Connection, not content

It’s hard to believe, but 24 years have passed since Bill gates wrote the essay ‘Content is king’ in which he defined the role for the Internet as the marketplace for content. At the time there were 23 blogs online, now the best estimate is 500 million. Social media channels have multiplied faster than viruses. And we have begun to drown in informational content.

If you own a brand you almost certainly publish content. People (hopefully) consume some of it. Over time you build a group of recipients you’d like to call your community. And if the membership of that community includes your customers, you have gone some way to monetising your content. Customers may be prompted to buy your brand, donate to your causes, and share your news with other like-minded people.

Once you have a community, you also have a rod for your own back: how do you keep them engaged? Until now, the answer from your marketing team or digital agency has usually been ‘create more content’. But nowadays content is commonplace, so we need a better answer.

Since 2015 Facebook has been working on that better answer, and now other platforms are following suit. They believe that distributing information is a one-way street that is best done by media owners. (Many marketers were initially thrilled at the chance to become media owners, but like many forms of diversification, they soon discovered it was a distraction. If your job is to make and sell socks, your shareholders aren’t going to love you for your blog.)

Facebook is of the opinion that the future of community engagement is connection, not content. People, not posts, have driven their product development. Facebook Live brings people together to view real-time video, which generates three times longer viewing and ten times more comments than ordinary video. Since Zuckerberg announced in 2019 that “the future is private”, the brand has pushed smaller groups and individual-to-individual connections. Last year 1.3 billion people used the direct messaging app Facebook Messenger.

Now, Facebook is pushing us all to attend events. By which it means real-time, two-way communication around a shared experience in a closed group. This is based on the insight that people want to connect with other people, rather than with more information. And let’s face it, this is not news for Marketers who have spent many decades organising events, booking venues, paying for food and drink and being disappointed by the turnout!

The future may now hold better-produced, live online events that connect brands to people … and people to other people.

Let’s use our rather dry experience of online working to create something more engaging than the soulless Webinar.