Flite's Guest Blogger series features the industry's top thought-leaders to share insights on display advertising, agile marketing, and innovation.

John Chan the Vice President of Social Discovery at BuzzFeed.


It’s exciting that brands have started to recognize the value of content as marketing.  The infrastructure for communicating with customers at scale is now well established -- it’s clear that relevant and meaningful content is the currency for customer engagement.   

Content can now easily find its audience.  Great content that gets shared can result in new customers and brand ambassadors, all powered by social word of mouth.  Brands have even come to understand that it won’t matter how good their content is if people do not discover it, that it’s not enough to simply post it as an update on their social profiles, and have embraced the use of paid media to drive that discovery.

However, most marketers still fail to realize that just because many of their content activation channels are “typical” ad products, it doesn’t mean that the conventional targeting tactics for those channels are a recipe for success.  

In fact, when it comes to promoting content, targeting demographics and geographies will actually only stifle success.  Nowhere is this more prevalent than when a brand creates generic content and then relies on targeted promotion to reach their desired customer rather than tailoring their content appropriately to target farther upstream, and promoting it to as many people as possible.  Content finds its audience, and narrowing the reach of its promotion reduces the chance that this will happen.

Neither my wife nor my mom has a Facebook account and neither spends that much time surfing the internet.  If a brand were trying to reach mothers in New York City and published a piece of content that was geo-promoted only to women in NYC, neither of them would ever hear about it.  Neither would I, even though I am online all the time.  

However, if I discovered a piece of compelling content that was specific to being a mother in NYC, I would share it with not only my wife and mom, but with every other mother I know who lives in NYC.  I would even share it with the ones who happen to be out of town during the days that the content was promoted, because it’s obviously still relevant to them.  By being more thoughtful of their content and casting a wider net for promotion, brands would gain at least two customers by finding a voluntary brand ambassador who would have otherwise never been reached.

It’s presumptuous to think that your “desired” customer will only care about what you have to say if they happen to be in a specific physical location at the time you decide to promote it.  Misdirecting the discovery of shareable content is the social publishing equivalent of generating a lot of Facebook fans with nothing interesting to say to them.

If you are trying to engage a specific customer segment, use your content to find that audience and use your advertising to let everyone and their mother know this content exists.

P.S.  Because targeting usually comes at a premium, removing those layers also allows you to drive more discovery per dollar at the same budget level, further increasing your chances that your content will get discovered and eventually reach the right customers.