Frustrated social media manager analyzing his campaign's lack of engagement
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In his introduction to the 2018 Content Trends report from Buzzsumo, Mark Schaefer, a content-focused consultant and author of the "Content Code," points out that content overload is nothing new, but it is a problem that is getting worse by the year. While the problems of managing that content have been well documented, Schaefer points out that there are other significant problems emerging too. The research is based on a sample of 100 million posts published in 2017. 

There are in fact three principle reasons why the amount of content that is being shared has fallen, according to Julianne Coyne, SEO Manager at Austin, Texas-based Volusion, which provides an ecommerce platform for small and medium sized businesses. More competition, more private sharing and lower organic reach on networks like Facebook. Here we look in more detail at the issue and experts offer tips for improving your social media reach

Content Value

The overwhelming amount of information in a business niche radically drives up the cost of marketing, perhaps to the point where content marketing is no longer an economically viable option for some,” Schaefer writes in the introduction. “The economic value of simply publishing content is zero — unless it is seen and shared.”

He added that the imperative to find some way to stand out as the signal amid this wall of noise will impact every marketing strategy, budget, and even the skill sets needed in marketing teams. The report itself has a number of interesting findings, not the least of which is that if you are still looking at and managing content the same way you did even three years ago, that content will be 50 percent less effective. Content engagement on social networks, such as shares, likes, and comments have halved since 2015.

The research data shows that social referral traffic has declined in 2017 and was overtaken by traffic from Google sites. The average sharing of social content also fell as a result of increased competition, Facebook algorithm changes coupled with a rise in private sharing. The result is that in 2017, 50 percent of all content gained only four shares or less on social networks.

However, there are a couple of notable exceptions. Sites that have built a reputation for reliability over years have actually seen a rise in the amount of traffic they receive with the big winners being authoritative, quality sites that are actually seeing increases in social sharing.

That said, last year the single biggest change in the area of content engagement was the Facebook algorithm, which the research found, had a major impact on levels of engagement and the types of content that got shared. The change meant that brands and publishers are gaining less organic referral traffic from Facebook and less engagement with their Facebook posts. The report also found that there has been a sharp decline in viral posts that gain hundreds of thousands or millions of shares while "clickbait" style headlines and listicles were far less effective at generating social engagement than they have been in the past.

Elsewhere, there has been a growth in content sharing on LinkedIn and many publishers are seeing steady increases in content engagement on the platform albeit from a relatively small base.

Related Article: 8 Things Social Media Marketers Need to Know About Facebook's News Feed Changes

Too Much Content

Len Markidan, the CMO at online content marketing company Podia points out that the fall off in engagement is the result of content saturation and content fatigue. He argues that things were simpler in the past.  “Years ago, simply publishing content was enough to stand out on the web. As more and more businesses turned to content marketing, the bar was raised and you had to publish extraordinary content to succeed,” he said.

Today, said Markidan, there's more online content marketing than ever, so it's no longer enough to have good content. "If you want to beat the odds and actually get noticed, you have to be the best in your market.” he said.

Make Your Content Great... Always

Sam Warren, Director of Marketing at RankPay, agrees with Markidan. He said that content engagement is declining because there is simply too much content. “As marketers the world round increasingly become aware of how important it is to produce useful and relevant content, the sheer volume of content being published has exploded. The end result? Too much content and not enough people,” he said. 

This is a problem for businesses that want to get in on content marketing without making a serious investment. Their content will often be useless and as a result doesn't drive any real interest or engagement.  “Needless to say that this content is hardly worth sharing! So it gets published, and forgotten. The cure is simple. Only create content that has a clearly defined purpose. And only publish truly great content!” he added. 

Content That Impacts

No one wants to create content that doesn't get read, as a result, Coyne said, "Brands need to double down on finding the content that most resonates with their audience.” She cites the example of a client that sells soft tops for convertibles, which in turn has an audience that loves to read car enthusiast blog posts. “We've been able to take that information and drive 450 percent more engagement by offering them significantly more of what they love. Other clients have audiences who enjoy watching videos or looking at great photography, and we work to connect those types of content with the brand to create content that audiences can't help but engage with,” Coyne said.

Content With User Value

Robb Hecht Adjunct Professor of Marketing at Baruch College in New York says that now, for to be successful on platforms, social content strategists need to make sure their posts are conversational — and focused on value to the user. “[There is] Too much content out there. Everyone and every brand is now a publisher, so there are now too many choices for users. They cannot click and share everything they see,” he said.

"There is also a problem with the way and the location content is being placed. Strategists may be activating content on the wrong platforms; each platform is different with different types of users and needs,” he added. Strategists need to assess target customer segmentation data to ensure they are leveraging the best platforms with their value campaigns, if the content strategy that is being developed is overly reliant on the brand strategy vs the target customer needs, content will sit on platform posts, unshared, without retweets.

In fact, he also suggest that where organizations find that social accounts are not aligned with their business objectives, they should be closed down rather than populated with content that is not right for the platform or audience. Content strategists need to make sure posts are varied — news, offers, quotes, humor, etc., then through back-end analytics, brands should assess which ones trigger more social media engagement. They can then gear their campaigns accordingly.

He also suggested that content engagement (commenting, sharing) may be deceasing due to the proliferation of video. “While video may be engaging from a watch perspective, because it’s not text, users sometimes aren't apt to feel it’s a conversation, they rather feel it’s a show,” he said.

Video Content

San Francisco-based TokBox offers enterprises interactive video, voice and messaging capabilities for use in enterprise business channels. In recent research it found that an increasing number of people are using video for business purposes. The research found the following.

  • 60 percent of people surveyed have used or are likely to use live video to chat with a doctor about a non-emergency condition such as prescription renewal
  • 70 percent of people surveyed in 2017 either have used or are likely to use live video to collaborate remotely on a professional work project
  • 60 percent of people people have either used or are likely to use live video to speak with an insurance consultant to show damaged property for an insurance claim such as damage from a car accident
  • 37 percent of people surveyed in 2017 either have used or are likely to use live video to speak to a banking or sales advisor about purchasing a financial product such as a loan or mortgage.

In sum, the report shows that people are increasingly comfortable using video in professional environments.

Promoting Your Content

Wojtek Mazur of Poland-based content marketing and SEO company Elephate adds that there is also a problem with the way content is marketed across social networks. He says that for many bloggers and journalists, the job is done after hitting the “publish” button, hoping that the traffic and engagement will just come. "Distribution of your content requires a lot of time and effort. Also, the publishers experience significant difficulties with amplification and distribution of their content (even if it is good quality content), he said.”

As a final thought, Kirk Crenshaw Chief Marketing Officer of San Francisco-based Traackr, which builds influencer relationship management software points out that without meaningful relationships with customers, content, no matter how good, will not create engagement. “To drive greater awareness, engagement and advocacy, organizations need to build a brand that centers around cultivating meaningful relationships and adds value to the customer,” he said.

"When we're more apt to trust a recommendation from a person rather than a brand per se, more personalized initiatives like influencer marketing are helping companies to truly connect with their buyers — and amplifying such content on social media has a higher chance of seeing more shares, likes and comments as a result."