Your Web Content Is Out of (Your) Control

Kristina Halvorson

At the top of my reading list last week was a brave post from Mediameme's Lori Laurent Smith called, "Content Strategy for the Social and Semantic Web."

This is a terrifically complicated, difficult topic. Most of us are still struggling with how to effectively plan, create, and manage content for our own company's website(s). Now we have to worry about the many challenges the social web poses for our brand and marketing messages.

Believe the hype: Your content is not your own.

As Lori writes:

Developing a content strategy means it must be resilient against the web reality that the content will be adopted, mixed, mashed and recreated in a post-modern lovefest by enthusiasts and enemies, influencers and newbies.

[The] hyper-connectivity of users, plus the immediacy and velocity of conversation, means:

a. Inconsistencies or gaps between the message and the supporting content or user experience will be called out;b. Gaps will be filled by users aggregating and adding to existing content; andc. Online perceptions of brands, products, or services are created that are a new reality from the user’s perspective.

Yikes. How can we simultaneously mitigate the risks and leverage the opportunities social media offers, here? What's a company to do?

Start with a web content strategy.

A centralized, well-articulated content strategy can help you avoid those inconsistencies and gaps by ensuring everyone knows what you're going to say, how you're going to say it, and why.

Before you create or publish content:

  1. Clarify the business goals you want to achieve with your web content, now and in the long-term.
  2. Learn your audience's top interests and tasks as they relate to your product or service.
  3. Identify content topics and types that reflect your brand, support your objectives, and meet your audience's needs. 
  4. Articulate your brand's voice and tone in a way that's useful to the people who will be creating, reviewing, and approving your web content.

While these activities by no means result in a fully-realized web content strategy, they're a solid start to making sure your content is consistent, useful, and usable for your audiences.

And remember: Once your content is out there, it's out there. Rest assured, if you manage to get their attention, people are going to do something with your content. Share it. Reshape it. Act on it. So be careful and be smart about what you publish in the first place. Because after that, it's no longer yours to control.