25 March

Content Marketing Culture: Why Cultural Influence Trumps Fighting For Social Media Traffic, Likes and Followers

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Every new business needs an online platform, some turf to call your own. So, you invest time and money to build it. Finally, after months of negotiations and revisions, you deploy it. At first, you’re happy, but weeks go by and your shiny new website is still not attracting customers. In an effort to protect your investment, you start spending more money on PR trying to get people to notice you. But it doesn’t work the same way it did before.

Bad news is — press release is dead. Good news — there are ways around that. Once you understand how we got here and why the old tricks don’t work anymore, you’ll be able to adjust and rise to the top.


Pic by Dmitry Kabanov

How brands lost the war for traffic


The early internet was much less centralised. The crust of most people’s web experience consisted of dozens of unconnected websites. They read sports news on ESPN, watched movie trailers on IMDB, and, of course, visited their favourite websites, too. Traffic was the name of the game, and inserting your website into someone’s browsing routine was the ultimate prize. So, brands spent big on website promotion.

First, they fought for prominence in web directories. These were common until the late 90s (you could even get one in print). When they were replaced by search engines like AltaVista, it became all about SEO.

Meanwhile, users were struggling to make sense of it all. The now fashionable idea of a spread-out informational space was a matter-of-fact handicap. Nobody really enjoyed maintaining a bookmark collection or flipping through enormous RSS feeds. That’s how search engines and content aggregators stole the spotlight. These content-agnostic platforms were the one-stop-shops people wanted all along.

Social networks further solidified that change. Not only did they satisfy most users’ information needs, they gave people a voice of their own. By the time Twitter blew up, brands were fighting a losing war. Their only way forward was to adopt to their users’ habits instead of trying to change them. Yet to this day, the misconception that your website is the final destination of the customer’s journey prevails.

The pitfalls of open access media


Open access platforms that amass others’ content rule the internet. Some of those even offer e-commerce capabilities, eliminating the need to direct the customers to your website. Integration is the name of the game.

This situation is not without its downsides. You can’t get your foot in the door without spending a fair amount of money on account promotion. Don’t be fooled — these accounts are never really yours! No matter how big of an investment you made, you are given no guarantees. The platform can go out of business tomorrow, and until it does, you have to adjust to its tantrums, just like everyone else. Take YouTube, for example. Content creators are struggling to stay relevant in the eyes of its unpredictable recommendation engine. Facebook is famous for aggressively filtering their users’ feeds. Both Instagram and Twitter offer strange algorithmic timelines. And if you get sick of it, you can’t just up and leave. Well, you can, but the audience will not follow you.

As such, it doesn’t make sense to develop detailed marketing strategies for each platform. It might simply never pay off. What you can do, however, is develop a cross-platform social media approach.

Connect, not sell


Call to action marketing strategies don’t work well in this environment. Social media services reward a different kind of behaviour. Besides, the market is so oversaturated, it’s impossible to create a real sense of urgency. Customers know that they can take action at any minute. That’s why they don’t.

Unless there’s an actual sale they could miss, steer clear of this approach. You need to reach people, not their wallets. Let your customers get to know you and make a weighed decision. Before economies of scale and mass-production, purchasing something involved getting to know the merchant.


Pic by Dmitry Kabanov

We developed relationships with those who helped us. We felt the gratitude for the world made possible by our peers. Now, we live in a throw-away society. Surrounded by stuff, we long for an opportunity to connect. So offer it. Your social media accounts exist on the same plane as your customers’. Take advantage of this and humanise your brand. And you will be guaranteed a much greater return.

Market your culture, not the spec sheet


Your culture is your single most valuable asset. It is the change you want to see, the lifestyle your products imply, the worldview they embody. Your culture makes you you. It’s the why and how to others’ what.

No matter how good your product is on paper, selling it without a cultural offering will put you in the same league as Taobao knockoffs. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to avoid that:

  • Educate your audience. Share your expertise! Introduce them to your industry and change the way they think about your product. Make them feel like an expert.
  • Open up and let others take a peek at how your particular business works. This will go a long way to build a relationship of trust and distinguish you from your competitors.
  • Be the change you desire. Do something good for your industry. Establish yourself as the brand that puts their money where their mouth is.

These things are much more valuable than a single call to action. They have a lasting impact. They nurture a relationship between you and your customers.

Think long-term


The old marketing metrics cannot reflect the success of this strategy. It is a long term approach that goes beyond the immediacy of likes and views. It is built on taking actual action to benefit your community.

You rise above the hustle and become the message you wish to share. That’s why it’s useless to keep fighting for traffic. It’s misguided to view your relationship with a client as a journey from CTA to purchase confirmation. You want your customer to buy into your culture before they buy your product. You want them to adopt your worldview as their own. You want to impact these people’s lives way before they part with their money.


Pic by Dmitry Kabanov

If you create and nurture your corporate culture across many different platforms, you will be able to scale with ease. Your customers will be able to find you wherever they feel comfortable. And instead of fighting for each and every one of them, you will create a gravitational pull that can attract many.

Seek genuine influence


Feelings are the best advertisement. When you see a tweet featuring a sports highlight, it’s not trying to sell you anything. But the feelings it sparks have the power to influence your buying choices. Mike Trout, arguably the best baseball player of our times, was recently applauded for his decision to stay out of advertising.

He managed to become a great ambassador for baseball without any extra publicity. His skills and his gentle, home-loving image speak louder than any possible campaign. And you can rest assured that millions of people will still buy his merchandise. You can only get this kind of genuine influence when you nurture your culture — be it personal or corporate. That’s why you should make it a priority.



About the author:


Dmitry works with tech brands to create all types of content and promote corporate culture at scale. He is acting as an advisor for both the SXSW Pitch & SXSW Release IT event (since 2017), and a Techstars Startup Digest curator (since 2013). Email: dmitry.kabanov [@] startupdigestmail.com

Meet A Content Strategist: An Interview with Techstars Curator & SXSW Advisor
The Game of Archetypes: How Storytelling Works for Tech Brands
How Brands Can Break Through the Tech Media Bubble



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