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Jeff Weiner: How Custom Publishing Is Fueling Social Media Strategy

PSFK's Director of Business Development on why PSFK is growing its Custom Publishing offering.

Jeff Weiner
Jeff Weiner on September 30, 2012. @JGWeiner

Over the past twelve months, PSFK has noticed a significant uptick in queries tied to our custom publishing offering.  While promoting the service, we have spoken to many large brands and advertising agencies in an attempt to not only craft the perfect solution, but also to gain a deeper understanding of what is driving the change on their end.  Many of the folks we have spoken to have emerged from a period of trying to act like a publisher, but have come to recognize that a publishing operation is set up quite differently than a creative agency, for examples.  Others, like the SEO community have new concerns about Google’s search algorithm updates, which now favor those that are creating quality, longer form content.

To provide some context, when PSFK talks about social media tools for brands, we roughly group the activities into four buckets:

4 Components Of The Social Media Landscape For Brands

1 – Social Listening Tools – Those tools tied to listening to social channels to glean insights, provide customer service, etc.  The big players in the space are folks like Radian 6
2 – Platform Plays – The Buddy Medias of the world who effectively serve as a platform and provide a tool set to run your content management system, etc.
3 – Community Managers – The people who are responsible for one-to-one communication with consumers and fans, the voice of the brand on social channels, and the operator of the content management system.
4 – Content Producer / Curator – The people that are responsible for unearthing and creating content to be shared with community managers for further dissemination.

PSFK, as it stands now, serves as a solution for this fourth component – content producer and curator.  Currently, there are only a small group of companies that currently provide a rapidly flowing stream of curated content to partners.  Each of those players roughly falls into one of three categories.

The 3 Methods Of Social Content Creation

There are really only three methods of content creation being employed today:

1 – Algorithmic identification of content - An algorithm looks at a variety of factors from the social graph and links them to parameters like keywords.  This surfaces popular content for community managers to contemplate sharing. The benefit of this model is its scalability. The downsides however, include putting a lot of trust in community managers to act like an ‘Editor-In-Chief’. And, then there is also the issue of the relative performance of one algorithmic solution versus another.
2 – Freelance journalists – There are a number of web services that are growing this offering by aggregating writers. The issue in this instance is that the brand needs to know exactly what they want to talk about and have to craft creative briefs for the writers (and have an approval process for rapidly incoming content).
3 – White-label and co-branded custom publishing - A team of writers that are run like a newspaper (whose POV is in-line with the client’s). The benefit of this is that there is a filter through which content is run that exists outside of the client and the client simply takes on the role of making decision about content.  The downside is that this model is really optimized for brands that want to make an extended commitment to publishing and have the pieces in place to make quick decisions about content.

Some About Brands, Agencies and Content

To date, our experiences speaking to different brands and agencies about custom publishing have lead us to these early conclusions:

- Brands and Creative agencies are best suited to using content
- PR companies seem to be hesitant to engage (this could be because of perceived similarities between our product offerings, or an inability to monetize or offset the costs tied to third-party custom publishing)
- Media agencies are simply not built to make a social media ‘buy.’ I suppose they could be, but media buying organizations are about scale, not nuanced custom publishing.
- Brands and Agencies that require legal review as part of the publishing process need to have the pieces in place to move social media content through the pipeline quickly. I recently was invited to witness a Johnnie Walker Instagram campaign where this very issue arose and was interested to see how they handled it.

Universal Issues Faced By Social Media Participants

In our research, there seem to be several themes that continue to recur:

1 – Social media copy writers are in high demand – A need exists across the board for copywriters that are able to write for the social web and understand the nuances of communication tied to each platform.
2 – Peaks and valleys in engagement – Almost all parties that I spoke to over the past several months have expressed concerns about maintaining sustained engagement.  Since most of the content these folks are producing and/or sharing is tied to finite campaigns, there are significant peaks and valleys tied to engagement.  Many brands still treat their social media presence like an on/off switch (more often than not, they readily acknowledge that this is an issue).
3 – Content Marketing versus Content Curation – There seem to be two schools of thought around content. One school is focused on content marketing – that is, fewer pieces of content and more comms planning and optimization.  The other school is more interested in acting like a publisher, offering more content with a smaller emphasis on optimizing the communications footprint.

A Growing Content Marketplace

While these are still early days for custom publishing for the social web, all signs are pointing to a growth in the marketplace.  And now, more so than ever before, there are a variety of options to suit individual brand needs.

If you would like to understand how my team could support your social communications, review our PSFK Services site and drop me a line.

 

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