In July, Ken Krogue wrote a blog post in Forbes provocatively titled The Death of SEO: The Rise of Social, PR, And Real Content. Krogue’s thesis – that brands need to invest in high quality content, social communities, and PR to be relevant in the war for online attention – caused quite a stir. As I read his post (and the equally good follow-up), I felt the only thing absent from Mr. Krogue’s correct and valiant defense of real content was an equally loud call for great content products like websites, blogs, and apps.
If brands are to be mighty publishers, then they need to think like publishers. Publishers look at data and create compelling editorial, video, and photo content based on what readers want to read and see. They work in relentlessly data-driven cultures, and they’re always keeping one eye (if not both eyes) on how the content and the products are performing. When a website design stops working, it’s changed. When stories don’t attract readers, they’re replaced. And, throughout the cycle, feedback is absorbed and operationalized quickly. New products are rolled out regularly. The Huffington Post, for example, has launched Spanish, French, and Italian editions, as well as the iPad magazine Huffington and HuffPost Live, in the past year.
Coke’s creation of this blog is proof that we believe that the product experience matters just as much as the content itself. A beautiful, user-friendly product is key for making the most of Social 3.0. If Social 1.0 was about getting brands onto social networks, and Social 2.0 was all about engagement (something brands have done with uneven success), then Social 3.0 involves using those insights to deliver content experiences that emotionally and intellectually connect with consumers. And that can’t be done without compelling content platforms.
But, to maximize the content experience, brands also have to exert control over the product experience. Social networks are great for amplification, but you can’t just switch the UI if it doesn’t deliver the views, shares, comments or subscribers you desire. Only truly owned products give you that end-to-end flexibility.
We developed this blog, this product, to be a home for content our fans want to see and share – and you’ve told us that you want a deeper look inside the Happiness Factory. And when you comment, share or like something, we’re paying attention. As our CMO Joe Tripodi wrote in the Harvard Business Review, we’re shifting to expressions over impressions. And like a publisher, we’ll use that data to constantly evolve Coca-Cola Unbottled.
Social media professionals have spent many years and a lot of money trying to be “human”. But it turns out that most people don’t want brands to be “human” as much as they want brands to enrich their lives in some way with incredible experiences. If you’re still trying to nail down engagement, you’re already way behind.