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What Is Personal?

What was the best piece of personalized content you received in the last week? If you’re like eight of the 10 people I chatted with as part of what like to call a “walking the dog” survey I did last week while attending a marketing conference, you don’t remember.

What was the best piece of content you received in the last week? When I asked this question, seven of the 10 did remember, and, in almost every case, the content itself wasn’t personalized at all. It was relevant. It was exceptional content. It was immediately shared. But it was personalized – adapted for the person – in only one case.

I ask these questions because something struck me both at the conference and in a conversation I had with a potential client this week. Personalization of content is now frequently mentioned as the biggest priority when it comes to the strategic content agenda. More than a few times, speakers and vendors were mentioning this study, which appeared in eMarketer, identifying a “customer-centric focus” far and away the biggest priority for this year.

Now, the results of my extremely statistically irrelevant study aside, this is something I see a lot of. Businesses often conflate the idea of being customer-centric with personalizing. They believe that personalization means that the content will be more personal. It’s not true. Personalization – certainly at the level that most businesses can operate – is rarely personal, and it simply doesn’t scale.

Besides, the more personalized a piece of content is, the less likely it is to be shared. Think about it: When was the last time you shared a piece of content that was truly personalized for you? What we want to share – what we find joy in and thus remember as an experience – is seeing ourselves in content that would be relevant and extraordinary for a wider group.

When your audience wonders, How did anyone know I needed to see this right now? – that’s when you win.

So, especially for content strategies focused on marketing purposes, I’d like us to think about audience-focused or “persona-ized” content instead. That’s where I’d like to see our priority. This is content that is meant for a wider group – not just one person – but is delivered in a way that creates value specifically for a higher percentage of people in that wider group.

It’s delivering the personal, rather than the personalized. Personal content is what enables a company to rise above the noise while also avoiding the need to scale to every single platform that emerges. In short, instead of focusing on delivering the right message to the right person at the right time, successful content strategies create the right value for the right audience in its time.

Photo Credit:  Flickr user Mark Morgan

 

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