As a publisher, a content creator or a marketer, you're focused on using the right media to best engage the audience at the right time. But when you look to the media industry, for example, you too often find that publishers and other traditional content companies are reluctant to explore platforms outside their owned offerings for fear of giving up control and losing monetization of that content.
Except that's playing defense at best and shortsighted at worst. As a content company, we know there are a certain number of people who are going to come to our sites, go to our events, buy our print and view our programming, but we also know there are still others who choose to engage on third-party social networks to get their news, information and entertainment. If we don't expand distribution to these channels, a competitor will, and that's a zero-sum gain.
We believe that media companies need to be on whatever platform the customer chooses with scale—and they need to take an aggressive stance to make sure that when those conversations take place outside their networks, they're there.
Whether you're a marketer or a media company, there are strategies you can use to make sure you're poised to win when consumers seek out content on other platforms. Here are five tips to help you make good decisions as you explore platform partnerships:
1. Embrace new opportunities to engage.
If you know your audience, you know how they like to consume content, what they like to interact with, and when and where they are doing it. Find platforms where they are congregating and engage with them in a way that's authentic to your brand. However, make sure to do your homework and optimize your content for each specific platform.
We have found that leveraging emerging social platforms provides a great opportunity to engage with the next generation of enthusiasts. At the end of the day, it is all about generating consumer interest in our brands and our content. Emerging platforms provide all of us with a great opportunity to engage with a new group of like-minded enthusiasts and convert them into fans of our brands.
For example, one of our brands, SUPER STREET, leveraged Instagram very early on and as a result has the seventh largest Instagram following among all publishing brands. This has allowed the SUPER STREET brand to attract a new, larger audience of these like-minded enthusiasts and covert them into fans of the brand. Today, they have a much larger and younger audience that would not have been possible if they had not been willing to embrace new opportunities to engage.
2. Empower your employees.
It can't be said enough: The best outcomes happen when you find champions internally, enable them with the right tools and skills, and let them loose. Our employees are really good at engaging our passionate audience. They have moved from a one-way conversation to a full-on dialogue with a community of more than 133 million social followers. We have found that, generally, our team gravitates toward that immediate feedback loop from passionate consumers, and I've been surprised with how quickly our seasoned staff has become very proficient in their ability to lead the company in these areas. As it relates to the sales side, we are selling more from an audience perspective versus spots and dots. They have become experts on the external platforms just as they are experts in their audience's subject matter.
3. Don't let perfection slow you down.
Everyone wants to win awards and accolades. The push for perfection invades every part of our lives. As a company that produces a lot of high-value video, we also love perfection, but we don't require it in every situation. We could, for example, make the mistake of waiting to release content until it meets our high, television-quality production standards, but we don't, as that would be a mistake. Consumer expectations are different for each distribution outlet. Don't let your desire for perfection get in the way of embracing new platforms and building your audience. The benefits of being a first mover outweigh the need to be perfect.
Testing is important if you're going off your own platform. In fact, I feel it's even more important if you are working off-platform. When we start a new distribution channel, we generally test it out to see if it will help us deliver on our goals. We find evangelists to test whether we can find an audience and monetization. We will normally run a test for four to six weeks. If it's successful, we get serious and staff against it. It's a way of creating a proof of concept that informs the business as to whether we should invest further by adding staff—a testing of the waters before over-committing.
Sometimes this works, and sometimes it just doesn't. We leaned into Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News because of their scale, but they haven't materialized for us the way we had hoped. As a result, we have moved our efforts elsewhere. We try and learn from our failures. We saw the battle move over to Facebook Live. Today, we're doing 1,500 minutes a month in 10-minute segments on the platform across all of our brands, which has generated millions of viewers and followers. So far, it has been a big hit from the consumption side. The next chapter will be further monetization.
5. If you do it well enough, they become paying consumers.
What we have learned from social platforms is this: Build the audience first and then leverage that to your advantage to monetize. We were able to do this with our YouTube channel for Motor Trend. It is a great example of being a first mover and building the largest automotive YouTube channel in the world. We use it as a marketing machine to further monetize just beyond advertising revenue. We are now converting our YouTube audience to subscribe to our Motor Trend OnDemand video-on-demand service, which is allowing us to monetize directly with the consumer.
About the Author
Scott Bailey joined TEN as a two-time nominee and Emmy Award winner for his work in advanced media technology and brings two decades of digital media and publishing experience. He comes to TEN from Synacor Inc., an award-winning TV Everywhere and Cloud Identity Management provider for satellite, telecom, cable and consumer electronics companies, where he served as chief operating officer and was part of the management team that took the company public in 2012.
Before Synacor, Mr. Bailey served as SVP at
About the Sponsor
TEN: The Enthusiast Network is the world's premier transmedia network of enthusiast brands, such as MOTOR TREND, AUTOMOBILE, HOT ROD, SURFER, TRANSWORLD SKATEBOARDING, and GRINDTV. TEN's audience represents the largest concentration of males age 18 to 34 within the automotive and action/outdoor categories. At TEN, we help brands connect with a powerful, active and influential group of passionate enthusiasts. Our massive scale across all platforms allows our partners unmatched reach. For more information, visit enthusiastnetwork.com.