In a World Where Content Is King How Does One Measure the Quality of Content?

What has this week’s example of “Kony 2012” shown us?

Earlier this week a video was released on Youtube and Vimeo by a little-known activist organization called Invisible Children asking the world to come together for the common purpose of catching (or stopping) Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The video went viral and the sphere of social media played a critical role in making that happen. #Kony2012 and #stopkony trended as #1 on Twitter and Tumblr and were clearly in the top 10 in all other social media platforms. Word got out through some great strategic marketing tactics and people bought into the message, hopefully after watching the video.

Clearly the content was moving and the call to action compelling; Join with us to stop this terrible thing from happening, and feel good about the simple actions that you can take by sitting in front of your computer and hitting a few keys.

Due to the speed and reach of social media, this week’s #Kony2012 saga felt like we were watching a global human rights issue in “fast-forward.” Video was released; people were engaged and spread the word; nay-sayers came out against the message as well as the organization behind the message and spread that perspective; the organization fought back and spread arguments against the naysayers; and, all the while, the general public sat back and watched. Keep in mind that all of this occurred over the course of about four days (96 hours).

In parallel with this activity, South-by-South-West (SXSW), a major social media industry conference, was taking place in Austin, Texas. It is a hotbed of innovation and commentary with respect to the global digital industry. In support of the “content is king” message, there is an entire conference track focused exclusively on content strategy, which focuses on how complicated and messy most content is. But the most interesting part of the conference  is a track called “The Future of Journalism.” The use of the word Journalism is purposeful and it brings with it all the legal, moral and ethical frameworks that are protected by the constitution as freedom of the press, as well as the professional conduct expectations of those covered by that banner.

Historically the Journalism profession has worked quite hard to police its own with respect to truthfulness in content — and this has been understood and supported by all of us,  the “content consumers.” We trust that The Wall Street Journal or MSNBC or the Huffington Post have journalistic integrity, have validated their sources and are using these sources accurately .

However, as we see, content is now so easily moved into the hands of anyone globally due to the ease of publishing. Therefore, content often even moves into the hands of marketing teams at corporations. In this instance, what are our expectations of truthfulness? How do we measure good content from wide-spread content? Is there a difference? Will we start to measure quality based on the number of “hits” or “likes” that an item (video, post etc.) receives? (Or have we already started doing so?)

In our work with clients that are looking to use social media to increase their connectedness/stickiness with their customers, we believe that this is only effective when the relationship is built on the premise of TRUST– trust in the brand, trust in the values of the organization and trust in the credibility of the message/content. It will be interesting to watch over the coming months if we see a splitting of the market between those organizations focused on maintaining their brand promise and those out chasing “likes, tweets and hits” with what we believe to be sensationalist, low-trust content.

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