Narrowcasting: What Digital Marketers Need to Know

In Digital Strategy (Track) by Estela Rueda

Social media is in a transition.

Up until recently, U.S. social media usage has focused on sharing content with large audiences. A natural evolution from the AOL Instant Messenger status update, social media updates felt normal to broadcast to an audience. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, and others, are built on the premise that users want to share information with large groups. In a similar way, brands and organizations use the platforms to broadcast information with their large groups of followers.

But change is brewing. Users’ social media audiences have grown larger, less familiar, and more political. The security of users’ data feels at risk with each hack made public. Users increasingly understand that their every keystroke is being used to serve them advertising, which litters their newsfeed. Harassment of women online is frequent. In this environment, the one-to-many sharing that has been the foundation of social platforms to date feels much less comfortable.

Borne out of these pressures, a growing number of channels are focusing on “narrowcasting,” or communication among smaller groups of people. These channels – like SnapChat and Instagram Stories – allow people to send messages to individuals or small groups of friends. They enable people to communicate more intimately, which reduces the potential for negative or unwanted feedback and encourages greater use. Short message life span, such as that on SnapChat and Instagram Stories, reduces the pressure to create perfectly curated content like that prioritized by the algorithms of larger platforms.

As people’s use of narrowcasting social channels grows, brands will need to participate to stay relevant. This will require that marketers adopt new, creative approaches to content that fit within their overall digital strategy. Some brands and organizations, such as Interior Department, Taco Bell, and Washington Post, among others, are already experimenting. Using content examples from these brands and organizations as a starting point, session attendees will participate in a discussion about how the content uses narrowcasting to be successful. Attendees will then brainstorm other content tactics that could be successful on narrowcasting channels.

Following that discussion, session attendees will be broken into smaller groups to create a narrowcasting content strategy for a sample company. Attendees will be given a high-level digital strategy for the client, and asked to build a plan for how narrowcasting can fit within the overall strategy and brainstorm examples of content that fit within their narrowcasting content strategy. Attendees will then re-convene to discuss with the full session to discuss any lessons learned from the planning process. The session will conclude with a Q&A.

Key Takeaway
Participating in narrowcasting social channels is likely to become a necessary part of brand’s social media footprint. By understanding how to harness this trend as a part of an overall digital strategy, content marketers will be able to better ensure success.

Emily Zeigenfuse