The 4 Lessons Black Mirror Can Teach Content Marketers

Netflix’s Black Mirror, a British science-fiction anthology television series, is one of the most talked-about shows of the last few years. Its latest, fourth, season garnered nearly a million tweets and comments on Reddit over the weekend it was released in late 2017. It is the brainchild of British writer and satirist Charlie Brooker and features stand-alone episodes focusing on modern society’s relationship with technology.

Critics and audiences are in unison about the uneasy feeling and message it pedals: that technology is ruining our lives. But beyond the doom and gloom, there’s more to Black Mirror; in fact, it teaches many lessons to apply in everyday life — even content marketers.

Here’s how (beware, spoilers ahead):

Lesson 1: Authenticity Will Always Be Cool

Perhaps one of the most relatable episodes is Nosedive, in season 3, which shows how your social rating determines your social stature. Enter the protagonist, Lacie, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, a mid-tier citizen rated at 4.2/5.

Authenticity will always rule, so go forth and produce content that adds value to your audience, instead of simply telling them what you think they want to hear.

Every move that Lacie makes is calculated; all in the hopes of raising her rating. She practices her smiles in front of the mirror, she doles out 5-star ratings to everyone she meets, and posts orchestrated pictures that she thinks people will like, such as a cute biscuit she pretends to eat, but doesn’t because it would be too fattening.

What Lacie doesn’t understand, however, is that people can see through her act. She’s not being authentic.

What Can Content Marketers Learn? Honesty is still the best policy, and meaningful conversations matter more than anything else.

A Cohn & Wolfe study found that authenticity can directly impact a company’s sales results. The study found that 91% of consumers around the world value authenticity and will reward the brand through purchase, investment, endorsement or other similar actions. Out of this 91%, 62% indicated that they will choose to purchase or be interested to purchase more from a brand that is authentic to them.

Authenticity will always rule, so go forth and produce content that adds value to your audience, instead of simply telling them what you think they want to hear.

Lesson 2: Don’t Rush It

Speaking of Lacie, remember her personal analytics advisor? He presented an elaborate chart that showed that it would take over a year to raise her ranking to 4.5, and cautioned her against trying too hard.

Lacie, however, ignored her advisor and opted for a short cut to a life of high-ranking glitz and glamour: being the Maid of Honour at the wedding of her popular best friend from childhood, who had a 4.8 rating. A great idea in theory, but in practice, well, it was a disaster: instead of inflating her rating, she destroyed it and ended up in jail.

What Can Content Marketers Learn? First things first, you won’t end up in jail if you rush headfirst into things, however it’s a good lesson that there some things in life just cannot be rushed. JBN’s CEO Simon Cholmeley has a favourite saying: “Slow down to speed up.” Still not convinced? Read more about why it pays to take it slow here.

Lesson 3: Think Twice Before You Post

Set in the near future where we have to rely on autonomous robotic bees for pollination, the episode Hated in the Nation shows us social media being taken to extremes. Detective Karin Parke (played by Kelly Macdonald of Boardwalk Empire fame) and her sidekick, Blue Coulson (Faye Marsay, who you may recognise from Game of Thrones) are trying to solve gruesome deaths involving rogue bee drones short-circuiting the victim’s brain. Tech-savvy Blue is convinced that these deaths are linked to the social media hashtag "#DeathTo", and along the way, the duo uncovers a sick and twisted social media contest that gives the public the power to single out people to die.

Remember that whatever you post online has an impact on your brand’s reputation, no matter how small or insignificant it may appear to be.

Besides the obvious message that the online hive mind mentality is dangerous, the episode also touches on how people often tweet without thoughts of the consequences, including a preschool teacher who tweets about murdering someone as a joke.

What Can Content Marketers Learn? Remember that whatever you post online has an impact on your brand’s reputation, no matter how small or insignificant it may appear to be. In short, think twice before you post.

In fact, while social copy, due to the short character counts and instant upload, seems easy enough; it should always go through the same rigorous copy flow process as longer editorial articles; it should be reviewed by a writer, an editor and a subeditor for factual accuracy and clarity, before it is uploaded. It may seem easy enough to write a 140-character tweet and skip the copy flow process, but if the messaging is wrong or the tweet has a typo, an out-of-date statistic or an outlandish claim, it can fall flat; or much worse.

Lesson 4: Embrace Technology but Don’t Become Its Tool

At the heart of it, Black Mirror is not about why technology is bad, but rather, it cautions us against becoming obsessed with it. The last episode in season one, The Entire History of You, introduces a memory chip implanted behind the ear which allows the recording of everything the characters see and do, with the ability to playback these memories at anytime. Sounds like it could be a helpful tool? Enter Liam, the protagonist, who is convinced that his wife (played by the current star of Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker) is interested in someone else. He almost drives himself crazy as he forgoes sleep to obsessively play back his memories.

What Can Content Marketers Learn? No matter how helpful technology can be, we can’t get so sucked in that we rely only on technology. Case in point for content marketers: relying solely on data analytics instead of human experience. Sometimes you don’t need data to tell you that you have a good idea. While it’s great to have the validation from A/B testing and multiple rounds of test-and-learn — and even better to present these findings to clients to back up your ideas — sometimes a finely-honed news sense or creative spark can be just as compelling.

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