The world is awash in content.
As recently detailed by Wired’s David Pierce, Instagram’s photo cache grows by 80m each day.
YouTube sees 400 hours of video uploaded every minute, and more than 250,000 status updates are posted to Facebook in the same span.
Obviously, as Pierce points out, “You could never read and see everything online. Not in 100 lifetimes. Not even if you never ate or peed or worked again.”
That’s a blessing and a curse for individuals, but increasingly, it’s a thorn in the side of brands.
Brands become content creators
Thanks to the rise of ad blockers and generally skeptical consumers, more and more brands are becoming content creators.
Starbucks, for example, isn’t just a coffee chain. It’s a storyteller, and not a bad one at that.
By creating content and not ads, brands are hoping that they can reach consumers and build stronger relationships with them, but cutting through the clutter is increasingly difficult because of the deluge of content.
To help consumers separate the wheat from the chaff, popular platforms on which content is distributed and shared are increasingly turning to algorithms.
While Facebook’s News Feed has been subject to an algorithm for years, Instagram and Twitter, services that have historically displayed content in chronological order, have recently introduced algorithms of their own.
Many users have voiced displeasure about the introduction of these algorithms, but given the overwhelming amount of content posted to Instagram and Twitter, it’s not hard to understand why these companies are adopting them.
Beyond trying to make sure users see the content that’s most likely to be relevant to them, algorithms pave the way for these services to more tightly control organic reach, which can in turn be used to bolster their paid ad offerings.
It’s not just algorithms
Algorithms present brands that have jumped on the content bandwagon with numerous challenges.
The biggest: it’s increasingly difficult and costly to ensure that content gets delivered to its target audience.
Quality content isn’t cheap to produce in the first place, so brands that aren’t getting the love they want from the algorithms often face a sub-optimal choice: pay up or let expensive content go to waste.
But it’s not just algorithms that brands have to worry about.
In the past week Facebook has come under scrutiny after some of its former “news curators” claimed that they ”routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential ‘trending’ news section.”
While the alleged suppression of content from conservative news sites doesn’t relate directly to brand content, it highlights the fact that employees at companies like Facebook exert significant control over the content that large numbers of consumers see.
This means that a small group of individuals can make decisions that impact millions upon millions of people.
So what are brands to do?
For better or worse, it’s increasingly difficult for brands to ignore content marketing altogether.
But as content volumes increase and third-party distribution platforms become the primary means through which digital content reaches consumers, brands will have to get to grips with the fact that embracing content creation will not be a panacea.