This short manifesto covers what I hold to be self-evident about modern marketing practices, particularly related to online activity.
This piece about how people's attention flows on the web highlights the fundamental misunderstanding that causes almost all online marketing to be ineffective.
The blog that follows consists of a series of short posts that support my arguments.
A Gazan teen live-tweets being bombed by the IDF to tens of thousands of followers on Twitter.
A Russian soldier’s geotagged selfies place him inside Ukraine during a time of increasing instability.
A militant group using their social media followers to intimidate the population of a city on which they are advancing.
A team of civilians operating a 1970s NASA satellite out of an abandoned fast food diner.
The future is here and is being distributed whether we like it or not.
This highlights how a photo of Mount Fuji posted to reddit resulted in thousands of visits to the original photographer’s website. No one looked at anything else. No one bought a print. They came. They stayed for that one page. They left, never to return.
I’ve seen this happen loads of times myself. A post goes up on a popular hub site that undoubtedly has a huge readership. There is a nice link back to a client’s blog or similar and a good reason to click. The result is a few hundred or thousand referrals. No repeat visitors. Essentially worthless given the effort involved.
Welcome to the world of content marketing and an industry totally at odds with the reality of how attention works on the web.
These tweets from Mat Honan are completely true. To my eyes attention on the web is like a weather system. There are larger forces making it all work that while we can grasp the fundamental rules the subtleties of all this in effect lie just outside our ability to predict what might happen.
The thing about writing for the web is, you never know what's going to hit— mat honan (@mat) August 7, 2014
People say, "oh, you wrote that for the page views" or whatever. But honestly I can never tell what's going to be popular, and what isn't.— mat honan (@mat) August 7, 2014
And, like, you work your ass off on some story for months, and convince yourself It Is Your Best Work, and yet the breeze just blows— mat honan (@mat) August 7, 2014
And then you fart something else out, accidentally or on command, and it just completely starts a riot.— mat honan (@mat) August 7, 2014
This is why I rail against posts with titles like these I spot passing through my feed reader:
The authors of these type of posts present a completely inaccurate perspective of how attention ‘works’ on the web; same goes for most people representing ‘content strategy’.
Remarkable. Facebook has over five times the active user base of Twitter and yet the Telegraph Media Group’s editor-in-chief says they didn’t look at the data. I would also worry that he seems to see the two as equivalent; if you chase ‘traffic’ your thinking narrows to the point of only seeing the numbers. Yet he also states “the goal is to maintain a quality product”. This is contradictory in so many ways, not least of which is the equating of ‘journalism as product’.
I like the idea of using aggregated content from social platforms as a way to contextualise an event. It’s the sort of thing Storify offers. However, I don’t want to point people to Storify nor do I like the appearance of their embedded version or want to pay in order to be able to customise this.
Fortunately the major platforms make embedding content trivially easy; just select the ‘embed’ option on an item and paste the markup into your page. The hard part is sourcing relevant material, which despite the promise of ‘user-generated content’ solving this problem, remains largely something you either need to produce yourself or guide people to create.
Here’s part of the base column of items I knocked up from the Faculty of Arts Graduate Show 2014 ready to be dropped into a suitable template within the dreaded CMS.
For those not comfortable with the markup it’s the kind of thing an hours training would solve; that’s the super-easy part. Far more important was preparing to cover the event itself. Get in touch with me if you’d like my guide to live-tweeting an event and I’ll send you a copy.