I recently read an article published on Slate called “A Robot Stole My Pulitzer!” that discusses the delicate balance that exists in the online content creation world. Basically, the idea is that online content production is becoming increasingly automated AND increasingly personalized, both of which could damage the open flow of conversation.
Robot at the British Library Science Fiction Exhibition
Automated content takes the social, human element out of the conversation. Hyper personalized information allows people to retreat into familiar bubbles where everything they see, read and react to online has been tailored to them.

“If there is one unambiguous trend in how the Internet is developing today, it’s the drive toward the personalization of our online experience. Everything we click, read, search, and watch online is increasingly the result of some delicate optimization effort, whereby our previous clicks, searches, “likes,” purchases, and interactions determine what appears in our browsers and apps.” – Evgeny Morozov

In some ways, automated online content provides consumers with a breadth of resources they’ve never had in the past. It is easy to produce, often curated widely and generally simple for readers to digest because it is targeted so broadly. On the flip side, the uber-personalized content available provides the depth information individuals are seeking. If all the search results I get have been optimized to provide me online content that is tailored to my interests and opinions, I’m getting exactly what I want. Sounds like the best of both worlds, right?

Maybe, but maybe not.

As a marketer, the social world of consumer and brand interaction online provides both opportunity and challenges. Now more than ever, brands have access to consumer opinions, and consumers have a voice with which they can provide real-time feedback to companies.

For the time being, businesses can use this to their advantage, producing content optimized for a specific audience and customizing that content so that it is more personalized. To stand out from the crowd, genuine social interaction and quality content seem to be the points of opportunity.

So what does that mean for your business? Focus on the social opportunity to connect with consumers. Encourage discourse between your company and it’s consumers, and take it in stride. Gracefully handling the bad news, reviews, and comments can be just as powerful as strategically sharing the good. Produce content that incites interaction, not just flat readership.

Getting bogged down in trying to automate your content so you have a blog go live every week and a Tweet every hour just causes you to blend in with the rest. Social media networks are called social for a reason, so use your network as an opportunity to stand out from the robots.

How do you get your brand stand out in the midst of so much online content?