I was recently asked why the social sites are pushing for content to be published natively within their networks for this Content Standard article by John Montesi. I thought I’d share some additional thoughts on the subject that didn’t make it into the article.
Why Social Sites Want Content Published Directly On Their Platforms
In February of last year, LinkedIn opened up its blogging platform, LinkedIn Publishing, to all users.
In May of this year, Facebook announced its Instant Articles program that lets major publishers post their content directly to Facebook. Then in September, Facebook beefed up it’s Facebook Notes feature to compete with LinkedIn.
A month later, Twitter appeared to say “me too” to the long-form content publishing game, but has yet to roll out a tool for doing so.
The push for native publishing directly within social channels is clearly a tactic that serves the interest of the social channels themselves. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter get free content which has the effect of keeping users within their walled gardens for longer periods of time.
[Tweet “Is Social Media Publishing A Deal With The Devil? #SocialMediaMarketing”]
The social networks have figured out that they abhor a hyperlink because hyperlinks subvert hierarchy and you can’t be the top dog if people always leave you. You can’t grow and make more money if people click links. You make more money as a social network by ensuring people don’t leave.
So bring the content inside.
The social channels get to control their audiences for longer periods of time, keep them from leaving, and accumulate more and more behavioral and social data that makes their ad-targeting capabilities all the more powerful.
What Is The Benefit To Publishers?
So what do publishers get out of the deal?
Traditional media outfits like the New York Times, The Atlantic, or BuzzFeed–all of whom are Facebook’s partners in their Instant Articles program–get their content before consumers’ eyes more quickly, more seamlessly, and more effortlessly. Facebook is also giving partners a very favorable terms for the cut of ad dollars.
Companies, brands and individuals who use these self-publishing tools are seeing greater reach for their content because the site’s algorithm appear to favor natively-published content over shared links.
For advertisers, the fact that these sites are becoming the center of online gravity means they are the new mass media.
After years of ever fragmenting media, social networks are making it easier to find the audiences you need to reach, especially when you consider the insanely rich demographic, psychographic, technographic, and behavioral data that is available for delivering hyper-relevant advertisements.
The advertising dollars you do spend with them are incredibly efficient because you can reach exactly the audience you want to reach with very little waste.
So what are negatives?
Is Publishing Your Content Direct To Social A Deal With The Devil?
The downside of publishing directly to social networks is that you just may be making a deal with the devil.
If you publish directly to these social channels without taking a cold, hard look at what you want to accomplish, you may be giving up more control than you bargained for and put yourself at the whims of a company that can change their terms of service whenever and however they like.
The cautionary tale brands and content marketers should look to is Facebook Brand Pages.
When Facebook first rolled them out, a lot of brands put a lot of time, effort and money into building their audiences only to have Facebook subsequently pull the virtual rug out from underneath their efforts by changing their algorithm to drastically reduce the reach of those pages.
Facebook is following the exact same playbook with its Instagram app. SocialTimes reports that a study of 2,500 brand profile pages on Instagram revealed “a steady drop in organic engagement over the past six months.” Not surprisingly, that coincides with the rollout of Instagram advertising inclusion in Facebook’s ad-targeting options.
Oops, now you gotta pay us to reach the audience you worked so hard to build.
You can have success with native publishing, especially as a thought leadership and expert positioning tool, but do some what-if planning before you pull the trigger so you don’t end up unprepared down the line. Figure out what content makes sense to publish natively in social channels and what content better serves your need outside their universe.
Ultimately, the people you reach on social media are leased relationships. Brands and content marketers should be striving to own the relationships with their audiences and customers.
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