beware the hubI recently heard Gary Vaynerchuk speak at our company, and among the many noteworthy quotes he delivered, there was one that stuck in my mind: “We’re living through a massive fragmentation in storytelling.”

Sounds blindingly obvious for those of us who work in the field of digital marketing, but consider the implications to the way typical CPG companies build their digital plans. Both clients and agencies are at fault for suggesting in briefs that the digital components of an integrated marketing plan should all point to a central “hub.” This central point could be the brand’s own site or, more commonly, the brand’s Facebook page. But that approach has a few serious flaws that reflect a lack of understanding of how digital channels, and consumers’ media consumption, are evolving today.

Where Hubs Fall Short

Every week, there seems to be a new article published about the growing abandonment of Facebook by millennials or the creation of yet another new social network — one that offers some sort of benefit that will help brands attract a different type of audience. It’s a safe bet to say that the brands most of us work on have fans that use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and other platforms, but we cannot assume they are all used equally. I know several people who handle their social accounts very differently based on need and personal desire. For instance, some people will reserve Facebook for only family and friends but will follow many brands on Twitter. Some will rely exclusively on one social channel because “they just can’t keep up” with any others.

So, if your brand-owned assets or digital media point to a centralized hub to get your story across, you are automatically making a choice to ignore much of your audience by assuming you know where to best reach them. That’s like assuming Wal-Mart, because it is the biggest retailer, is the only place where you should try to activate your brand in-store.

What’s the Solution?

Create parallel paths of content development that deliver brand messages in a manner tailored to each environment. One example: We have all seen statistics about the growing importance of video content in the social space (think Vine and Instagram), but no one would ever consider developing the same type of video content for full episode players or pre-roll as they would for these emerging platforms.

A 30-second spot and a 6-second video may tell the same brand benefit, but they must do so in very different ways. That’s because we know that — beyond the technical nuances of the platforms — the environments and context of where the video is being consumed are wildly different. The same is true for any piece of creative content delivered digitally: we must understand the nature of the consumption as well as the expectations of the audience.

You cannot be sure of your target consumers’ entry points into your brand’s story, nor can you afford a one-size-fits-all creative content approach. Rather, think of your storytelling approach as having a central theme with different variations that allows you to flex communication to where and how your audience likes to receive it.

Originally published Oct 8, 2013 1:00:54 AM, updated December 02 2014

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Social Media