What brands can learn from Generation Feed

Brands must alter their thinking to overcome the competing demands of social media, writes Nicola Kemp.

What brands can learn from Generation Feed

Rarely a day goes by when I don't succumb to the heady allure of a sprinkling of self-delusion.

Indeed, the pursuit of sheer joy is often reliant on our ability to separate the deliciousness of the present moment - that physical or metaphorical red velvet cupcake in front of us - with the subsequent comedown and inevitable regret.

Very few of us are immune from this - it is part of the essence of human nature to suffer from the odd stroke of self-importance or over-reliance on little white lies. But, increasingly, it seems that brands are guilty of this form of self-delusion on a global scale.

Everywhere I turn, it appears that marketers are being led to believe that not only do their consumers actually want to have a conversation with their brand, but that they are actively seeking out their content via social-media channels.

None is more guilty of this misconception than media brands, which have long been at risk of mistaking the primary function of consumers' social-media feed for their own. It is a confusion confirmed by recent findings from the Pew Research Centre, which showed that 78% of Facebook News users see this content when they are on Facebook for other reasons.

Hijacking eyeballs

Marketers must guard against believing that consumers exist in their world

In essence, for media-owners and brands alike, however great the content you create is, the fact remains that you are attempting to divert consumers' attention from what they originally intended to do. It is a shift underlined by comScore data, which reveals that visitors who go to news-media websites directly spend three times as long on them as those who visit through social-media channels. In essence, it is harder to keep the attention of these hijacked eyeballs.

Brands are now competing for attention in new and complex territories. Of course, every brand wants to be the destination in its own right, whether virtual or bricks and mortar.

Yet our interactions are becoming couched, within not just the confines of the screen, but the demands placed on our time - whether that's checking emails in the five minutes waiting for the train that was once spent daydreaming, or the anxious thumbing of the smartphone that has come to accompany almost any given daily activity.

Paradigm shifting

Marketers must guard against believing that consumers exist in their world, when in reality they must squeeze their brand into the ever-decreasing corners of their consumers' world.

It is only when brands accept that they must operate within the parameters set by the competing demands of consumers' social-media feeds, and not vice versa, that they will be forced to ditch the self-importance implicit in the traditional interruptive advertising model. It may be one of the biggest cliches in advertising, but time remains consumers' most precious resource.

Those brands that succeed not just in diverting attention, but also engaging in a genuine value-exchange with consumers, will thrive. For the rest, the inevitable regret that shadows the path of self-delusion awaits.

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