The word “content” has become a catchall for anything you write, create, or curate, and share on the internet. But what does it mean to produce content as a business or organization? And how can you do it without annoying or over-saturating your audience?
Unlike a subway poster, magazine ad, or billboard (i.e. content which remains stationary and advertises to the environment around it), online content needs to adapt to its environment. This makes sense when you think about how successful campaigns look different on instagram than in a magazine or on a website. Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, it’s all about creating content that makes sense for the context it’s presented in.
The word “native” has been used to describe this phenomenon, both in content marketing and advertising. native advertising describes “a method in which the advertiser attempts to gain attention by providing content in the context of the user’s experience.” And while native may have seemed like a solution to banner ads and pop-ups—the bane of every internet user’s existence—the term has recently fallen flat and garnered much criticism.
While John Oliver’s rant speaks specifically to the increasingly blurry line between news and advertising, his criticisms highlight the ways in which marketers are being forced into increasingly sneaky ways to get people’s attention. In the days of PVR and Adblock, it’s easier to tune out anything that remotely resembles “marketing speak.”
So how do you cut through the noise and make an impact? Successful content fits the platform it’s presented in without being deceiving or disruptive. When we say “fits,” we mean it both literally and figuratively: literally, a photo needs to be tailored for a specific social media platform (an image shared to twitter should be 220×440 while the same image would need to be resized for facebook to 1200×1200—at least at the time of this writing). Figuratively, that same piece of content should also “fit” by providing value in the space it’s presented in and tapping into the very reasons why people log onto a given platform.
People log into facebook to see what their friends are up to and to find out about what’s going on. They may “like” a business or organization’s page because they support what a brand sells or what an organization stands for; they’re genuinely interested in staying within the environment of that business and want to be informed about products, new initiatives, or ways to get involved. What they’re not looking for is content that interrupts their experience.
When a business speaks to a user, it should be in a way that’s authentic to that platform and aligns with why the user came to that space in the first place. Some networks are designed for short, pithy content while others are for really beautiful photos. Brands should try and replicate the experience people are seeking.
According to bestselling social media author Gary Vaynerchuck, good content doesn’t make any demands of the user. Good content “doesn’t say ‘buy now’ or ‘click here.’ Instead, the best social ads offer something: they’re generous, informative, funny, inspiring, and human.” Let”s look at a nonprofit who gets it.
The Museum of Modern Art, better known as MoMA, is among the most influential modernist art museums in the world. The organization’s website presents all kinds of information about galleries and upcoming exhibits as well as hints of members-only perks to incite subscription to one of the museum’s membership programs.
On facebook, the organization has the opportunity to tell stories in a way not allowed for on their website. While the website is concerned with presenting information in an organized—albeit artsy—way, facebook allows for individual pieces of microcontent that stand on their own but collectively paint a larger portrait of what the museum is all about.
While in each post MoMA has shared a small, unobtrusive link to where viewers can find more information about the exhibit they’re showcasing, the content they’re sharing looks like it belongs on facebook and therefore won”t interrupt the user”s viewing experience. The image selection shows that MoMA is rooted in history—and a very specific moment in history—but the link and text gestures to something in the present or near future.
No matter how you slice it, people go to twitter for news—but we’re not just talking about world news and breaking news. Twitter has become a place where niche communities can organize and share information. People follow other accounts based on interest, and because of this, the micro-blogging platform has become a space where people establish authority within an industry.
On twitter, MoMA has decided to run multiple accounts representing individual areas within the broader umbrella of modern art. In addition to communicating via a main account, you can also follow MoMA film, MoMA learning,MoMA events,MoMA members, MoMA talks— and that’s just a good start. In all, there are about 10 accounts related to the museum. While maintaining multiple Twitter accounts allows an organization to establish authority and cultivate a following within niche markets, this strategy is only recommended if managing each is viable.
Notice the above two pieces of content were also shared to Facebook, but here they have been resized for Twitter’s parameters. The content has also been shortened to fit twitter”s 140-character limit.
Whether you’re using Instagram personally or professionally, the platform is about sharing beautiful photos. From the brilliant to the mundane, Instagram is less about the content captured and more about the unique style in which it’s framed, filtered, and presented.
On Instagram, MoMA stays true to its modern, minimal aesthetic by presenting a series of photos and videos that showcase the goings-on of the museum. From behind-the-scenes snaps of an employee dusting an original Toulouse-Latrec to stunning and staged images of exhibitions, everything on instagram is carefully curated and artfully presented—much like the museum itself.
Vine is one of the newer platforms in social media, and it’s been interesting to watch brands and businesses jump on board. The app, owned by Twitter, is meant for sharing 6-second videos. For nonprofits, it’s an interesting opportunity to creatively share your story in a shot, pithy way.
Pinterest began as a place for collecting and organizing the things on the Internet you love, but increasingly the platform is realizing its commerce potential. The truth is that Internet users don’t just want to look for and be inspired by the things we find on our Internet travels, we want to be able to bring them home as well.
Leveraging pinterest’s commerce opportunities, MoMA uses the space as its virtual gift shop. On MoMA design store, you”re invited to peruse everything from modern watches and books to posters, prints, jewellery—you name it. This is a great example of an organization that is successfully transitioning from using social as a brand-building exercise to an activity that directly impacts the organization’s bottom line: click any of the items on any one of the MoMA design store’s boards, and you”re taken to a checkout on the MoMA design store website.
In summary, succeeding on social media is all about curating and creating the right content and sharing it in a way that’s appropriate for the context its presented in. Content should reflect and extend your brand’s mission and values and support both business and communication goals.