57 Channels (and STILL nothin’ on)
When Bruce Springsteen famously debuted 57 Channels (and nothin’ on) song, 20 years ago, some thought he was using TV as a metaphor for not being able to connect with others (including his wife) in a meaningful way (a theory supported by the Springsteen community). The song also had a literal meaning where “channel surfing” became a popular term when people would flick and go through all of the channels but find nothing on.
If we can go back in time to 1992 when that song climbed the Billboard rock charts, we can say in retrospect that life was a lot simpler. Cell phones came in a convenient bag case. The company who gave us the Internet for the masses promoted Steve Case to President and changed the name of the company to AOL. On Oct 27, 1992 AOL sent out a press release saying they topped 200,000 members. Personally, I remember getting my AOL account in 1995, and I remembered getting excited when my dial-up would connect at 28.8 kbit/s, instead of 14.4 kbit/s (that was 2x the speed of a typical night). And my cable gave me about 57 cable channels to choose from.
Fast forward to present day, my Internet speed is a blazing 25 megabytes per second (and that’s UPSTREAM by the way). I have over 1,000 connections each on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. My cable package comes with 265 channels and HBO starts somewhere in the 900s. And I couldn’t even tell you what my best friend’s phone number is, what my favorite channel ESPN is on or the web address of my favorite blog – the convenience of my iPhone address book, DVR’s and Google Reader make life grand.
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No More Boring Content
So what’s my point? While Bruce’s song expressed frustration about connecting with others for the meaning of life and we know there’s more media than ever before (and still growing), I still find myself “channel surfing” across all forms of media and find nothin’ on. With so many channels to entertain us, the importance of creating remarkable content is the key to the castle. Content that is entertaining, informative, thought-provoking and for Pete’s sake non-promotional is the recipe for success. Unless you are Apple, no one really wants to read about your products’ specifications, especially in the newest forms of social media. Yet, I am still amazed how many people break this cardinal rule. As marketers we need to start a movement, NO MORE BORING CONTENT.
So who is creating remarkable content from a B2B perspective? My vote goes to the Salesforce.com and Eloqua marketing teams. The Salesforce marketing team is leading an aggressive charge to promote their Social Enterprise company strategy. About a year ago in August 2011, the Salesforce team formally created a social media team after they made the purchase of Radian6. You can read more about their efforts and I encourage you to watch their video explaining their decision to make a bold shift to being more “social.” The effort is also interesting because it is being led top-down. Marc Benioff is a true social CEO. He has over 35,000 followers on Twitter and posts openly and regularly on Facebook. He is a thought-leader in helping companies make the shift in becoming a social enterprise. They just released some fantastic content resources including the Little Blue Book of Social Enterprise Transformation.
The other company I admire is Eloqua, but more importantly I respect the efforts by Joe Chernov, on Twitter @joechernov. He is leading a charge internally and externally to deliver unique, highly job-relevant content marketing materials to reach. I often find his work inspiring and it helped me lead a charge to create a small army of folks inside of Blackboard. My team often looks to these folks to model our efforts through their best practice’s research. Some of my favorite pieces that I think all modern marketers should read are:
The Social Media ProBook
From Content To Customer
The added benefit may go without saying, but these efforts will help you with increasing your ability to be found through search, give greater context to your brand and help position you as a thought-leader in your industry. To jump-start your content marketing efforts, I encourage you to visit the Content Marketing Institute.
One final thought…
To fight boring content, a colleague of mine sends her work to her mother for review. She does this for two reasons: 1) her mom is continually asking “what do you do?” and 2) she figures that if her mom can understand what she’s “selling” then most people certainly will.
So who’s with me on the NO MORE BORING CONTENT movement? What are your best ways to prevent boring content in your organization?
Kevin Alansky is the Vice President Marketing for Blackboard Inc. He runs the digital & content marketing efforts for the Social@Blackboard team. Kevin can also be found writing for his personal blog called Market Brilliantly http://www.alansky.com/blog/ and of course on Twitter @alansky.