Sunday, 14 November 2010

Devising a digital content strategy

I'm assuming you appreciate the value of digital content because you've read my blog post on dynamic digital content!! So once you've established you need a digital content strategy, there are some key considerations. 

So what do you need to think about before you produce any content?

Who is your audience?

Understanding your audience is absolutely key.  You need to understand who you're trying to reach with your content.  This may be a very general audience: all our customers, for example.  Or it may be very specific: teenagers studying business studies A level.  Before you produce anything think about who you want to communicate with... and think about why?

Why are you producing this content?

So you know who your target audience is, but why do you want to communicate with them?  And I don't just mean: to get them to buy more stuff from us.  If you come from that position, you will struggle to produce anything meaningful.

What is the subject matter?

So you know who you want to reach and you know why, but do you have something to say?  What you produce needs to be relevant and targeted, but it needs to be more than that, it also needs to be one, or all of the following:
  1. Interesting - it sounds pretty obvious, but it's really important that the content you produce is interesting.  If you understand your target audience and know what you want to achieve this will go a long way to making it relevant and hopefully interesting.
  2. New - have you launched a new product, or had a new idea, can you reveal something no-one has said or done before?  Do you have a new take on an old issue or problem?  Is there a breaking news story which is relevant to your company/product/audience?
  3. Useful - if the content you produce isn't interesting or new, then for goodness sake make it useful! 
  4. Funny - this is risky, and you have to make sure you pitch it right.  Sense check your humour with friends and colleagues.
What format?

Does your subject matter warrant a short blog post, a longer article, a press release, starting a discussion on Linkedin, a white paper, a video, an image gallery, a tweet, a Facebook status update or something else? The format may be influenced by where it's best to place the content in order to reach your target audience.

Where is the best place to put the content?

This goes back to your target audience, because who you want to reach will influence where you put the content to reach them.  Remember this might not necessarily be your own website, it may require research to find your target audience and it may take a few attempts to get it right.

A few important things to remember:
  • Once you've put some content out there you can't "get it back".  So if you're producing content on behalf of your company/brand check, check and check again before you unleash it on the world.  Mistakes happen, and there is always a risk that spelling mistakes, typos or grammatical errors will slip through the net.  Minimize the risk of making big mistakes and looking silly, by passing your content by trusted colleagues or friends.
  • Having said that, the best way to learn is by doing.  Sometimes a company can over-analyse things and miss opportunities because they don't react quickly enough.  Practice producing content in a safe environment to start, for example: an internal wiki or a blog/twitter account with very few followers.
Want to know more about devising a digital content strategy? Some recommended reading:

Feature in New Media Age about content strategy
11 steps towards a content strategy from Econsultancy
My blog post with top tips for using social media

Monday, 8 November 2010

Social media guidelines for employees

One of our clients is about to introduce social media guidelines for their employees. I love the word guidelines, it always makes me think of Pirates of the Caribbean (the first one, the good one), where Captain Jack Sparrow introduces the pirates code, which he promptly breaks. He then goes on to explain it's not so much a code, it's more like guidelines!?

Social media guidelines: does your company have some? Who wrote them? And what do they say? Let's look at each of these in turn.

Does your company have social media guidelines?

I would argue that whatever business you're in you need social media guidelines. You might assume that your staff would never say anything silly or contentious online, but as one of my colleagues often says "to assume is to make an ass out of you and me" (we're a witty bunch!)  Google's Karen Wickre was recently asked for rules around blogging, and I was amused by her answer: "You've just got to be smart." But what if there's a danger that you might have a couple of people in your business who are not quite so smart? Or the risk that smart people might do something very not smart? That's what social media guidelines are for.

Who wrote your social media guidelines?

Who usually writes the rules in a company?  Often it's the lawyers.  Now that'll work if, like our company, your legal team are well versed with social media.  But what if they're not?  One of the best suggestions I've heard is to crowd source your social media guidelines.  Set-up a wiki or find another forum for you and your colleagues to have their say.  If people help to create the rules they're much more likely to buy into them.

What do they say?

One easy place to start when drawing up social media guidelines is to look at what other firm have done, however, be aware that what is appropriate for one business is not necessarily appropriate for another. For example: one of my colleagues was telling me about her sister who is a nurse and does not have a Facebook account as she doesn't want any pictures of her doing anything silly or drunken online. Yesterday, I saw a tweet with a swear word in it, it was from a digital agency and maybe swearing is the norm there. I've certainly noticed swearing creeping into business more and more, but for many companies swearing over Twitter is not appropriate.

Some social media guidelines to crib ideas from:

BBC social media guidelines
Reuters social media guidelines
Coca-Cola social media principles
Intel social media guidelines
IBM social computing guidelines

Some further blog posts on creating social media guidelines:

List of 40 social media staff guidelines
Seven steps to nailing the perfect social media guidelines from Econsultancy blog
10 must haves for your social media policy from Mashable