Not all digital content is created equal

By Aditi Shrivastava , Pocket Aces, Mumbai | In Digital | March 01, 2017
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While 'watchable' content does well, 'shareable' content can do exponentially well.

Everyone agrees that digital content has redefined how the millennials are spending their time - all those attention minutes that were spent being glued to the TV are now being spent consuming content on-the-go. To reach this audience, advertisers are moving their marketing dollars to digital, slowly but surely.

Aditi Shrivastava

For the longest time, advertisers have been used to paying a lot to get high reach through traditional mediums such as TV, print, etc. But these mediums are one-way programming platforms, so interaction with the audience is non-existent and the audience can do little else with the content than just watch it. In contrast, digital media platforms are designed to be highly interactive, two-way platforms where an advertiser is not only able to reach the audience, but also to know exactly whom they are reaching from their social profiles, monitor watch times, understand sentiment via reactions, and talk to the audience real-time via comments. Moreover, the audience can themselves become strong propagators and distributors of the content at scale by just sharing the content with their friends. And to us, this is the real power of digital.

Watchable content can do well on every platform if timed right - whether it is traditional mediums such as TV or digital mediums like YouTube or Facebook. But shareable content can do exponentially well on the digital medium by leveraging social networking platforms. So, if you're putting out non-shareable content on digital, you're really not harnessing the full power of the medium.

Advertisers often ask us: Why do people share, and what do they share? The answer is pretty simple and is embedded in human psychology.

People share:
1) Something that moves them on an emotional level - it either gives immense hope, makes them happy, makes them sad, or makes them angry. Case in point is this piece about the ongoing attacks in Aleppo.
2) Something that makes them look smart - For example, this infographic about the rise of ISIS.
3) Something that they relate to, which helps them easily express themselves - For example, this video about every boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.

Facebook recently announced that content directly from publishers will get less priority on people's newsfeeds than content from their friends. As a consumer, this sounds excellent to me - information from my friends is arguably more relevant to me than information coming directly from an advertiser's page that I follow. But, if my friend shares information from a publisher, that will still get priority on my newsfeed - just because she shared it. This is not limited to Facebook alone - with WhatsApp becoming huge over the last few years, this is further accentuated. Recent studies show that WhatsApp contributes to over 18% of all sharing that happens via mobile. And what are people sharing on WhatsApp? Content that they find on other digital platforms. This means that if a piece of content is shareable, an advertiser gets the ability to reach an audience much outside of the direct audience of the page where this content has been released. This fact - that the audience itself has the ability to distribute content at scale like never before, at zero additional cost to the advertiser - is the real power of shareable content on digital. This is the phenomenon that can give the content wings, make it travel like never before, make it go 'viral'.

So if TRP has been the most important metric being tracked by advertisers thus far, they need to look at engagement on digital as the new TRP. And shareable content will always win over watchable content in this regard - even if two pieces of digital content have the same number of views, the shareable piece of content will have a much higher positive engagement from the audience. In simple terms, engagement can be measured using easily available metrics such as shares (or an analogous metric depending on the platform - for example, a re-tweet on Twitter), comments, likes/reactions.

But even within engagement, not all metrics are created equal - shares are the most powerful since they signify the biggest attestation from an audience. They increase reach and prioritize content on people's time-lines the most, and hence are the most responsible for virality. Comments are the second most important since they demonstrate that the audience has taken time to express their views about the content.

Likes/other reactions, while demonstrating interaction with the content, require the least time commitment from the audience and hence are the least valuable in spreading the content. So shares should hold a much higher weight in measuring positive engagement, and hence are crucial in measuring digital TRP.

Another significant advantage of shareable content is its longevity and how it can keep growing over a long period of time. We all know that on digital, a piece of content exists forever until otherwise taken down. But when this content is shareable, it will resurface every so often to live a renewed life. With each renewed life, such content amasses a huge number of new shares, thus re-triggering higher reach, more views, and engagement. This would never happen with just watchable content, which doesn't get shared as much each time it shows up.

For an audience above 35-40 years of age, TV is still probably the best option advertisers have. But for an audience between 15-35 years of age, a systemic shift to inexpensive distribution through digital platforms and social media is taking place. To reach and engage with this millennial audience, shareable content on digital is an advertiser's best bet for most inexpensive distribution with the most transparent data.

(The author is co-founder, Pocket Aces, a digital entertainment company)

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