Does this sound like a familiar dilemma?
“Should we continue sharing articles to third-party sites? I mean, every time we share one we get above-average engagement on Facebook and LinkedIn!”
It’s becoming a fairly common question I’m getting from clients and colleagues in recent months. So, I thought it might be worth further exploration and thought.
Historically, here’s where I’ve stood on this issue:
1: Why would we want to direct traffic to third-party sites instead of our own?
That’s really the big question for me–and still is, to be honest. Sharing third-party articles is great–but at the end of day, it’s actually building awareness and credibility for the media outlet–not our brand. Plus, it’s tough to track user behavior once the fan/customer is on the site (as in, “impossible”, since you don’t have access to the media site’s analytics). But, if you direct folks to your sites, you know exactly how they’re behaving once they get there. How much time they’re spending on the site. How many other pages they’re visiting. Which pages are they on when they leave your site.
2: It’s typically not “ownable” content
Another big problem–third-party stories are usually not “ownable” for your brand. And, many times, they’re not completely aligned with your brand and messages. For example, one third-party article might be interesting to your customers, but it also includes a reference to an industry thought leader you’ve had issues with in the past. Would you really want to point your fans toward that kind of article?
3: No chance for conversions
Another big reason I don’t like to drive folks to third-party sites–there is ZERO chance for a conversion. That is, there’s no chance they will sign up for your white paper, add their name to your enewsletter list, or ask for more info about your product or service? Why? Because they’re on a media site! Now, if that prospective customer was on YOUR site, you’d have some of those conversion opportunities right in front of them, right? I think I vote for that approach 99 percent of the time.
Now, I’ll take a contrarian point of view to my stance:
1: Third-party articles help us build trust with customers
By sharing third-party articles from media sites we’re building and earning trust with our customers and prospective customers. It shows them we’re not solely focused on ourselves and our products–and that we care about content that helps them!
2: Third-party articles are easier to share–we don’t have to create anything!
Sharing third-party articles means we don’t have to create content on our own. And, since we don’t have a huge budget, and we don’t have a big team, that’s huge. We can scour media sites and blogs and share content we believe our customers and prospective customers would find to be valuable and/or helpful.
3: Third-party articles get great engagement! Why *wouldn’t* we want to share these?
Most of all, almost every time we share these third-party articles we see great engagement! Our fans like and share this kind of content liberally–especially when compared with some of the content we create on our own. If it’s working from an engagement standpoint, why wouldn’t we want to do MORE of it?
Those are all the arguments I hear from clients and partners. And, for the most part, they’re valid and solid points.
But, I think they’re all worth a conversation–and, from where I sit, they’re all worth a closer look:
Client argument: Third-party articles help us build trust with customers
My perspective: You don’t need media outlets to build trust anymore
Why can’t you build trust in your brand on your own? That could mean developing content that helps your customer solve a problem. It could mean developing content that is interesting to customers. It could mean developing content that entertains, in spots. You don’t necessarily need the media for this anymore.
Third-party articles are easier to share–we don’t have to create anything!
My perspective: Who said you needed to create a bunch of content?
The new paradigm is a little different than the one that was shoved down our throats 2-3 years ago: You don’t NEED to produce a Facebook post every day. You don’t need to tweet 15 times a day. You don’t need 2 blog posts a week. Less is the new more when it comes to social content–largely, due to social advertising trends, which I’ve written about before. So, instead of the 7-10 posts you THINK you need on Facebook, maybe you only need 2-3 per week. You don’t have to produce *that* much content each week.
Third-party articles get great engagement! Why *wouldn’t* we want to share these?
My perspective: Sure engagement is usually a key goal, but we need to consider the larger brand implications.
If third-party articles are generating engagement, by all means, work one in every once in a while. But, I still wouldn’t lean on them for the lion’s share of your engagement. Why? Because all that’s doing is building trust and recognition for the media outlets you’re sending folks to–NOT your brand. Always consider the larger brand implications. Yes, engagement can and should be a goal when it comes to social, in some way, shape or form. But, you don’t chase it at all costs. And you certainly don’t chase it at the expense of your brand.
It all started with this.
Simple. Brilliant. And just a great move. Then they moved on to much more obscure holidays.
And, even more obscure holidays.
OK, so a few other brands might have beat Oreo to the punch of promoting holidays on Facebook in somewhat interesting ways. But, it was Oreo that brought it to the next level. They popularized it.
And now, it seems, everyone is following their lead.
Brands big and small now routinely celebrate and acknowledge mainstay holidays like Easter and Valentine’s Day as well as the innane (but now suddenly popular) holidays like National Pi Day and National Ice Cream Sandwich Day.
But, as you look at all these brands suddenly recognizing these holidays, doesn’t it seem like engagement for the sake of engagement?
I have to raise the question: Is all this work promoting holidays by brands really beneficial?
As usual, the answer is gray: It depends. Depends on your strategy. Your goals. What you’re trying to achieve with Facebook.
For some brands, it makes sense. Here’s one example:
For Starbucks, this makes sense. They’re committed to the environment as an organization–celebrating Earth Day is a logical alignment.
But, other brands just don’t seem to be as aligned. Take a peek at just a few I found doing some simple searching:
First, Cousins Day? Second, what does that have to do with Kleenex?
Um, did Old Navy change businesses? Are they selling cookies in store now?
Not sure how this could possibly align with the Old Navy brand…
So, where does this leave us? I think brands just need to take a closer look at this business of using holidays to procure engagement on Facebook. If the day/month/holiday you’re recognizing doesn’t squarely align with your brand, its values and your culture, don’t promote it.
Plus, I just have to say, enough with these ridiculous holidays. I mean, does anyone really care about National Trail Mix Day? Or, National Cream-Filled Donut Day? Or National Pins & Needles Day? (All real “holidays”, by the way)
Chances are, most people haven’t even HEARD of this so-called “holidays.”
So, why promote them? Why take time and brainpower away from connecting with your fans about REAL topics, concerns and problems they have? Why not focus all that time and energy on developing content that: 1) Solves a problem, 2) Entertains, or 3) Educates, or (here’s a shock) 4) Results in leads/sales for your company.
I think brands continue to promote these holidays because they represent fairly easy content opportunities. And, let’s be honest, there’s an awful lot of brands (and the agencies that support them) that want to be like Oreo.
But again, are these kinds of posts going to lead to conversions for your brand (whatever those look like)? Are they going to build brand for your organization (they’re not exactly “ownable” content opportunities)?
So again, why do many brands persist?
I’m not sure.
For me, it comes down to the “less is more” theory. If brands are having a tough time coming up with content, maybe these companies should be posting fewer times, not more.
Maybe it’s OK to say less.
Maybe instead of focusing on holidays that don’t have much to do with their brand (or holidays their fans haven’t even heard of), they could be devoting those resources to developing unique and creative content that’s directly related to their brand–and their fans?
That’s my two cents. I’m really curious to hear what you think about this topic. From where I sit, a fair amount of brands are taking this approach, so I’d like to hear why so many folks are going this route–and what the pay-off has been.
Please weigh in with a short comment below.