Connecting Customers to Your Content, Part 2

In my last column, I discussed the importance of creating many doorways to your content so that current and new customers can easily connect to it. Approaches examined include SEO (define), vertical search, social bookmarking, and directories. Today, I’ll look at additional doorways, such as RSS (define) and widgets, to connect customers to your content.

RSS

RSS allows people to conveniently read new content posted on your Web site or blog. It’s a very popular way for your audience to stay current with all your content.

Strategically, though, many publishers — big and small — miss out on a lot of RSS opportunities and eyeballs. Most people think of RSS as being used by individuals via My Yahoo, Netvibes, and a variety of RSS readers and don’t recognize the big opportunity with companies using their feeds. Many companies display individual RSS feeds as well as combined feeds on their sites to further enhance readers’ experience. This is a win-win, as readers get additional content and you get more exposure. However, companies have specific criteria for selecting RSS feeds.

To get more companies to use your RSS feeds and obtain broader exposure, you must deliver RSS feeds that are useful to them. There are two key points to follow. First, you must be serious about your articles and posts. This means you must have well-written articles with actionable and either meaningful or catchy headlines that people will click on. Avoid mixing in personal stories or perspectives that are off topic (e.g., “Congrats to the NY Giants on Winning the Super Bowl”). Write regularly and frequently so companies will regard you as a reliable, quality content provider.

Second, if you write on a range of topics, create one feed per topic, not just a generic one you dump everything into. Many businesses only want content on a specific category, not everything you write. If you create topic-focused feeds, the company can choose the one that suits it while disregarding the rest. For example, CNET’s News.com does a good job of offering a variety of RSS feeds. Its “Green Tech” is smart, because there are many green sites these days that may be interested in incorporating this topic. If News.com had only a generic RSS feed, the green sites would pass on it to avoid a lot of irrelevant content.

Portals

You can share your content on different portals. For video, there are well-known portals, such as YouTube. There are also a number of how-to video sites, like VideoJug and HowCast, that you may consider posting your educational videos to get additional eyeballs.

If you have really interesting, compelling content, try a content distribution deal with a portal like Yahoo or other leading content Web site. Hearst, for instance, has been very aggressive in this area and recently made a deal with Yahoo.

Social Networks and Widgets

You can create connection points through social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn by building applications, widgets, and content deals with them. Remember, developing a widget or application doesn’t mean that people will automatically use it, no matter how well-known your brand may be. The widget must have a compelling value proposition for people to use it and share it with others. “National Geographic,” for example, has several widgets, including Photo of the Day.

BusinessWeek.com recently made a deal LinkedIn. BusinessWeek.com provides content for LinkedIn’s company profile feature, and BusinessWeek.com readers can click on a LinkedIn link in a BusinessWeek.com article to see who they know at that company.

Keep in mind, many companies can create widgets, like Clearspring and Goowy Media.

Aggregators, Licensors, and Marketplaces

Many different types of organizations would like to distribute your content to other Web publishers and end users. Some organizations will pay you a revenue share when they serve up ads within your article; others will pay a licensing fee. Still others will promise a lot of traffic to your site, and it’s up to you to monetize it.

These companies typically aggregate content from many providers, then facilitate its distribution to many other sites. Aggregators like NewsGator, Moreover, and Newstex deliver content feeds to clients. Try to get integrated into their systems, so your content is available out of the box to their clients.

You may also want to make your content available on Mochila, a media marketplace where sites can pick up your content and you generate revenue via the revenue-share model. Companies such as LexisNexis and Reuters license high-quality content for integration into their online products.

Multiplatform Distribution

Consider a multiplatform content distribution strategy, especially because the marketplace is more fragmented. You could have mobile versions of your site, deliver your content through casual games, host Web casts, and integrate content into interactive applications, e-newsletters, and e-mail/mobile alerts. All these are new doorways that allow customers to reach you on their terms, which is critical.

Contests

Contests are a great way to engage existing audience and attract new readers to your site. They can also have a viral aspect to them.

Come up with a compelling concept, find a sponsor, market it, select a winner, and leverage the experience into follow-up products.

Remember, a good contest will attract many people to your site for the first time, many of whom are there just for the contest, not content. Be sure to deliver an engaging experience to convert first-time visitors into regulars.

Connecting with customers on their terms is key. You must offer many doorways to your content. As people walk through these doorways, regardless of which one, welcome them, engage them, and, with skill and luck, convert them into loyal readers.

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