After years of believing that high search engine rankings were the ultimate mark of social media success, what a relief it’s been to realize that it ain’t necessarily so.
The fine art of narrowcasting receives far less attention in social media commentary than its equal and opposite, broadcasting. But a more finely focused strategy, with targets and metrics to match, may be exactly what your campaign needs.
It all depends on what you’re trying to achieve online—who you need to reach, what message you have to deliver, and what you want your audience to do with the information you’ve handed to them.
Depth Versus Breadth
Most of our clients’ campaigns have pulled our thinking in a direction that runs counter to content marketing wisdom. They have important stories to tell. Their target audiences are usually policy-makers or other subject specialists, not a wide group of consumers.
To have an impact, they have to deliver their content and messaging above the lowest common denominator, at a level of detail and complexity that conventional marketing usually avoids.
That means trading breadth of reach for depth of understanding. So landing at the top of a Google search may or may not be a measure of success.
The difference came into focus for me a couple of weeks ago, when I stumbled across a pitch for the mirror image strategy.
“The more savvy the blogger becomes, the less people he can actually help by sharing knowledge,” wrote Jeremy Schoemaker a couple of years ago, in a post on affiliate blogging. “The blogs you see that are successful, make a lot of money, and continue to grow are ones that stay on that basic level that can relate to millions of people.”
If you can get past the flashing lights and moving pictures on the site, Schoemaker makes an important point with a rudimentary pyramid of affiliate blog content. The base of the pyramid is the 101 content to which “millions of people can relate.” The tip is expert content for 1% of the audience.
For the purpose he has in mind, Schoemaker argues against smart, in-depth blogging. But the opposite is also true: If thoughtful, expert content is what you have to convey, don’t even try for a mass market.
Not A Mass Market Campaign
If the purpose of your campaign is to shape policy or practice with thoughtful arguments or original research, you’ll need a different approach to strategy and targeting. It’ll mean carefully defining your audience—possibly by persona, maybe even by listing the specific individuals you need to reach.
Then you’ll need more focused analytics to tell you whether you’re reaching the people you want to talk to—and once you do, whether their attitudes or behaviours have shifted at a depth that probably requires more than a mouse-click on a “buy” button.
This is not the mini-mass-market campaign that we hear about from major brands, for whom an audience of 10,000 is a “nice round number” with whom you can “physically and digitally communicate.” For organizations with budgets that are much smaller, but messages that are at least as compelling as the latest product launch, narrowcasting may be the only way to turn limited resources into lasting results.
Taking Complexity Mainstream
It’s a different matter if you have to build a mass audience—or a mass movement—around a complex message. Organizations like the Climate Reality Project and 350.org have come up with simple, compelling stories to get many thousands of people actively involved with one of the most complicated issues facing humanity.
But even then, the details matter—maybe not for every member of every audience group, but almost certainly for the decision-makers you’re trying to influence. That’s where it becomes important to “nest” your messages, likely using your blog as the fulcrum of a content continuum that includes shorter bursts of information on social platforms and more in-depth resources as background reference.