In my last article, I shared reflections on the content strategy we applied towards building a holistic digital ecosystem. About a year in, armed with lots of challenges and experiments, I set out to create a kind of check list. We can use for future projects when planning platforms, or content for a digital ecosystem consisting of 2 or more communication outlets for the same audience.
But what happens next with our existing ecosystem where our platforms are separate, yet closely aligned?
Opportunities in Disguise
Reading through the previous article, you might be wondering where does this leave me in my specific situation? Here we are 5 months in after setting the community live. Running and actually rather successful, what do I do next? Reflecting today, I can clearly recognize 4 distinct opportunities to build a business case to combine the platforms to one. Let’s see if you agree with me?
Cost of Platform Maintenance
Earlier in the year I advocated for the community to absorb our Knowledge Base (KB) vision. I realized the community had the platform capabilities and the cost of development could have been absorbed in the community development cost. Opportunity #1. At this time, my arguments did not present a strong enough business case, but there is a strong case of corporate benefit by reducing platform maintenance needs if one technology can serve all your and your customers needs. So let’s put a pin in this one.
Content strategy vs. platform strategy
Since the launch of the two platforms, we have realized that our content needs are very similar. We are writing and talking about the same topics and create content together. We have a very few distinguishing elements between a community blog vs. a KB article. Some of those differences include length and depth of article and tone of voice. I believe this to be a red flag for our content strategy, which deserves further investigation. Due to recent budget cuts, we are now facing challenges to create enough, well-researched content, for both platforms to keep up the momentum and posting schedule. Opportunity #2 is easy to see. Once the content strategy has been ironed out, the existing content platforms should be re-assessed to see where there are synergies. Should the content strategy fit your platform, or your platforms fit your content strategy?
I believe the former, and therefore such a revision of content strategy might lead to a combined platform. Or the loss of one over the other. Such a strategic move could provide a sustainable and increased posting schedule on a reduced cost basis. Maintaining fresh and new content on our platforms will help in turn with return visits and better search engine indexing.
Topics vs. Format Preferences
In the last couple of months as we have honed our paid social media campaign and paid SEM campaign strategy, I discovered Opportunity #3. Our aim was that each platform serve a different objective and customer experience, yet work in a symbiotic way (in our case to educate and engage customers). We found however, that we were using the same keywords, phrases and topics when looking at implementing paid traffic campaigns. Sitting down and figuring out what would be the key search terms our audience might use. This exercise made us realize that talking about the same topic on different platforms splits our audience, not by their interest, but their preference of content format. (long vs. short)
There is no easy way to optimize search engine paid campaigns for content length. SEM today is still only targeting our customers based on topical preferences. You could of course use a long string of expression that hones in on your promoted content. This will cause the volume of searches to drop and cost per click to increase. At this time our objective is to learn which keywords work, drive an increased traffic to the platforms and see how sticky the content is at as low a cost as possible.
After all, think of your most recent search. It might have been something like this: “Best hotels to stay in New York”. You can boost your presence for such a search phrases. But you cannot boost your content on the same topic based on the visitors preference of content type (video vs podcast vs blog article vs. infographic). In our case your options would be choosing between a conversation from people like themselves or an article by a travel expert.
A Holistic Experience is the End Goal
There is no easy way today for us to combine our Community and KB into one platform. We are and will continue to build the best customer experience we can. Is there hope for a merger in the future? There is always HOPE. But I believe our first step to success is to settle on a bulletproof content strategy. This will guide us in the decision of platform build out. That’s the nice thing about digital platforms: you can mold them and change them to your and your customer’s hearts content. Just make sure you have your customer’s best interest and experience (customer journey) in mind.
If there is one takeaway I would want to impart upon you with this two-part story, it is to consider your community’s objective early on. Think through the goals and marketing promotions you are going to deploy to support all functions and elements of the digital ecosystem. Use the list in Part 1, for your assessment and you will be able to choose the right approach for your ecosystem. Avoid pitfalls that are resource intensive or expensive to overcome.
Share your best practices. And send me your suggestions, that should make the check list and I would love to incorporate them into this article.
 Like themselves means, people with the same interest, hobbies or other connecting factor.