The reason behind your declining content engagement

Paul Boag

Are you seeing a decline in people engaging with your online content? If so, you are not alone. You are suffering from content saturation.

I have seen a sharp decline in the number of people reading my blog and sharing it on their social channels. I have also experienced a slump in the number of people clicking through on my own social media updates. This is a trend that has worried me for sometime.

There was a time when I could guarantee over 500 click throughs on any link I shared via Twitter. Now I am lucky if I get half of that. In fact my Google Analytics numbers suggest that there has been a 56% drop in people coming to my site via social media in the last year.

There has been a 56% drop in people coming to my site via social media in the last year.
There has been a 56% drop in people coming to my site via social media in the last year.

I couldn’t help feeling this was a failure on my part. Was my content becoming more boring? Had I lost my edge? Was I just old and washed up?

Fortunately I stumbled across this post on Buffer that expresses the same issue. A little more research got to the heart of the problem – content saturation.

The curse of content saturation

We have seen a huge shift in recent years. A shift exaggerated by changes in the Google algorithm. A shift away from traditional SEO and advertising towards content marketing. This has led to an explosion in content published online.

According to Torque Mag, WordPress users are publishing 17 new posts every second. That is just below 1.5 million posts a day! And that is just WordPress. Depending on who you listen to content production is doubling every 9 to 24 months.

The sheer amount of content being published is overwhelming.
The sheer amount of content being published is overwhelming.

We are flooded with a never-ending stream of content battling for our attention. Social media updates, podcasts, youtube videos and of course blog posts. It is not surprising that with more content than ever, users are less likely to share your posts.

Sure our tools have improved allowing us to manage this flood of content better. But the explosion in content is outstripping the power of tools to adapt. The amount of time we spend consuming content has increased by two hours in the last three years. But this cannot continue for ever. Even if it could, some expect the web to become 5 times bigger in just the next five years!

The supply of new content is outstripping the demand.
The supply of new content is outstripping the demand.

This is what Mark Schaefer refers to as content shock. The point where demand for content ceases to increase and yet supply continues to skyrocket. This is unsustainable. As Mark writes:

In simple economic terms, content marketing — the hottest marketing trend around — may not be a sustainable strategy for many businesses.

In short, it will become hard to get people to read your content. Only those with deep pockets will be able to attract attention to their content. So what can we do?

Dealing with content saturation

I don’t think there will be a single magic answer to this particular challenge. I think it will depend on the organisation and objectives. But I have a feeling community building might be a crucial part of the puzzle.

At the moment most organisations have a superficial relationship with their readers. They treat the relationship as a rather one sided transaction. I produce content that has some value to you, and in return the user shares that content to increase the organisations exposure. Social media has devolved into a competition to gain the most shares, likes and clicks. That is not engagement in my mind.

My personal reaction to this is to focus on community. To build real relationships with my followers and help them build relationships with one another. Something I am currently exploring through a new slack channel I have created.

Social media has become a one-to-many platform. What we need is a many-to-many. This is where real community comes from. When a group of followers become a community this taps into something tribal in us. Something discussed in depth in Seth Godin’s book Tribes. This provides the community with a sense of identity and ownership over the brand.

But this means letting go of your control. It means nurturing community, rather than broadcasting. It means allowing your community to shape your collective identity. That is something many organisations will find a hard transition.