A common attribute of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and their like is the fear and respect they command from publishers.
There is no better example than Facebook’s hold on the sharing of links. Around 25 per cent of impressions come via the channel, yet there are limitations – not least in terms of data and control.
While it is worth noting that 51 per cent of people follow a brand simply because they are entertaining, according to Sprout Social.
In short, the social networks are a necessary evil. Get on with them or get lost.
With this in mind, it is interesting listening to this Digiday podcast, which originated from a content marketing conference it held last month. It’s an interview with Doug Busk, global group director for digital communications and social media at Coca-Cola. In it he talks about the company’s content marketing strategy and its approach to ROI and social networks.
It is nearly five years since Coca-Cola moved its strategy towards the creation of editorial content with the launch of Journey. Proof that fortune favours early adopters, the site gets around 5-6 million views a month and is running in 35 countries.
Speaking about its growth, Busk makes a number of interesting comments. Most notably that traffic is not the ultimate arbiter of success (something we have argued on these pages).
Discussing ROI and how the content strategy slots in with Coke’s other marketing activities, Busk says: “We benefit from success on partners on the marketing side. It’s tough to compete with TV advertisements during the Olympics. We’re never going to get into an impressions game, we focus instead on how engaging the content is.”
Sharing and more sharing
This is a key point. I have argued on this page that impressions can easily become a vanity metric if not aligned with your aim.
That’s not to say Coke ignores them. Busk says that although Coca-Cola evaluates content based on all the usual analytics, it has a particular focus. Instead, Coke is more interested in what has been shared. Busk dubs this EOI or expressions of interest.
He says: “At Coke we like our formulas. So we have a formula for rating sharability. It’s called expressions of interest (EOI). EOI is anything you’d expect from a publisher, all the same metrics like Google Analytics re average time, bounce rate etc, but it’s skewed towards shares and comments.”
There are positives in taking this approach. Sharing might not always be the right aim for some companies. For example, it might not help a company looking for sales. But in Coke’s case, content marketing is a brand-building exercise. Its mission is to get the brand talked about – and sharing fits in with that perfectly.
Because an aim is single-minded and easily quantifiable, it enables the editorial team to hold a clear objective in terms of what they need to do. You quickly gain a feeling for what is likely to work and, perhaps more importantly, what will not.
Friends or enemies
Yet the reliance on social is an interesting dilemma for many publishers. There is a view that putting your content on the likes of Facebook Instant is the equivalent of placing valuables in your neighbour’s safe.
Busk says: “We’re lucky as a team of brand journalists in an owned media outlet that we don’t have a revenue share to worry about. We don’t have native advertising inside our own content. We’re not in an impressions race. So things like Facebook Instant Article are key because anything that drives content faster to our consumers in the way they want to consume it is a win.”
This is where content marketing and publishing, as we would normally describe it, diverge. Newspapers and magazines make money from advertising or subscriptions. Brands – or at least most of them – derive their revenue from sales.
It some ways Coke is a publisher; in other ways it is clearly a brand. To a certain degree it can approach social networks from a position of strength. That is something a newpaper or magazine will never be able to do.