Own Your Audience: The Other Side of Content Marketing

audiencejeffrohrs2Content marketing will likely go down in history as the number one marketing buzzword for 2013, and for good reason. But while the key word is “content,” how powerful can content be without someone to engage with it? Why isn’t someone talking about the other side of content, the audience?

Actually, there is — and I’m lucky enough to have landed an early copy of his new book, Audience. I was immediately fascinated by Jeff Rohrs’ thoughts on building and maintaining proprietary audiences. Jeff and I have spoken on many occasions, but I will always remember the first time he told me, “Consumers are the fundamental source of energy for a company, and without this energy no company will survive. So the goal for any company should be to create a sustainable energy source to protect their business.”

This is the heart of content marketing and the key reason we should be focused on building audiences along with creating great content. If you don’t own your audience, it doesn’t matter how much content you create; you’ll always have to pay someone else to reach them.

In the digital world, there is no distance between you and the customer. In Audience, Jeff asks you to think about your audience as “a push-button marketplace for you, a renewable source of revenue.” Consider this example he gives about Papa Johns:

During the 2012 SuperBowl, when most pizza companies were trying to sell pizza during the event, Papa Johns figured out how to sell pizza for a year by buying the rights to the coin toss and asking you to choose heads or tails. If you opted into email communications and called the coin toss correctly, you were then sent a free pizza.

By doing this, Papa John’s built a massive proprietary audience, which they now have direct, push-button access to, and whom they can sell pizza to all year long. They built an audience while everyone else just rented one.

With 2 million new blog posts published each day, and more than 294 billion emails sent on a daily basis, more content was put online within the past 2 years than in all previous years combined. The amount of content available is skyrocketing. Let’s go back to economics 101: when supply goes up from multiple vendors, what happens to the marketplace? Opportunity costs rise as well. With the increasing choices a person has, it will be harder and more expensive for you to drive engagement with your content if you don’t own your own audience. This is Jeff’s case and point for starting today, because it’s only going to get harder.

Once you understand the concept of content and audiences, then the next question is: who in your organization can focus on growing and maintaining this asset? Let me give you a good example of a company that dedicates a job title to audience development. Spotify (yes, the music-streaming giant), can advertise all day long, and they have the cash to do whatever they want, but instead they rely heavily on Community Managers, whose roles are to foster, nurture, and grow their audience. These managers are responsible for reaching out to key users to foster better trust and ensure their happiness.

What does this do for Spotify? It gives them a proprietary audience and amplifies their reach at a massive scale. A happy fan who mentions Spotify on any social medium opens up their audience to Spotify — every time those happy fans tweet, share a song on Facebook, or introduce people to new music, they are putting Spotify in front of an even larger audience. The company’s content may be music, but by fostering their propriety audience, they give their business a sustainable competitive advantage.

If you’ve bought into the buzz and hype of content marketing, get ready for next year’s buzzword: audience. To learn more about it, be sure to read Jeff’s new book or follow him on Twitter (@jkrohrs).

To build a truly sustainable business, prove real business value with your marketing efforts, and be great at content marketing, learn both sides of the content coin and start building your audience.

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