If It Doesn’t Spread, It’s Dead

selfy photo

I recently attended a meetup at Ryerson University, in their Transmedia Zone.  It was a fantastic evening of discussion and debate about content, media, and how the platforms we are using to communicate – social media, Youtube, The Internet itself – are changing our ideas around production and consumption of content, and even ownership of media.

One idea that came up was the idea that media, or content (we were primarily discussing video but it could as easily have been a discussion of any kind of media), is no longer something that we just consume.  It is something that we produce and in fact, it is a way we communicate as much as anything else.

We express our identities, our thoughts, and our ideas in media, as media.  We speak “video”.  And for those who don’t create their own, from scratch, we share what others have produced, as a kind of shorthand for what we want to say.  When I share a captioned photo on Facebook, or content created by a brand like Coke or Red Bull, I am speaking volumes about who I am, what “tribe” I belong to.

Where does content marketing fit in?

I stared to think about what role content marketing plays in this content-sharing-as-communication ecosystem, and why it is so important for business.  To define what I mean by content marketing, have a read of this article, or download a handy infographic here.  Content Marketing is a system in which a business uses content, not advertising, to generate and nurture leads for their business, build trust with their customers, and get found online.

I encounter an objection again and again when I work with clients who are-shall we say-not digital natives, when we get around to a content marketing discussion.  The objection goes something like this: “I am a private person; I don’t want to put myself out there in social media, or by blogging…I’m sure no one wants to hear what I had for lunch.  Plus, I am not willing to give away all my secrets in a blog!  If people want to get my help, they’ll have to hire me!”

That is kind of like moving to France and refusing to speak French.   Digital Media is communication tool, and content is a language that, as a business, you can’t NOT speak.  The best way to get your brand out there is to use media – video, photography, blogging, graphics – to communicate with your customers, and in fact to use media that they will want to share.  To use what Henry Jenkins calls “spreadable media”.

Henry Jenkins: Spreadable Media

This video, titled Spreadable content makes the consumer king, is an episode from Pull: How Technology is Changing the Conversation.  IT was produced by TVO and Q Media and it is taken from  a discussion I had with Jenkins in 2013.

Spreadable media is the best reason I can think of to generate content marketing for your business.  It is how you leverage your existing customers and followers as marketers, giving them the media they need to spread your message for you.

Jenkins also speaks in this interview about the new digital divide, that he calls the participation gap.  He talks about kids in schools who may not have access to skills and opportunities, but it just as effectively applies to business people who don’t have the skills, the training or worse, the willingness to participate in this new language of identity and brands, the language of content.

As Jenkins says: if it doesn’t spread, its dead.  Creating high value, sharable content that your customers can use is the best way to close that participation gap.

Christine McGlade is a Business Analyst, Content Strategist, and Usability Consultant.  With over 25 years experience in the media business, Christine helps small business, social enterprise, and Not for Profits how to leverage the power of the Internet to grow their business.  Learn more about Christine at analyticalengine.ca

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