Infor­ma­tion is exploding—doubling every year. Con­sumers are delighted and over­whelmed with all the noise. Being online is like stand­ing in Times Square every moment of the day.

Not sur­pris­ingly, people’s atten­tion spans are decreas­ing every year. Sta­tis­tics show that the aver­age atten­tion span is just 8 sec­onds. What does this mean for busi­ness? You have just sec­onds to grab someone’s interest.

If you want to get and sus­tain people’s atten­tion, you need qual­ity content—lots of it. What you pro­duce needs to be truly help­ful and authen­tic. Wel­come to con­tent marketing!

Adobe, part­nered with Econ­sul­tancy, found that con­tent mar­ket­ing is the num­ber one pri­or­ity for mar­keters. Best-in-class mar­keters are ded­i­cat­ing about one-third of their bud­get to con­tent mar­ket­ing. Yes, both B2C and B2B mar­keters. Expec­ta­tions have changed. You have to up your game.

Crowd­sourc­ing con­tent is key. You need a crowd.

You need to invest in social. You also need to think of social mar­ket­ing as an invest­ment in the com­mu­nity; it’s an invest­ment in peo­ple and rela­tion­ships. Although there are up-front costs to start the ini­tial con­ver­sa­tion and encour­age inter­ac­tion, these steps can cre­ate a self-sustaining con­tent strategy.

Get­ting Pas­sion­ate Indi­vid­u­als Onboard Is Your Endgame

The time and money you invest in build­ing your com­mu­nity will con­nect with advo­cates for your brand. These advo­cates or “super­fans” are the ones who will cre­ate the qual­ity con­tent. Not you.

The fact is that the con­tent com­mu­nity mem­bers cre­ate is far more valu­able than any­thing you can gen­er­ate. It has a whole dif­fer­ent value due to the impor­tance of word of mouth. We trust the rec­om­men­da­tions of peo­ple we know (word of mouth) almost implic­itly. Nielsen mea­sured this at 84 per­cent.

We trust rec­om­men­da­tions from peo­ple we don’t know almost as much at 70 per­cent. The con­tent from your com­mu­nity such as tweets, blog arti­cles, Ama​zon​.com reviews, and forum posts is trusted more than any­thing a brand can create.

You could spend money to cre­ate con­tent like you always have. But doing so is like tak­ing a spin on a ham­ster wheel. Your reg­u­lar con­tent will give you the nor­mal lift in engage­ment and could trans­late to some very real ROI. That is until the invest­ment stops. Then you will have to start all over again. It is pay to play.

You could also take the same expen­di­ture and invest in cul­ti­vat­ing your com­mu­nity and devel­op­ing pow­er­ful and last­ing rela­tion­ships. Once you have estab­lished super­fans, they will keep cre­at­ing con­tent for you. This is like an annu­ity that keeps pay­ing out.

Your Bonus Round—The Mul­ti­plier Effect

If you can get peo­ple out there pro­mot­ing your brand, you’ve already racked up some major points. But there is a bonus round, too.

Your super­fans are not only part of your com­mu­nity; they are part of your go-to-market strat­egy. These super­fans cre­ate the mul­ti­plier effect by ampli­fy­ing your mes­sage, increas­ing engage­ment with your cam­paigns, and invit­ing their friends to join the party. Their pas­sion, com­ments, and posts will con­tinue to pay dividends.

Social is an expen­sive endeavor. That means you have to dou­ble down. What strat­egy are you tak­ing to build your com­mu­nity? Are you invest­ing wisely?

This post was pre­vi­ously pub­lished on the Adobe Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing blog, Decem­ber 19, 2013.