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Mark Schaefer: How to Avoid Content Shock and Win the Future

The storm that beat down the Mid-Atlantic on April 30 brought rain but no lightning. Still dozens of marketers and PR pros walked away shocked and awed after Mark Schaefer’s presentation at Google’s Washington, DC office.

Mark Schaefer - Content Shock

As a lead up to Vocus’ Demand Success PR and Marketing Conference on June 5-6, Schaefer, the author of Social Media Explained, discussed the past, present and future of marketing, including the impending Content Shock.

First adopters reap the spoils, Schaefer says, that’s why it’s so important to have a solid grasp of where we were, where we are and where we soon will be.

“Every time we get to the end of one of these revolutions, it gets more difficult for businesses,” Schaefer says.

Let’s take a look at his insights:

Past and Present Digital Revolutions

The Internet: A lonely place

Schaefer fondly recalled the day he sat down with his computer, plugged in the phone jack, heard the screeching modem and downloaded a picture from NASA in five minutes.

He described the Internet of about 20 years ago as “a lonely place.” The first adopters simply treated their websites as brochures and often included the same content and pictures.

Time to get found

As websites became ubiquitous, people learned they needed to stand out, and Google was the answer.

The people who mastered SEO (or temporarily reaped the benefits by gaming the search engine) ranked at the top of search results, appearing in front of customers.

Today’s challenge – Content pileup

Most every business is piling onto the social web and producing content, but the amount of data created is expected to increase 600 percent by the year 2020. Seventy-five percent of that data will come from consumers and businesses.

“We’re getting to the end of this epoch and things are getting harder. It’s going to be a challenge for us until the next thing comes along,” Schaefer says.

“Right now, in America, we consume 10 hours of content a day,” he says. “Are we getting filled up? What is the limit?”

Once people hit their limit (whatever it may be), there will be a Content Shock, making it difficult for brands to reach customers.

The answer to the problem isn’t to create amazing content. That solution only works until your competitors do the same thing, resulting in an amazing content arms race.

Content Shock - Mark Schaefer - Audience

Despite the elements, a hardy crowd showed to hear Schaefer speak.

Want more industry insights from top minds? Register for Demand Success now!

Here are Schaefer’s four ideas for succeeding as marketing in this epoch becomes tougher and tougher:

1. Shock and awe

The key to the shock and awe strategy is to be first and to be overwhelming. Find an unsaturated niche within your industry and populate it with content that will help you win the discovery battle.

Schaefer used the example of a cosmetic surgery facility. They dominated by answering all the questions people had about their clinic.

They hosted Facebook quizzes, created videos where doctors answered questions, started blogging, produced ebooks and eventually gave away a hardcover holiday cookbook to anyone who interacted with their brand.

A holiday cookbook? When people would ask about the recipe of a tasty dish, the cook would invariably mention the cosmetic surgery center.

“They were owning part of the local conversation even at Christmas dinner,” Schaefer said.

Their efforts produced a 19 percent increase in revenues, a conversion rate that jumped 20 percentage points and a top ranking for many relevant search terms.

2. Borrow a bigger pipeline

“If your pipeline is getting strangled, maybe you should borrow someone else’s,” Schaefer said.

By that he meant using sponsored content, newsjacking or influence marketing.

When it comes to influence marketing, widespread access to high-speed Internet and access to free publishing tools like social networks and blogging platforms “democratized” influence.

Schaefer told the story of Robert Scoble who became a powerful tech blogger by writing blog posts regularly during the mid 1990s. What separated Scoble was his ability to create content that moves and gets shared among a targeted audience.

As Scoble grew his following, businesses that once wouldn’t hire the college dropout realized they could use him to reach crowds by, for example, sending him products to review.

Another example is Listerine. The brand found the “Robert Scoble of oral care” and went from a small piece of the overall conversation to controlling much more of the conversation. This proves that the strategy can work for all brands, no matter how sexy they are.

3. Atomizing content

Bigger isn’t always better. People’s interest in consuming pictures, infographics and short videos have helped Vine and Pinterest burst onto the scene.

Creating atomized content can help you connect with consumers.

Want more tactics for beating content shock? Get your free ‘How to Beat Content Marketing Overload’ guide!

4. Be R.I.T.E.

R.I.T.E. is an acronym for Relevant, Interesting, Timely and Entertaining.

“If you create content that’s R.I.T.E….over time you will be creating shareable content,” Schaefer says. “Of these four, I think the big one is going to be entertainment, and the most challenging.”

Schaefer used Chipotle as an example. It created entertaining Claymation videos that people loved to watch and share and even added an iPhone game.

What’s Next?

“The next revolution is going to be about wearable technology, augmented reality and filters,” says Schaefer, who predicted that it will hit critical mass by the end of 2015.

The key is going to be in creating immersive interactive experiences, but there are challenges in the way.

People are getting bombarded with content and are starting to create physical and digital filters to keep out irrelevant stuff.

He used the example of Zite, an app that learns from the content that you interact with to deliver more of the same. That’s bad news for brands unless…

“We need to create something that’s so compelling, that’s so interesting that we invite people out of their filters.”

Immersive interactive experiences, through the use of wearables and augmented reality, will make people want to spend time with us.

No one has successfully done this yet, but the one who does will win.

“We’re on the brink of a digital world that surrounds us like the air we breathe,” Schaefer says. “There’s a first mover advantage. If you’re creating immersive experiences for your customers, there’ll be an advantage.”

Final Big Idea

How do we stand out? The answer is three words: Be. More. Human.

“People want to buy from people the same way we’ve wanted to buy since the medieval times,” Schaefer says. “We have this amazing need to connect and be social. We want to buy from the people we know. That awareness leads to trust. That trust leads to loyalty. That loyalty trumps everything…even blogs, filters and content shock.”

Want to hear more from Mark? Join his free Vocus webinar on May 7. Register now!

Images courtesy of Geoff Livingston.

About Brian Conlin

Brian Conlin is a content marketing manager for Cision. A former journalist, he enjoys researching and developing accessible content. When not writing, you will find him watching baseball and college basketball, sampling craft beer and enjoying Baltimore. Find him on Twitter @BrianConlin13.

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