Skynet be damned.
Sci-fi novels and movies have gotten shockingly close to the actual evolution of technology. What we once considered a danger to our privacy and anonymity is actually beginning to become a useful tool.
For marketers, anyway.
You may have noticed over the last couple of years that the web is returning eerily relevant results whenever you go out searching for something. These take a variety of forms like:
- An advertisement for a brand you may have researched
- Buttons that know you’ve already clicked a different call to action and replace it with the next logical step
- Suggestions (like Amazon’s) tailored to your interests
- Facebook ads that mirror your ‘likes’
- Sidebar content that gets more specific the longer you browse a website
In some of these cases, we willingly provide information. In others, robots collect data without our permission. Most of the time, the latter assertion comes in the form of browser cookies that ‘remember’ certain actions you’ve performed.
It sounds scary. But evolving web security measures (albeit slowly evolving) may actually mean a browsing experience that isn’t cluttered with irrelevant advertising or hard-to-find content.
What exactly is happening on the web?
Part of the inspiration for this post is an article I’m researching and penning for the Content Marketing Institute about ‘content customization,’ also known as ‘dynamic content’ and a host of other labels. Adobe says it’s simply one part of ‘web experience management,’ a new push towards giving marketers a more connected web presence for their brands. This, of course, is a branding effort to own the next step in content management.
Whatever you want to call it, it has arrived, whether you like it or not. And if you’re in the marketing (or writing) game, you should be aware of it.
Content customization is important because it returns relevant results to the reader. Let’s look at an example.
Ken runs a large Chicago glass-blowing school. To draw in more leads online, he maintains a pretty strong content marketing program, writing articles and posting videos of cool glass objects, techniques for glass-blowing and behind-the-scenes coverage of school projects. But he wants more.
He wants to identify potential students by where they are in the sales funnel. He wants to weed out the irrelevant leads and present relevant next steps to potential students in Chicago. To nurture visitors from lead to student, he wants to deliver a simple path between the two.
He’s glad to get national recognition from his content. But if the reader’s location limits her potential to become a student, Ken wants to offer her a very different experience than that of a local visitor. In order to do this, he collects locational data. Visitors located in the Chicagoland are shown a call to action to sign up for classes, while visitors from outside Ken’s target area see more educational content.
That’s just one example of how marketers use dynamic content.
Avoiding silos is one of the biggest challenges
I’m concerned about the phenomenon for one giant reason: silos.
I’m sure someone is way ahead of me on this one, but I could be wrong. The challenge of delivering relevant content is overdelivering relevant content. When marketers slide you into a peg based on certain behaviors and interests, it doesn’t do much to open you up to new perspectives and ideas. You get stuck in a silo — and any good entrepreneur, psychologist, economist, physicist or sociologist will tell you that nothing happens in a vacuum. It could stifle innovation, polarize American politics further and create a general malaise of single-mindedness.
So, the question becomes whether or not organizing the chaos of the web is a good thing. That’s what we’re pushing towards. Can we have our cake and eat it, too?
Can’t wait for my full article tellin’ you all about this? Check out some of the wildly popular articles I’ve already created for the Content Marketing Institute. One even got 346 tweet-shares, which automatically secures my spot in the social media hall of fame.