A publisher client of mine lost a large media sale when a CMO said, "I have a huge social media presence and post as much content as you do. Why advertise with you?" How do you respond when social media tools enable all your advertisers to become online publishers themselves?
What publishers do (and always have done) that business cannot do for themselves (even in the age of social media) is to offer content as a third party. Chances are, your client’s content, no matter how great the volume, comes from their point of view. It will about their products, their customers, and told from their perspective. Their competition likely offers content from a different point of view. Where can all of their customers go for an objective perspective? Hopefully to your community/Web site.
Social Media Today CoFounder and CEO Robin Carey refers to this objective function as "being an honest broker of third party content.” Your social media centric clients will understand the value in this.
But it is not enough just to be an "honest broker." You need to leverage your content so you can deliver a benefit advertisers will pay for.
There are two essential steps:
1. You must become your markets content aggregator. As a third party content supplier you can credibly aggregate content in your market from all suppliers. No one of your advertisers can do this as they will hit resistance and credibility problems posting content from competitors. Some traditional publishers have problems posting a lot of content they did not create or influence. I say, get over it. If the law of the jungle is kill or be killed, then the law of the Internet is aggregate or be aggregated. Here is the really bad news; if you don’t do the aggregation, another publisher in your market will.
2. Shape your content so you get 3rd party credit in "search." When people search for objective content as they enter a buying cycle will they recognize yours? “Search” never evaluates the quality or objectivity of an article. So you need to “sell” potential readers on this benefit who find you though search. For a moment, take the point of view of a Google searcher who has never heard of your brand but sees an article of yours in a search list. If your article is worded to indicate an objective perspective it will be opened over others. An article titled "The five leading buying trends in electric fans" can become "Our editors pick the top five buying trends in electric fans." Etc.
On the Call
Earlier this year I did a study for the social media website "The Energy Collective." In this post based on the survey we see that the community spits over the question, “Should the gas tax be substantially raised?” As an “honest broker” of content "The Energy Collective" supports all points of view.
For advertisers this is invaluable. Do you think the same divide would occur on a website/community built by the Sierra Club or Exxon/Mobile? Nope.
But If I were the marketing manager of either the Sierra Club or Exxon/Mobile where will I find new people to convert to my perspective? Not on my own website, I would need my message carried by an “honest broker.”