Ashley Friedlein: Marketing in the ‘stream’

Earlier this year, Evan Spiegel, chief executive of Snapchat, gave a keynote address where he talked about three characteristics of the era we’re living in: internet everywhere; fast and easy media creation; ephemerality.

Snapchat is particularly known for the third of those, of course; the evaporating selfie, capturing a ‘moment of me, now’ has become an incredibly popular form of self-expression.

But this seems to be part of a broader shift, particularly in the young, to a world of socially-curated, or auto-discovered, feeds and streams which exist across fragmented devices and media.

So whilst ‘broadcast media’ remains robust, as marketers we will increasingly need to learn how to become part of these feeds, and how to fit into, rather than disrupt, the stream.

On the consumer side, recent research shows high levels of parallel media consumption – ‘meerkat-ing’ where we flick attention between screens.

Data use and media activity

Ofcom data shows that UK adults squeeze over eleven hours’ worth of communications and media activity into less than nine hours. Almost every adult (99%) recorded conducting two or more media activities at the same time at some point during the week with 16-24yr olds spending as much time on text communications as watching TV or films on a TV set.

Nielsen data shows that social media is becoming more significant in driving which TV programs we watch. Likewise, data from Carat shows that 20% of people say that their friends and family have had a big influence on their TV viewing compared to only 5% in 2010. Fifty-seven per cent of people are second screening in some way while watching linear TV, and 33% are commenting on Facebook or Twitter about what they are watching during the show.

Media owners are evolving to provide content and experiences to fuel the consumers’ feeds. It is now quite commonplace for news providers to give live coverage of significant events as they unfold: The Telegraph’s Oscar Pistorius coverage, updated every 90 seconds, a recent example. The Guardian’s Politics Live blog, or the FT’s ‘Fast’ service, are almost content-as-a-stream.

Apps like Buzzfeed, Vine, Instagram, Foursquare are all becoming increasingly stream-like with constant updates and notifications. User interfaces are evolving to fit the stream: Twitter, for example, has added images, video, web cards (site previews), cards (for data capture), and soon commerce, as ‘tappable’ extensions to the stream experience. Snapchat’s Story proposition “doesn’t just cover a live event; it throws a viewer into the experience itself,” says the company.

Search and the stream

Google’s AdWords adverts based on search queries have, arguably, been so successful because they fit into the stream; they slip easily and usefully into the flow of the task the user is performing. Google’s newly announced Physical Web project has the tagline ‘walk up and use anything’ where “everything should be just a tap away.” The whole excitement around native advertising could also be seen as an attempt to find advertising formats and experiences that go with the flow of the user experience rather than interrupt it.

And on the brand side of the equation, we are seeing the rise of agile marketing. This is a topic I have written about before and there are many examples of brands and their agencies reconfiguring their processes, team structures and operating methods to be more reactive to marketing and advertising opportunities as they arise.

There has been increased investment in content marketing and owned media recently. But the real skill will be how effectively marketing teams can use the assets they have to tap into the relevant streams in an appropriate and relevant way. Currently this is particularly true for reaching younger consumers but looks likely to become increasingly main…stream.

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