book, is that over the last decade, the global economy has experienced a fundamental and historic shift from centuries during which supply and demand were roughly balanced, to our current situation in which supply significantly outstrips the demand available to absorb it. This is largely the result of the relatively new science of Supply Chain Management, which systematized the process of marshalling resources to bring products and services to market. The implication is that most modern business strategies are now obsolete, as the new competitive battlefield has now shifted from supply to that of finding remaining pools of profitable demand. (emphasis mine)

That alone is enough to provoke a radical change in how businesses are organized and how they behave. It suggests that most companies, including the most successful, no longer have a lock on survival because the ground has suddenly shifted beneath their feet. That, of course, is the recipe for a business revolution.

The article is eye-opening and has me thinking about the day that my son might leave the US to go work in Brazil, because “that’s where the jobs are, Dad.” But it also got me thinking about the here and now and our own information revolution that continues to shake the ground beneath our feet. Take the above quote and apply it to social media marketing, broadly defined as trying to reach consumers across the new publishing tools responsible for this flood of information, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I think the analogy of the global supply chain in producing manufactured goods applies nicely to the information economy as well.

Blog platforms, low-cost hosting, Facebook and Twitter are the Supply Chain Management pieces of the information economy. Before them, brining content to the marketplace was hard and expensive. This barrier to entry made information scarce and valuable. But the technology improved to make the supply of information to the market more efficient, turning information into, in many cases, a commodity. This isn’t news to anyone reading this of course, but it does continue to have broad implications for businesses and brands trying to reach customers on an ever-crowded Web.

And the reason that brands are having trouble is because the market of information continues to evolve rapidly. Companies are still trying to figure out how to contribute content to the marketplace so that they’re found in Google, so that they can drive thought leadership, so that they can be heard. The problem is, the market timing for that is past. The technology has made the creation of content so efficient and cheap that we’re swimming in it. Business models like Demand Media’s and other the other commodity content producers are making the content market more and more crowded and less valuable. And a traditional company can’t keep up and can’t win in that type of battle.

In a over saturated market, putting more supply out there is like pushing on a string. You can do it, just don’t expect anything to happen because of it.

While it’ll always be important as a company to communicate with the market, just creating content is no longer enough. When your social strategy is based on content creation, you’re sure to fail; because consumers aren’t looking for content – they’re looking for content they want.

This is where Malone’s premise provides insight on how to succeed in our new information marketplace. It’s not about adding to supply, it’s about identifying areas of the conversation that still have profitable demand. And that’s why most traditional marketing advice about reaching customers on the social web is dead wrong. It’s not enough to create blog posts, videos and infographics if they don’t address some remaining or untapped demand in the marketplace. And this is where marketers need to do a better job. As a marketer in the social web you have to look at areas where demand still exists, and if you don’t find any you have to test and probe until you find it. Because your company will only win when it finds and leverages that untapped demand.

So how do you find that demand? That’s the tough part, as often the market doesn’t know what it wants until it sees it; and as a brand you have to continue to test and learn to find it. But there are a few constants that always are in demand, in one shape or another. Looking at how your brand can aid people in achieving the following is a way to suss out potential opportunity.

  • Making people’s lives easier
  • Making people happy
  • Making people feel good about themselves
  • Making people successful

Those are the areas of continual demand in our information economy. As a social marketer you should be looking at your programs and determining if what you’re contributing is advancing the above goals of the people you’re trying to reach. If you’re not doing any of the above, it’s likely that you won’t tap the demand that will drive your business success.

The information revolution has brought us the technology that has made delivering content to the marketplace efficient, 140 characters-efficient, but too many of us are still seeking for success in a market which doesn’t have much room for stand outs. Instead of focusing on the tools and technologies we should focus on finding the untapped demand, putting our time and effort into creating the messages and products that will make people’s lives better, easier, happier and more successful. Only then will we find the success in our social marketing programs – viva la revolucion!

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