Content Shock and Cutting Through The Noise

As if things aren’t hard enough for entrepreneurs and small business folks, the challenges of digital presence and discoverability just keep mutating. I just started reading Mark Schaefer’s new book, “The Content Code” in which he describes this evolution of digital marketing so far.

He outlines three phases that, to date, bring us here. The first was a focus on Presence. You may remember this…in the mid-1990s when AOL, Prodigy and others staked their claims on what was then the Internet? As a business, if you could just get out there and establish a web site, you won. You were So Far Ahead of the curve…
Then, however, you needed to be found. The early search engines like Alta Vista, Yahoo and eventually Google enabled this. So by the later 1990s the emphasis turned to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Discovery was the focus for the second digital revolution. Get found and you won.

Now we’re firmly in the grip of the third revolution, enabled by social media and mobile technology. Now the goal is Utility (or as Jay Baer has termed it “Youtility“). You have to help, serve and entertain people right where they are, and a lot of this centered on stellar content.

The phrase “right where they are” covers a lot of ground, too. Where are they in the buying cycle? Where do they sit in the circle of influence among their friends, family and colleagues to recommend you and share your posts? Where are they physically? On their phone in traffic? On a tablet in the airport or in front of their TV? On a laptop in the coffee shop? On a desktop (yes, they still exist….) in their office or at home?

Each of these revolutions slid into the next one, and life got more difficult for those of us who don’t have dedicated staff for marketing, writing, posting, tweeting and the like. Being a pioneer in each of these phases had real advantages, but once all the other businesses caught on (and it didn’t really take that long…), things got more difficult. Figuring out the next steps while keeping your business growing and delivering products and services….well, let’s just say there are still only 24 hours in a day, and that became an issue.

Schaefer calls this Content Shock. He defines this further as the insane explosion of content as every business and brand figures out that this is how to get noticed, how to be helpful and how to rank in search engine results. The problem is that a number of forecasts estimate around a 500% increase in the amount of information on the web over the next five years to 2020. YIKES! Some are even predicting a higher number around 1000%….so how hard will it be to stand out in that kind of information density?

There IS some good news. With every technological leap, the amount of content people consume has jumped. When all we had were newspapers and books, people spent an average of 2 hours a day reading. Then the leaps to radio, then TV, then the Internet and digital gaming….by 2011, according to Nielsen, American were consuming over 8 hours of content per day. Add the mobile revolution (phones and tablets wherever you are and a near ubiquitous connection…) and by 2014 the volume consumed has jumped to around 10 hours a day for American adults.

How high can that go? No one really knows. Some gamers already live online for 18 hours or more per day. What kind of affect will driverless cars and the continual blending of work and not-work have on consumption habits?

As I work my way through this, I will share what I’m learning with you and add my thoughts around strategies and tactics for working through the Content Shock and the kinds of things entrepreneurs and business folk can do to optimize their efforts. As you discover your own best practices, add them to the comments and we can find our way through this next revolution together….cut through the noise and grow the business!

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