There’s an inconvenient reality about online campaigning that is only beginning to dawn on content marketers and the organizations we serve:
The better we identify and reach our target audience, the more tempting it is to ask for a bigger budget to do a good job even better.
As slippery slopes go, this is a steep one.
No client wants to approve a project without a firm budget, and no content provider should expect them to. But even with the best preparation and the clearest understanding of a target audience, a campaign may be headed for some difficult conversations and tough choices if:
- The campaign budget allows just enough time for outbound contact, but doesn’t factor in the individual engagement that will follow when members of a newly-energized community begin responding.
- An audience is slow to engage, but it seems likely that the community will reach critical mass with a bit more effort and support.
- Budget dictates that a weekly blog will have to be enough to get a client’s message out. It seems right, particularly if the organization only posted infrequently in the past. But as the client begins listing all the stories that need to be told, they realize they really need twice- or thrice-weekly production, supported by more extensive (hence more expensive) social media distribution, monitoring, and engagement.
- The editorial calendar is overtaken by breaking news that no one could have foreseen when the campaign got under way. Client and vendor both want to seize the opportunity to newsjack the story, but the added effort means added cost.
Real Content Marketing Takes Time
What makes this line of thinking so inconvenient is that it’s both bad news and good.
A campaign that can’t be priced and planned ahead of time is far less likely to get off the ground. But it’s probably a measure of that campaign’s success if it reaches so far, so fast that it burns through its original budget before anyone expected it to.
If that’s what’s happening, rigid cost control may be a recipe for frustration and missed opportunities.
This is one moment when the newness of content marketing and social media management is a disadvantage. Thankfully, we’re mostly past the days when organizations saw social media management as a job they could assign to an intern (hey, they’re just the right age!) to get done during their lunch hour (hey, how long could it really take?). But in a field of practice that is still very much a work in progress, it’s hard to reliably predict the time and resources that will give a campaign the breadth and reach it needs.
Following Where the Audience Takes You
An experienced practitioner should be able to anticipate a client’s needs and budget accordingly, but only to a certain extent. That’s because no two campaigns are exactly the same.
Every audience and every topic has its own unique profile, characteristics, dynamics, and triggers. So without the detailed market research that most small campaigns can’t begin to pay for, targeting is necessarily a mix of limited data and lots of guesswork—which means there are bound to be surprises.
It may take longer than expected to build profile with a new audience. Or a message might resonate right away, leaving the campaign team scrambling to keep up with the individual responses and human tone that social media demand.
That’s a great problem to have, as long as the project budget can flex. If not, at some point along the way, heartbreaking though it might be, a campaign might have no choice but to leave a great new opportunity on the table.