In a world where we are always online, using multiple devices at once, we consume information in a different way. How often have you been watching Netflix on your tablet or laptop while using your phone to check email and social media. If you are blushing right now… you are spot on! This blog will give you 5 quick and easy ideas of how to augment your corporate content strategy with informal content to please your customers online.
The 8 second rule
Information consumers have so many choices that we as content creators must build content that competes for attention, engages an audience and builds customer loyalty. It is no longer enough to put out those 5 page pdf white papers, the 1 page marketing flyer or the 150+ page documentation guide. Customers want snackable content they can consume while multitasking. Adobe Strategy and Product Marketing tells us that our attention spans shrank from 12 seconds in 2008 to 8.5 seconds in 2012. Your content can be well researched, deep in details, and broad in coverage. If you do not understand your reader’s need for your content and position it to engage them quickly, you risk losing their attention. Ultimately fresh, short, easily digestible content wins out every time.
That is not to say PDFs should be dumped into the dustbin of history. As much as content experts keep harping on about dead PDFs, my experience as a community manager contradicts this statement. What I see repeatedly is that no one output format works for all content. Some consumers prefer longer-format pdf documents for specific tasks; installation guides are a good example. When they just need help with a particularly confusing administration task, the short format of a forum discussion, how-to video, knowledgebase article or technical blog post works best. Your community will be richer if you offer a mix of content types suited to different use cases, vetted through user research.
It is for this exact reason I advocate for cross-departmental collaboration when it comes to content creation. Online, and more specifically community content, needs to be user-centric and accessible. It should be as easy to understand as a Snapchat post or a Wikipedia article. So what informal content avenues can you explore to augment your official corporate content strategy?
5 ideas to get you started:
- Run Ask Me Anything events on your social or community channels. Make sure you pick a topic that is top of mind for your audience (community.) Leverage customer support data to identify topics. You can show that you are listening to shared concerns your customer base encounters. This gives your in-house experts ideas of content to develop in the coming weeks, maybe even months.
Once the AMA is over, make sure you convert the transcript of the event and post it as a blog to your community. Don’t forget to link back to the live event! I have run a lot of AMAs, some supporting live product launches, others addressing nasty product bugs that garnered a lot of attention. I have even invited unlikely experts to our community AMAs like our in-house documentation team. It provides a great chance for the writers to speak directly with their audience and get first hand feedback about the content they provide. They get to learn from community members about what their readers want, need, hate, love etc… and then turn it into action. It creates a perpetual feedback loop. It also helps manage content assets, and understand when content reached its end of life.
- While we are on the subject of investigating your audience’s needs and preferences …. Run a survey or poll in your community (or social channel.) When they tell you what they are missing, turn it into a piece of content in the style or format they want it in. As a Community Manager it is NOT your job to GUESS what your members want. It is your job to gather feedback and relay ideas to internal teams creating community content. It gives content development teams many options. They can then create a video series, or targeted blog series. From there, they can create a social campaign to drive traffic to the new content. Once you publish the content, you can invoke the feedback loop. This lets the teams improve the content, demonstrate that you value the communication channel, and stay accountable/ transparent to your audience.
- You can advocate for a lot of great content by analyzing support queues. It lets you turn insights into readily available content. Not sure what I mean? Let’s break it down. Reach out to the head of support in your company (or a trusted peer in Support.) Ask them if they can pull a list of all the support cases opened in the last week, month, or whatever time frame you prefer. Just keep the list fairly reasonable for manual interpretation. Take this list and look for common themes. You could do this alone, but it’s best if someone from the support team does it with you. Patterns emerge day after day, week after week. These patterns of repeated questions become blog posts, videos, or tool kits that can be shared on community and social media platforms.
There are many benefits. A: you get content that is desirable and will attract and retain more of your members. B: you generate great search engine ranking for high-value content, which gives authority to your online presence. C: you deflect support cases by giving your customers resources and tools so they can solve their own problems faster than they could by opening a support case. It’s a Win-Win-Win
- My 4th suggestion is not too different from #3. Instead of turning to your support cases, pull the keyword search report from your community or content platform. You can learn the most used keywords, as well as keywords that return zero results. One list gives you great insight into content your audience uses frequently; the other identifies content gaps. Take these insights to your writers and content collaborators and plan deliverables on your editorial calendar, then watch your community traffic and engagement grow.
- My ultimate suggestion for augmenting your content strategy is to listen to your community members. Reach out to your users and internal teams and ask them to participate in user research projects. Bring everyone together at your annual user conference. Host some in-person meetup groups or Google Hangouts and listen to what they have to say to each other and to you. This process has never ceased to surprise me. Community members notice and/or mention real world content needs that may fly totally under my radar as CMGR. Why? Analytics don’t reflect common issues, because individuals might not know that their peers share their needs. Get people in a room – real or virtual – and listen to their conversation to yield a rich source of content ideas for your community.
Remember that you, the CMGR don’t have to do this alone after all Content Potluck is a team effort. Your source for successful community content depends upon your cross-functional champions. Your community content strategy cannot realize its full potential without the powerful, diverse voices your champions represent.
If you have any other ideas of augmenting content strategy with ad hoc or informal content, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.