Monday, August 15

Publishing Temptations: Three Social Media Content Evils

Content StrategyAlthough some media companies are still struggling with the transition from print to digital, others are doing fine (even if a few might be fine for the wrong reasons). Eventually, the shakedown will leave us with leaner media companies (many specialized in affirmation opinion), probably made up of a mix between transitioned print and digital upstarts.

It's anyone's guess what the quality will be like, but it might be good enough, maybe. That depends on each publisher specifically and when the public eventually learns objective journalism does have value after all. In the meantime, any short term gains by some publishers might be tempered with a long-term outlook. It seems to me media outlets that jump on the most popular publisher trends are borrowing against their future reputations, bloggers too.

Three Content Creator Evils To Avoid As A Publisher.

• Trending Content Stories. While it's always a good idea to track social media trends to discover what topics people are interested in, publishers are better served in being vigilant in balancing their content. After all, publishing is not public relations even if it feels that way at times.

Specifically, some publishers have adapted what it generally considered a marketing or public relations tactic. They check the topical trends and then find something — anything — to write about that matches those trends regardless of how thin those connections might be.

Some publishers even make trend lists and then burp them out to all their writers, screaming that they need more stories on these popular topics. So, for example, if the Bronx Zoo has a lost cobra, they instruct their journalists to pile on stories about snakes — pushing anything important down and elevating the mundane. It's why the media sometimes feels dubbed down.

• Wrapper Content Marketing. While it has always existed, wrapper content has made significant gains in recent years. This technique isn't audience driven as much as it is advertiser driven.

Specifically, some publishers pick up advertisers and then look for content that is loosely or overtly connected to the product that the company wants to peddle. Marketers and social media pros do this all the time, but it begins to become creepy when third-party publishers jump into the space too.

For example, let's say you publish communication content and an advertiser knocks on your door with a new travel bag. So, you drop the story you planned to do about crisis communication and start writing the story about how much you love the bag, wrapped up nicely with five travel tips for busy professionals. Sure, this works well enough for marketing (we expect to see travel tips on an airline's blog from time to time), but one would hope publishers respect their readers more than writing advertorials.

• Automated Content Pushes. While there is nothing wrong with sharing content across multiple networks, it's always a good idea to practice some self-restraint. After all, if exposure is overshadowing quality in terms of priorities, then the content probably isn't worth sharing.

Specifically, some publishers blast everything they say in one place to every place they have a presence. Their Facebook page has the same content as their Twitter page, which now mirrors their Google+ page, etc. While a certain amount of sharing and duplication is expected, not every story, comment, or thought needs to be threaded everywhere.

The reality is that different networks respond differently to different content and almost every network is sensitive to how it is presented. After sharing stories with primary networks, pick and choose what might best fit where and how to present it. (For example, this story would be mostly senseless to share on Reddit, so I won't put it there. But if I did, the title would have to be something like 'hungry dog eats a village.')

Some marketers tell me I'm silly for not sharing every story everywhere, especially those that know my networks consist of mostly different people. I don't worry about that too much. I share where it makes sense, and if someone else (like a reader) thinks it will fit better elsewhere, then they might be willing to share it instead. I think that's cool, because it places engagement over broadcast.
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