The word ‘viral’ means very little these days. One moment everyone in the world is posting an opinion of the obscenity of Nkandla, next of the Sepp Blatter FIFA scandal and then of their happiness through coloured rainbows for gay rights and equality. Nevertheless, it seems as though content disappears as quickly as it comes around. “The average person in today’s market sees 2% of created content,” Jon Ratcliffe,CEO of Mofilm Africa. This provides the challenge of making content last in today’s market where content is so easily accessible to everyone that they don’t necessarily need to ‘go out and find it’ but at the same time, are still searching for the ‘next best thing’.

It seems as though as soon as something is new/ exciting, just about every content source creates a piece around it, however the sites that remain authentic within their content creation seem to make a success and create lasting content, whilst the sites that post content simply to get seen (ultimately following trends, rather than creating them), do not.
I recently sat in on a meeting whereby the discussion involved the following considerations for a sponsor looking to create valuable content and stretch the reach that the audience sees:

1.Creation of content by a brand that is seen as shareable content, rather than advertising, thereby making content last on various social platforms
Let’s take the social commentary of the blue/gold dress as a case study here. People love to argue on social media. If a brand can get people passionate about something, and keep them talking – they will enlist the help of their followers, and the process will repeat. However the important challenge is to keep the sentiment as favourable for the sponsor. The brands that succeeded in attaching their names to this social experiment gained followers and fans, and people appreciated that they were relevant, and refutable at the time. The successful ones simply aimed to connect with the audience, rather than use the experiment to push their irrelevant messages, and people appreciated it. One specific brand that used this optical illusion for a great cause was the Salvation Army – #StopAbuseAgainstWomen, which saw thousands people follow a great cause and The Salvation Army received huge exposure. In this case, the cause was so powerful that people appreciated being a part of it. Ultimately, the minute an image/ situation has brand names plastered all over it without relevance, the information becomes unwanted advertising, and loses its value to an individual looking to promote their own ideas. It becomes the brands’ view of the situation rather than their own, and although the content may get shared, chances are that it will get lost rather than last.

2. Reaching the correct target market and making real bonds
Developments in social media has seen brands approaching social influencers with massive online audiences to promote their products/services and attempt to amplify their messaging authentically. Online influencers have a huge platform where one comment made creates opportunities for engagement (positive or negative) and each comment made by a follower provides valuable insights into understanding the audience further. The discussion itself between a source and its followers is now very valuable information to a brand/sponsor and provides preferences, interests etc.
Now, marketers have discovered that stars and other so-called influencers can help move product just as well through their social media channels. In my opinion, I believe that online influencers now offer the same service that billboards used to offer traditionally. An influencer with an online audience of one million followers commands a generally segmented target audience that are relatively easy to persuade if you are able to resonate with them. In the words of Coolio from Gangster’s Paradise… “If they can’t understand me, how can they reach me?”
The key to creating valuable partnerships in terms of social sponsorship and reaching the correct target is, once again, authenticity. Everyone believes in something, and their social feeds are ultimately a reflection of all of those beliefs. Everything a brand needs to know about their target market sits on those social platforms and, if utilised correctly, can create massive opportunities for effective engagement. Brands are currently moving towards paying platforms to receive this information (i.e. target market trends, preferences etc.) but an interesting development would be if the target market had the option to pay for content that they would want to see, and choose it themselves. This also further develops into the idea of ‘insuring one’s personal online history’ as the information could turn into highly sought after data.

3. Value of the content
Traditionally, rights holders have sold primary content (TV) to broadcasters, and packaged rights to sponsors. Now that the dialogue and engagement itself has become so valuable, there is an inherent need to ensure that brands are able to take advantage of this. The view that social media is not a space for selling is a naïve one. While it may not be a place for the hard sell approach, brands need to set objectives and have an idea of the value they wish to achieve through their social media activities.. They need to realise that each piece of content put out on their selected platforms has an associated value. The development of ‘paid amplification’ sees sites like YouTube and Facebook charging brands to reach the target audience that they have worked so hard to develop.
At the end of the day though, the argument comes down to the following: What is the true value of a tweet or a like in today’s world? The developments of social tracking is very interesting in terms of utilising the data to make improvements to brands, and there is a lot that sponsors can learn in this department. Often brands receive a report based on their social campaigns, but often only look at the big ROI square to determine the campaigns success/failure, however there is so much more that the report could be used for and the current ROI numbers need to be taken with a pinch of salt. These trackers are incredibly valuable and should be put to much better use in terms of understanding the preferences of a target market, and using the data as a marketing tool to benefit a sponsor. After all, although sales is a top priority, a campaign may be successful based on other factors too (i.e. the blue/gold dress as seen above which enhanced the cause rather than profits). A success may be gathering an entirely new database full of new consumer to use future marketing efforts on.
Ultimately the online sponsorship world is in a ‘game changing’ stage where sponsors still need to drive sales and a positive ROI, but still satisfy their consumers, who live for the moment, and are constantly in search of the ‘next big thing’ before anyone else. The most successful brands have a deep understanding through their audience’s behaviour and therefore connect on a deeper level, where content is appreciated by the audience and could be viewed as an extension of their current selves.

My departing advice to making content last in today’s world of new would be: STAY TRUE, STAY NEW, and AND STAY YOU!!

Written by Jacqui Purchase