On January 15, 2001, Wikipedia was launched as an experiment in the possibility of a free online encyclopedia composed of content generated not by a committee of experts, but by anyone with internet access. At the time it seemed almost crazy: how could the unwashed masses create a trustworthy information resource? Fast forward 13 years and today Wikipedia is the world’s 9th most popular site with 116,835,000 visitors.
All of those visitors are looking for one thing: content. If you back up even further, all anyone is ever looking for on the web is content – be it for education or entertainment, in the form of long reads or cat videos – we are all seeking content.
Let’s talk about that content.
These days you can’t throw a rock without hitting some buzzworthy phrase like crowdsourced content, sponsored content, content marketing, user-generated content and on and on. Social media and social networks (the difference between the two is an entirely different post) have been building an unimaginably large pool of content, albeit in a far less permanent form than traditional web content.
Clearly content is still king, but it doesn’t look quite like it did when Bill Gates wrote an essay on the topic back in 1996, saying “content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”
To get a good look at the new content landscape, we need to ask a few questions:
What is content? If someone posts a Yelp review on your business, does that become part of your content strategy?
We have some potentially overwhelming news: Yes, that Yelp review (and everything on the web related to your business for that matter) is content you need to be aware of.
The trick is prioritizing – determining where you should spend your limited time and resources when it comes to content. Social tools are an amazing way to foster two-way communication with your customers, but don’t get bogged down in building 48 Pinterest boards to tell your story.
Focus first on the content you have control of. This means starting with the basics: your website. Once you have that in order, use analytics to determine where the majority of your customers are interacting with you and focus secondary efforts there. You don’t need to respond to every Google review; be strategic about where you spend your time.
Most importantly, create goals – all of this work is for nothing if you aren’t working toward a set of attainable goals. Are you looking to sell more products? Educate your customers? Build yourself as an expert in your field? Engage existing customers to keep them connected to your brand? Set realistic goals and targets based on what you’re trying to do and gear your content toward those ends.
Whose content is king?
Let’s return to Wikipedia for a moment, a repository for content not generated by the Wikimedia Foundation, but by an enormous network of contributors. It is easy to see how the question of content ownership arises. The same can be said for the comments, reviews and conversations started by others about your business – whose content is this and how do you make sense of which content is the most important?
Content ownership is a hot topic, and typically the answer is that it belongs to whomever is making money from it. Complicating this is the fact that content marketing, or sponsored content tailored to users of social tools, is now competing (heavily) with your messaging.
As mentioned above, your primary focus should be on content you control. Your role in content that isn’t created by you is to monitor and interact when necessary to add clarity, correct mistakes or provide further depth to a conversation. Be careful, though, hijacking an organic conversation about your business, even for legitimate reasons, can be perceived as unwelcome advertising.
Is the quality or quantity of the content more important?
With the abundance of content outlets, people often fall into the trap of thinking that quantity is key. This issue is exacerbated by the availability of tools that will automatically post your blog to your Facebook to your Twitter to your Tumblr to your Pinterest to your mailing list ad nauseam.
The most important thing to remember when creating content for channels other than your own website is to tailor the content to the readers and/or viewers.
Quality is always the most important goal when creating any type of content. Frequency is certainly an admirable goal, and a regularly maintained blog can do wonders for your site’s search rankings, but never sacrifice quality simply to appear in as many places with as much content as possible.
Help, I’m drowning in content!
So how do you have time to manage the ever-growing barrage of content development and maintenance in a vastly more complicated world than Bill Gates predicted in 1996? Here are a few tips:
- Set clear and attainable goals
- Be concise and focus on quality
- Post where your customers & clients are
Most importantly, don’t be swayed by the fervor over the latest and greatest new technology or content platform. If you focus on the above three tips, you’ll be able to develop a content strategy that puts your content to work for you and do it with your sanity intact.