For years marketers and business owners alike have been told about online presence, “If you build it, they will come.” Unfortunately, that’s become a big fat lie. The internet is no longer a field of dreams, and we aren’t Kevin Costner. This past month I had the privilege of attending a talk by Chad Pollitt as part of Indy Smartups, with the focus of what business owners and online marketers can do in the wake of the internet’s broken promises. Here are some of our takeaways from the event.

Navigating Tomorrow’s Internet

The online ecosystem is currently going through its biggest transformation in its short lifespan, with one estimate showing a rise of available information on the internet by some 500%. With the way current search engines run, they aren’t built to serve up tomorrow’s volume of content. On Facebook, organic reach clocks in at a piddling 2%, and to get any more eyes is going to cost you.

What does that mean for us today?

Put simply, it means that unless you have some pretty deep pockets to play ball with the big dogs of Google, Facebook, etc, just making and publishing content isn’t going to cut it soon. You can stack all the flyers you want in your front yard, but only people driving by will see them – to succeed in tomorrow’s neighborhood, you’re going to need to distribute and promote your content.

Content is No Longer King

When those four words were spoken, I assume a few people in the room fainted. “Content is King” is something everybody involved in marketing learns, it was even scrawled in Sharpie inside one of my textbooks in school. But Content is no longer king – Audience is. Content is no less important than it was, but with so many voices creating great content vying for attention, separating yourself is the key to success.

“He who has access and can persuade audience holds the keys to the kingdom,” is the exact phrase I jotted down and underlined three times listening to Chad. Producing content is just the first step in tomorrow’s marketplace, leveraging and promoting it is what’s going to give you better returns.

Leveraging Your Content

With content production becoming a lesser focus, and distribution and promotion becoming a greater one, it’s important to know your media, and how to leverage it. Your media will occupy one of three typical spaces:

Owned media – Content broadcasting, the content you produce and publish on your own closed space. This includes your website, your social media posts, and more.

Paid media – Content distribution, exposure to your content that you yourself pay for. This could be through pay-per-click campaigns, social media ads, etc.

Earned media – Content coverage, when your content is covered or shared by any source free from your influence. News coverage, social media shares, and forwarded emails all fall under this.

If you’ve been following along, you may already understand which sections the future is trending towards. Earned media is the gold standard of promotion, and there are a multitude of ways to achieve it. Chad gave a few examples of the many ways to do so:

  • Outsourced content: Open your content channels to your audience. Publish content from someone outside your company – individuals will share their own work, with their own built-in audience of friends. The cost of producing this content is typically nothing.
  • Influencer marketing: Whether you’re aware of it or not, you likely have connections with “influencers.” While they may not be Oprah, take the time to reach out to those who may be thought leaders in your audience. These are trusted voices to many people who can be a boon to your content distribution.
  • Bylines: Similar to outsourced content, writing or producing content for other sources puts your name and your brand directly in front of a new audience’s eyes. This is one of the easiest ways to achieve earned media.

The Review

There’s too much to be said for these lessons in just one blog post. The biggest takeaway from all of this is that online, we can’t ever expect things to stay the same. The internet is rapidly evolving every day, and we can’t afford to become too attached to any one certain way of thinking about how we utilize digital marketing. The greatest insurance policy you can have for continued success, no matter what industry you’re in, is research. Stay informed on trends in media, in your audience, and in the marketplace, and you’ll be well on your way to blazing your trail in tomorrow’s online community.

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