When my grandparents were growing up, they got their news and information from a select few outlets – usually one of the networks or maybe a local radio station. It was presented and summarized by a professional news personality whose opinion was respected and taken as legitimate. For better or worse, everyone heard and believed the same information.
Fast forward to today’s fragmented media environment where every professional news organization in the world is a click away, there are a seemingly endless number of blogs, and everyone’s on Facebook & Twitter. In these days of user-generated content, knowing where to turn and who to believe are gone. Even when it comes to marketing and brand relationships, the amount of user-generated content out there can be overwhelming.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that user-generated content is an excellent way to establish a relationship with your customers and prospects that goes well beyond PR and advertising. Personally, I even love it when organizations embrace their critics and give them a platform to express their thoughts. I log into Facebook everyday just like everyone else so I can see what someone did at the gym that day or what flavor ice cream their kids ate last night. Companies like Facebook, Twitter & Yelp have made billions by having the rest of the world provide content for their sites, and I say all the more power to them.
My problem with user-generated content is that it gives the impression that everyone’s opinion is equal, and that’s simply not true. My wife is a highly trained ICU nurse, meaning that while I may think that the bone sticking out of my leg is nothing to worry about; I need to listen to her and go to the hospital. After all, she’s the expert. Our digital culture has given us all a platform where we can express our opinions to the entire world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should listen. In a world where everyone is an expert, nobody is an expert.
That’s why it’s so important for brands and organizations to work as hard as possible to establish themselves as the experts in their field. While the digital world may dilute many of the messages out there, it also provides organizations with an opportunity to get their experience and expertise in front of more people than ever. Take a look at most of the “hot digital trends for 2012 and beyond” and it’s almost always about design, social media, cross-platform, etc. There’s very little mentioned about actual content marketing, although it’s the most important piece of the marketing communications puzzle.
There was an old saying in the early days of the web – “content is king” – and it’s more relevant than ever. With all of the noise out there, people want to know that the organization they’re doing business with is an expert at what they do. While it may be more fun to have a great social media presence or a beautiful website (and those are important), the real value lies in communicating why someone should do business with you instead of your competitors. If that’s not the central focus of everything you do, then you’re missing out on what may be your only opportunity to create that new customer or advocate.
Image Credit: DavidDMuir