In this age of social media, companies are slowly waking up to the fact that it is no longer enough to ‘broadcast’ a message to an ‘audience’. Today, a successful web presence is all about engaging people in dynamic, multi-way dialogue; driving and contributing to key conversations; influencing, participating and responding to the buzz around emerging trends.
So what makes content ‘sharable’? What turns a site visitor from passive reader to active participant in a conversation around your brand?
Here’s my take on the key requirements for conversation-worthy content.
It hardly needs saying that sharing is a big part of social networking. If the average user sees something interesting, controversial, enlightening or funny on Twitter, the chances are they’ll want to re-tweet it, or perhaps Stumble or ‘Like’ it. Even more so if they feel that it’s something their friends/followers will like, too.
Conversation-worthy content is often that which amuses, breaks news, surprises, or sheds light on a known but otherwise complex subject.
What are you doing to ensure your content brings a benefit to your audience, well beyond simply learning more about your brand?
We know by now that user generated content isn’t just a way to keep copywriting overheads down – where users have a vested interest in the content on a site, they are more likely to return, more likely to engage, and more likely to share that content with others.
From relatively simple site additions such as guest blog posts or caption competitions, to more technical or time consuming additions such as user forums or content that crowd-sources advice or opinions from customers, the more a user feels they have contributed to content in some way, the more invested they are likely to feel, and therefore the more likely to continue, and indeed share the conversation.
What are you doing to encourage user contributions to your content base?
Track and monitor
When visitors hit your site, where do they come from? And where do they land? Once they’re there, what do they do next? Which types of content are the most ‘sticky’, holding attention for the longest? Which content drives the most ‘shares’ on social media?
Whether you’re part of a large company with the funds to purchase highly detailed analytics software such as Omniture or a small company with access only to a free tools such as Google Analytics, tracking and analysing user response is essential and not to be overlooked.
At any time, you need to be able to confidently answer the questions: What does your customer base respond best to? And what generates the highest level of engagement?
Listen; gather feedback
Of course, key information isn’t only to be gleaned from visitor behaviour. The real action is probably happening far beyond your blog post, news update or shiny new home page; it’s happening on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Again, whether you have deep enough pockets for an all singing all dancing social mention tool such as Radian 6 or Meltwater Buzz, or whether you are sticking firmly with free tools such as SocialMention.com, the big questions here are:
What content is being shared, and how? What are people saying about your brand? What are you learning from the conversation? And what are you doing to drive it forward, positively, by being visible and responsive where appropriate?
Clearly, social media monitoring has applications far beyond collating mentions for your own brand. By tracking key words and phrases, you can answer a whole raft of questions that will help keep your conversation relevant to your readership.
What is interesting to your target markets right now? What questions, concerns or excitement is growing around your industry?
And, most importantly, what are you doing to track, analyse and predict these emerging trends, so that they can be reflected in your own content?
I’ll leave you with a final point to note. The answers to all of the above questions will rarely remain static for long. It could be weeks, days, hours or even minutes before the conversation shifts, turns or otherwise develops, throwing a whole new light on your content strategy.
The conversation is ongoing, dynamic and exciting. Your content strategy must be, too.