Content is King, Queen and the Court

The following is a snippet from an upcoming White Paper I’m writing around influential drivers impacting Interactive Strategy. I thought it would be interesting to give you sneak peak into the section around Content. Enjoy.

Content (in all its forms) is not just king anymore. It’s king, queen and the court. A compelling visual design, cutting edge functionality, even an easy to use web site are nothing without a serious approach to not only create great content initially, but on a steady, continual basis that provides value to your customers and prospects.

Content is Not Just the Written Word

When you mention “content” to most marketers, they think of the written word. The evolution of the internet has really changed that. Content is the culmination of many moving parts, certainly copy in the form of the written word is the key element. But the interplay of that copy with graphics, charts and photos on the page demands that they work in coordination to maximize the user experience. Even the layout (frequent headers, use of bullets) and choice of typefaces will impact the user experience.

Audio, video, animation and motion are also critical elements in the content mix as well. Their elevation in importance has been brought about by the confluence of several factors:

  • Cheap, high speed broadband 
  • Ready access via multiple devices, especially mobile
  • Portable cameras like the fliphone or iPhone 3GS 
  • Cheap video editing software 
  • Platforms like YouTube and Vimeo

When taken together, the barrier to entry for using video has been lowered dramatically. There are numerous examples (e.g. SEOmoz‘s White Board Friday’s) of organizations effectively using short, informal clips to do Q&A, promote a product or shoot a testimonial.

Content Strategy

Whenever we take on a new client, be it for a web project or as interactive agency of record, one of the first things we assess is their approach to content. Organizations always overstretch, with results such as the proverbial blinking sawhorse of “under construction” or more frequently seen web pages that are woefully outdated. A content plan will address key elements of keeping your content fresh and engaging to your visitors.

  • Audit what content exists, what customers want and how it is organized
  • Use with your brand to define voice and tone
  • Build your team of authors 
  • Create an editorial calendar and process
  • Promotional channels

NOTE: I highly recommend “Content Strategy for the Web” by Kristina Halvorson. It’s a really short read and chock full good stuff.

Spreading the Good Word

As you likely know, search engines are constantly in flux, looking for ways to provide better, more relevant results for their users. Facilitated by the explosion of social media, an evolution of search is underway called blended search. Blended search refers to the co-mingling of traditional HTML web pages found in SERPs with other types of content – blogs posts, news feeds, video and even posts from within your own social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

The impact of this change for marketers is significant. This means your interactive marketing needs to extend beyond the bounds of your corporate web site to find and engage customers and prospects where they live. And not only by publishing content out in your extended online ecosystem, but also interacting with the community at large. Doing so, supports search initiatives, brand awareness and creates a thriving, interconnected community.

User Generated Content

Content about your brand doesn’t just come form your marketing department these days. The proliferation of blogs, blog comments, user groups, message boards, wikis and of course all aspects of social media mean that good, bad and ugly things are likely being said about your company, it’s products/services and your people. This not going to change – if anything, it is going to accelerate. Accept it and move on to how to use it to your advantage. Gain customer feedback, survey the marketplace, learn best practices and deal with complaints head on.

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