Here they come, the end-of-the-year prognostications from industry soothsayers hunched over their marketing trends Ouija boards. All manner of doom, gold rushes, collapses and uprisings are heading our way in 2017, depending on who you read. Here at 54, we all have our lists of marketing blogs/news sites that we follow (the only way to stay out in front of our shape-shifting industry). This one from Mark Schaefer caught my attention for one particular observation I’ll get to in a second. The full read is good discussion fodder, for sure.
For the TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) crowd, however, here’s a distillation of the main observations:
Bow down to Facebook: The author argues nobody wants to visit your website(s), Facebook owns your audience, Facebook wants all your content, so you may as well cede your content and give Facebook what it wants. Resistance is futile.
Private networks rise: WhatsApp, Snapchat, Messenger, et al. are addressing the public’s simmering unease with exposing the entirety of their lives for public consumption. But Facebook still wins because they own all the data.
Follow the leaders: Influencers are perhaps the most potent marketing tactic in the arsenal right now. But what happens when we run out of influencers? That day is coming soon. (54’s own Rachael Wachstein has some worthwhile insight on influencers here.)
Content marketing has issues. The web is saturated with crappy content; 80 percent of it goes unread; automated content bots are going to put tens of thousands of writers out of work by 2020 … say what, Mr. Schaefer?
“… within 2-3 years we will have [automated] content rivaling anything created by a human, produced nearly for free. The market will be analyzed automatically, populated with content automatically, and monetized automatically. Three years from now, a lot of people in the content marketing business will be out of jobs.”
I handle many of the writing chores at 54 so that particular prediction jumped out. Can I refute it? Not really. I know the web is insatiable for content and that for some marketers the cost of keeping up is increasingly problematic. I also know the brainiacs behind the algorithms are wicked smart. Many of the digital solutions we see today were inconceivable a few years ago. So automated content that is competent, readable and essentially free is certainly a real possibility.
Am I worried about a bot making me obsolete? For a couple of reasons, nah, not really.
Every writer routinely faces this scenario: Staring at a blank computer screen with vague/zero/conflicting direction from a client who still, nevertheless, expects that creative (script, blog post, email, etc.) by close of business. OK, Mr. Hoohaw Algorithm, write your way out of this jam.
We humans are getting good at smelling a Big Data rat. The internet has made us suspicious. If there is a whiff of being managed, manipulated, marginalized, categorized or sold-to, we sense it. And we avoid it. Which is why digital marketing is in a constant state of adaptation and reinvention. To me, it’s because the binary, yes/no, black/white world of algorithms doesn’t recognize that humans thrive best in the gray. Deep in our wiring we reject anything that dismisses our individuality.
It’s true, our behaviors leave patterns that Big Data can map. But we’re also emotional, unpredictable, evolutionary animals. Sometimes we zig when all the data said we would zag. Human writers get that; the Machines don’t. Yet. From what I’ve seen thus far of automated content, I am reminded of Truman Capote’s critique of Jack Kerouac’s work: “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”
Until algorithms can develop feelings, I like my chances against them.