At Percolate, we talk to brands about Stock & Flow as it relates to their content strategy. We present stock as the timeless pieces of content you create that have a long shelf life and are generally based on slow moving trends. Stock content is generally expensive to create and is more of a controlled message for a controlled medium. Think of stock as the great commercial, web series, white paper or microsite you create with your agency. Flow, on the other hand, is timely and most likely relevant for a moment in time. Flow is quick updates to fill the day, remind the world you exist and is the predominant form of communication in social media. Flow augments stock and together, they are the basic building blocks of how we all (brands, humans and media companies) create content for our audiences on the internet.
Thinking about the current big platforms of the internet and where brands have audiences, it helps to break them down in terms of the type of content they support and how to think about working with the channel.
Stock channel (publish original content):
- Traditional .com
Flow channel (curate content that lives somewhere else):
Stock & Flow channel (publish original and curated content):
Thinking about content this way explains why Tumblr is a unique channel for brands as it relates to how they think about content strategies in the future. There is the ability to have your own domain (eg.microsite.com), enough of an infrastructure in place that you can create unique stock content and house it there (permalinks), while also using the channel to curate 1st party and 3rd party content that flows through the channel with a networked community behind it.
You can look at Tumblr’s model as also starting to inform where Facebook might be going. Facebook Timeline for brands is the first foray that we’ve seen into Facebook starting to think of itself as a serious stock channel. Facebook’s new design also speaks to the basic principles of great design for stock & flow. Allowing brands to ‘pin’ certain content so it can stay in a fixed position starts to look very similar to the model Nick Denton and Gawker Media created when they decided to retire their blog design of reverse chronology and the concept of the main well being a river of news. Instead Gawker, and now Facebook, are saying that some content should be positioned based on more factors than just time and you have to be able to control where you put in on the page. With positioning of content in solid place, if Facebook starts to put some real value and design behind how they think about permalinks, there is an argument to be made that they could become the infrastructure for all your content that you curate from for your other channels.
Why does this all matter? The future of marketing lies in how brands best curate content and showcase it to their audiences. The brands that will set themselves apart from the rest will have an always-on strategy that supports both stock & flow content. This balance and great design layered on top of it is how brands will manage and grow their audiences and be able to handle whatever innovative medium that will, inevitably, come next.