When the time comes to make content, the inevitable follow-up question is what the content needs to be made for. Facebook, Twitter, a website, Instagram? No. It’s for people. It’s for the audience.
Platforms can be a distraction. They come with prescribed best practices that, while often correct, lead creators to forget about who the content is actually for and instead focus on pulling pieces together through a “checking the boxes” approach to content creation. Instead, focus on the people and the stories they want to be told because what people want will always trump what platforms want.
Platform Wants are Moving Target
Platforms are never shy about telling you what they’re looking for, but that changes… constantly. They’re driven by monetization, which leads to instances of brands chasing updates to the Facebook algorithm. There’s Snap, Inc. becoming a public company and discovering how it can maintain its existing base of users who love the platform for what its been, while evolving to becoming something for a new audience, a necessary step for it to scale but also one that inevitably means change.
Features get emphasized. They get de-emphasized. Nothing stays the same, and now, we see Facebook changing gears for publishers by de-emphasizing Facebook Live to focus on producing long-form, high-quality content. What worked on Instagram before may not work today as it evolves to become a combination of its former self and a little bit of Snapchat.
These changes are fine. Platforms have to change. So let them evolve, but if platforms are dictating the content your brand is creating, you will always be playing catch up.
People are… Consistent? Yeah, Kind Of.
Consistent is a strong word to describe humans because we seem all over the place. Still, compared to platforms, people are pretty consistent. What they’re looking for has stood the test of time, and it’s actually pretty simple.
They want to feel something. They want to laugh, cry, learn something. They just want to care about what is being shared. They want something that reflects their values and how they want others to view them. After all, that’s why after they see something, they want to share it. Finally, they just want something that grabs their attention. Something that’s unexpected in their feed or inbox. That’s what they’ll take a moment to look at.
When people feel something, feel it reflects them and even give it a bit of their time, the content will be successful no matter the platform and no matter the channel.
Aim for the People, Not the Platform
Don’t let the platform dictate what you say or do. Let the audience. An engaged audience is one thing any brand can agree with a platform is worth having. Engaged audiences keep coming back to the platform and they keep interacting with the brand. It’s a win for both parties. No matter how a platform changes and what the platform says it wants, if a brand keeps the audience engaged, will be rewarded.
Platform understanding, while important, shouldn’t trump audience understanding. You have to know what your audience wants in a story. Then use what you know about the platform to tell that story in the best way possible. You can’t be successful without taking both perspectives into account, but your efforts will fall flat when appeasing a platform takes priority over pleasing the audience. Dig in. Get to know them. Study them. Figure out what they want and deliver.