THE NEW ENGAGEMENT

Could ‘Fewer and Deeper’ be the new mantra for content marketing?

The social media marketing mantra used to be ‘little and often’ – but there is a danger that being a constant, shallow presence in your customers’ feeds could prove to be counter-productive. This year more than ever, as we all feel the toll of months in lockdown, ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ (FOMO) is less relevant. We are all missing out. We are all weighing up and reassessing our priorities – and a steady stream of sales messages at such a time could be seen as an insensitive irritant.


A Knight Foundation/Gallup poll of 20,000 people from August revealed that Americans are losing faith in the idea of an objective media, undermining its authority and ability to hold leaders to account.

In the current landscape, there are signs that adopting an opposite, ‘fewer and deeper’ approach could prove to have better cut-through. There are several reasons for this – not least the growing suspicion of the accuracy of easily-shared memes in the fake news/deep fake era.

The report found that 73% see an increasing bias in media reports, with 79% thinking inaccuracies are the direct result of an agenda from media organisations. Against this background of distrust, they found convincing evidence that Americans “feel overwhelmed by the volume of the speed of the news… and the internet is making it worse”.

The social media marketing mantra used to be ‘little and often’ – but there is a danger that being a constant, shallow presence in your customers’ feeds could prove to be counter-productive. This year more than ever, as we all feel the toll of months in lockdown, ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ (FOMO) is less relevant. We are all missing out. We are all weighing up and reassessing our priorities – and a steady stream of sales messages at such a time could be seen as an insensitive irritant.
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With attention span at a premium, the theory goes, it’s better to engage someone fully for a few precious minutes than shallowly continuously.

If you translate the social media arena to physical interactions – would you rather spend time with someone constantly demanding ‘likes’, or sit down for a proper chat with a genuine friend? This is the analogy that traditional longform media (print editorial, specifically) has always promoted.

Take for example Delayed Gratification magazine, launched by Time Out International Editor Marcus Webb in 2010, and hailed by The Economist for its ‘slower, more reflective type of journalism’ – indeed, the publishers have named it Slow Journalism, complete with a manifesto for their outlook: “We value being right above being first… Instead of desperately trying to beat social media to breaking news stories, we focus on the values we all expect from quality journalism – accuracy, depth, context, analysis and expert opinion.” This change of emphasis – from a desperate rush to break news stories to a retrospective examination of the whys and the wherefores of major stories – may not suit everyone’s agenda. But it’s a valid and much-needed response to the endless stream of live attention-seeking stunts.

And there’s evidence that the few big-selling glossies that are left – including Condé Nast stalwarts Vogue and GQ – are all noticeably turning towards more thoughtful, longer content. Look at Vogue UK’s Activism issue and continued striving for social relevance under the editorship of Edward Enninful, for instance. But not only that: the heightened social awareness around issues including Black Lives Matter, the gender pay disparity or Covid-19 has provided an opportunity for publications to address deeper, longer content. Even the recent relaunch of The Face magazine (often unfairly criticised for celebrating ‘surface’ culture), referenced the fact that they were aimed at a new generation starved of information and depth of content. The mantra for the new edition was “it’s about the ‘Why’ not the ‘What’ – i.e. don’t talk about why a film/band/trend is cool, explain WHY it matters culturally”

This provides a crucial point of differentiation from feed culture, where ‘new’ is all that matters. It also points towards a re-evaluation of what the word ‘content’ actually means to us. Too often, marketers, editors and what are today described as ‘content providers’ (previously writers, journalists and copywriters) talk of content as an interchangeable product – something to fit neatly into a box on their website or feed – rather than questioning what is the content of their content. (In other words, what is the substance or nuance that makes it a valuable read?)

Despite the doom and gloom, however, there are also signs that a new appreciation for deep, well-researched content is emerging. That Knight Foundation survey, for instance, revealed that 84% of the audience agreed that a healthy, objective media is vital for democracy. We need to feed this demand by broadening and supporting the concept of quality content, respecting the value of proper journalism to address the issues of falling trust.

“In a commoditised and oversupplied attention economy, offering value – entertainment value, informational value – is a powerful way to cut through,” says Vince Medeiros, Chairman of the CMA

If you're going to ask for people's time, you have got to offer something that means or adds something to their lives. Depth also means you've done your homework – i.e. the piece is well-researched, well-sourced, well-executed, etc – all of which adds credibility. In this context, a ‘less but deeper’ approach has an important role to play.”

All this is well and good, but we can’t end without a word of caution. Cameron Sharpe of Progressive Content notes that “there’s a likely difference between the B2B and B2C markets here – particularly during the current crisis. From our perspective, regular contact with our business audience is paramount – particularly at a time when advice from governments and other bodies is changing so frequently. In less turbulent periods, those deeper content pieces are easier to put together, but at the moment there’s an increased risk of information being redundant or out of date by the time it’s published if we take too long to react”.

So what’s the answer? As ever, perhaps it’s a bit of both – keep in touch with your customer base and reassure them where you can: but hint at deeper, more thought-out content for a longer, more engaged relationship with your audience. It should be a conversation, after all.

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