When you think about your content as product, you create a business asset. You can then start on the path to moving from a cost to a profit center. People who are starting to produce online content often ask these or similar questions:
- how do I get found?
- how do I become a thought leader?
- how do I make people spread my content?
Sometimes in a different order or words. My answer continues to be work on treating content as a product by thinking about its value to the people who you are trying to attract. Worry first about the "it" and then discover how.
Maybe it will be helpful to take a look at tools and networks and where they fit at a high level in helping with content discovery.
How we got here
Creating demand for your content has everything to do with understanding what your customers need and where they go online. How did we get to using the tools/networks we use today? As a very quick roundup.
Five years ago, when I started Conversation Agent, after the launch and heavy use of portals as the online one-stop place to find things, in some instances tied to a free email account, being online and establishing an identity was tied mainly to having a blog.
Sure, some of the current hot social networks were active as well. However, with Twitter just starting off (2006), and Facebook (2004) still being discussed within the realms of personal relationships, a blog was the way to show up and say "I'm here and here's what I do".
Bloggers found ways to connect with readers and build an audience also by promiscuous linking to their sources of ideas and other content. They were very active in commenting on other blogs as well. In general, it was about seeking and supporting the work of other content creators and peers online. A byproduct and outcome of all this engagement was building an audience.
Here's the spot where you get to think about why, and the goals of building that audience.
- do you want to become a thought leader in a specific field?
- are you catering to a very specific group of people?
- is your intention to become the go-to place for information and news on a specific topic, solving a certain problem?
- do you plan to offer products and services for purchase directly?
The answers to these and more questions must drive how you organize your content production, publication, and dissemination.
Then Facebook and Twitter started gaining traction by touting their ease of use and leveraging their growing base as a way to attract more sign ups. It's no secret that people go to where other people are hanging out and talking — especially when those places make it easier to post opinions and updates.
And by easy, I mean quick. Short form interactions may suck you in and distract you all day. On the surface though, they feel like they're less effort.
Today, there are dozens of different sites you can use for content creation and many ways to share and distribute that content. Savvy content producers know that changing your content mix based upon how people use technologies and tools, where you get your best results, gives your content a better shot at discovery.
Evolution of online interactions
Within the space of two decades, we have gone from portals, to content-based destination sites, blogs, and other publication RSS feeds, to social voting. Then we had more personalized social streams with related recommendations based upon what you searched for in the past.
And right into our phones with mobile apps. There is a demand for more customized experiences that are high value. You will need to experiment a little with different combination to get to the right mix for the people you're trying to attract — and for your bottom line.
Certainly, while destination sites are fewer — and I haven't even touched mainstream media in this post — opportunities to connect and convert through content are higher online. Search is your friend. Yet, you should not rely on search alone.
The risk with search, as many pointed out in discussions that go back more than four years on Conversation Agent, is that Artificial Intelligence (AI) agents become limiting, that we seek only what we already know, or want to buy, and forget that more opportunity may come via serendipitous discovery.
The answer is to treat your content as a product and create demand for it.
This is part of a series of posts I'm writing in preparation for my keynote at Confab2011. If you have specific questions about the session that you'd like me to over as part of the topic, feel free to post them here as comments.
- are you in charge of content delivery?
- be social to drive social effectively
- how to design an organization that delivers content as product
- content is a business asset
- challenges in content strategy for the coming year
[image inspired by the evolution of online content discovery]