Beyond Content Commoditization: Connectivity and Community

ConnectionsTo avoid content commoditization and getting lost in the growing avalanche of information on the Web, content marketing must deliver value. That value will come from not just the content, but also connectivity and ultimately “community” that businesses build.

I touched on the challenge of content commoditization and how the actual information of content marketing has to have value in the first post in this content series.  In that respect, one of the best ways to ensure your content has value for the people you are working to reach is to “listen” to the conversations across the social Web (Paul Gillin has a great post where he recently took this step back).  Identify what matters to people by actually tapping into what is going on with the people you want to connect with.  Listening can ensure that your content is relevant and inform your approach to “publication.”  Segment your listening to narrow the focus and zero in on where you want your content to matter most, whether it be your current customers, potential customers or other industry leaders.

Content Connectivity: However, even the best, most carefully crafted content risks being lost on the Web if it is not “connected” to people. Content connectivity could be considered the other side of the content marketing coin.   The actual content and it’s production + connectivity (and ultimately community) go hand-in-hand for content marketing to succeed.

If content marketing is not also focused on all aspects of connecting with other people then content marketers may end up where some advertisers find themselves.  As the New York Times reported there is a “growing anxiety on Madison Avenue to create ads that will be noticed and break through the clutter. “It’s the pressure to create ‘viral’ advertising, the urge to get more views online, that leads people to push the envelope” …and the envelope they are referencing is this article is not a pretty one.

The opportunity to connect and engage with people is what separates the social Web from mass media.  This is what gives content marketing a distinctive opportunity to deliver a different sort of value from traditional mass media marketing. As Anne Handley notes, “Never before in the history of history have businesses had the opportunity to connect with buyers, join conversations, and build audiences. That’s a pretty inspiring thing, isn’t it?”  She also has a fun take on new content opportunities and the chance to be more creative with how we market.

Connecting with “everyone” may not be the most effective answer for social media content marketers. The most effective content and connectivity strategy may be to focus on a specific “niche” of meaningful and active relationships.  Connections who not only value your content, but engage with your business and help ensure your content is shared and connected with others.  You may want to leave mass outreach to mass media marketing efforts.  (That also raises a questions about how to measure value over time versus lots of eyeballs….but that’s another post)

One content connectivity strategy could be to connect with the top people in your field of business.  Their content can inform yours, and with some time and relationship building, your content might benefit from their attention and sharing too.  If you are looking to follow this kind of content connection strategy, check out “Little Bird”  .  I had a demo of their impending “next version” with some really interesting features like visualizations and content drill downs on surrounding  networks – a great way to inform your own content strategy as you seek to make sure it has connective legs into social networks that matter to your business.

Last week, I also listened to a Webinar and podcast about H&R Block’s “employee ambassador” program.  While the “advance notice” for the sessions was about mobilizing employees in social networks, as I listened to H&R Block’s  Scott Gulbransen chat about it, this was not just an employee ambassador program.  The H&R Block program is actually a combination of valuable content that is highly connected, through employees.  H&R Block is extending its’ content marketing by hyper-charging the content connectivity through employees who also use that content across social networks to maintain and/or build long term relationships with customers in 10,000 retail tax offices in the United States.  This content plus connectivity effort is focused on relationship building.

Connectivity and Community: Three years ago at South by Southwest there was a panel where the panelists outlined the 3 kinds of relationships. They are:

  1. Authoritative
  2. Transactional/Exchange
  3. Community

(I don’t recall the book where this came from and often wanted to find it.  If you know drop me a comment).

As everyone adopts content marketing, differentiation of your content increasingly will depend upon connectivity. Taking those connections to the level of nurturing or building community is what will take your business beyond transactional/exchange relationships.

And that is really the third leg of the content marketing stool.  Content and connectivity are ultimately about community relationships for your business — and community relationships require interaction.   Content marketers cannot be just about pushing the content out the door to other people.  Content marketers will also need to help lead efforts to move from one-way push to two-way conversations around content. If not, then content marketing is headed towards being just another mass marketing tactic, blasting messages out and inserting them like advertisements in ways that interrupt lives.  (Hat tip to Scott Monty for noting that it seems strange to have this conversation; and, to Jeff Dachis for surfacing it again)

(Next up: the emerging content filters)

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