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Manufacturing Indaba 2018

The "content" revolution

In the digital age we find ourselves in a position where content has become king. But as little as five years ago advertisers were still competing for the top position through the use of gimmicks, thinking that entertainment is the key to inform online customers of their products. As the head of a digital department I frequently heard the words: "Yes, it brings across the message. But it's so boring." followed by the all-too-familiar "Can you make it pop, or bounce or do something?". Those were the days of flash websites with loading times designed to allow the user an opportunity to finish that quilt she's been putting off for so long - all in the name of entertainment. There were no quick solutions and developing an engaging website was a year-long, super-expensive process. The worst was that the final product would have a shelve life of a few months - its imminent death fuelled by the daily complaints of customers who visibly aged before the contact details could load. Those were the days. Good riddance.
Francois du Preez
The current situation is the complete opposite: Every Tom, Dick and Hipster have a travelling blog with a clever name, linked to all the necessary social platforms so the world can have a glimpse of their exciting lives. We have all become web-savvy regulars on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the likes and our time is precious. If I want to be entertained I'll get my fix from Ebaum's world or from the office clown's Facebook feed. Development is now focussed on delivering content as quickly as possible and through the use of Jquery and similar platforms we can at least deliver it with a bit of pizzazz. But the focus remains quick access to content.

Another driving factor for the content revolution has been Search Engine Optimisation or 'SEO'. The concept is pretty simple: If you keep your content fresh your organic SEO will pay-off by pushing you higher up in the search results. A few in-bound links from your social pages or related blogs can't hurt either. Although this is a gross simplification of how SEO works, it hopefully demonstrates the importance of content in this context. To keep your website fresh and your social pages busy you need content, lots and lots of it. This is where 'content creators' come in to the picture.

We have some very talented copy writers, animators, designers and illustrators on this planet, very few of them work at these sweat-shop-like content farms. Yes, unfortunately so many companies got so obsessed with the quantity of content that the quality stopped mattering. It seems like these writers spend days coming up with the headlines and pick random words out of a hat for the body copy. As long as it keeps flowing and the content stays "fresh" the client will be happy. "Social media experts" copy and paste these meaningless words onto their relevant platforms only to tick the boxes and move onto the next client. It all seems so pointless.

But there are some brands who get it right. The ones who do are the ones who engage their customers or even entertain them through the use of brilliant material. The brands who stand out are the ones who care about what they say rather than how often they post. They keep the mood or messaging consistent, even if the material is not their own. Successful online brands form their identity by association - they "borrow" brilliant content that will keep their audience engaged and by saying: "We really like this" they associate themselves with the source. And that is how brands become human in an online environment, by sharing things they like with their "friends", by respecting the audience's time and not underestimating their intelligence. Yes, it is better to share someone else's great content than to hash out your own terrible articles just to tick a box. If the objective is to stay relevant and to engage your customers then do just that. Treat your audience like humans by thinking and behaving like one yourself.

About the author

Francois du Preez is Grey Africa's Head of Digital.

Grey's press office