Much has been made in content marketing circles of The Atlantic‘s recent investigation into how Netflix took on Hollywood and wildly re-categorized all the films available in their library into genres and sub-genres tuned to the specific interests of their viewers.
Retailers get the point of this idea better than most. Amazon is getting into the business of mind-reading what their customers will eventually buy, while old-school retailers like Barnes & Noble now feature a Paranormal Teen Romance section — far away from past categorizations for fiction and nonfiction.
*Imaginary movies for an imaginary genre. Illustration by Darth.
In fact, this hyper-categorization is not uncommon for retailers because they need to make sure they are constructing an organized taxonomy that makes sense for their customers. Before they ever open their doors, they sort everything into the sections and sub-sections necessary to help customers find every item in their inventory, whether they are in a physical store or via the fewest clicks possible on their website.
Design for the Scent of Content
Too many content marketers simply aren’t planning a detailed, thoughtful way to organize their content before they dive in and start producing content. Without having properly segmented their audience or figured out how their existing content should be organized for reuse, they are hiring internal writers, licensing content that may be well-sourced but not specific to their needs, and bringing in freelance content creators without a plan in place to ensure their audience will even find what they publish.
Jared Spool, well-known in user interface design and website usability circles, has written extensively on how important it is for designers to create easy navigation clues akin to a “scent” to ensure your users don’t get lost or leave. Traditional hierarchies and categories are really white noise to Web surfers these days, but amplifying the “scent” of your content through a unique taxonomy helps end users find your content through any route that is relevant to their current goals. If designed properly, the user doesn’t need to understand your hierarchy and this enables more impulse consumption through rapid and cross-linked discovery.
Tag Content for Discovery
Maybe you can’t hire an army of movie-watchers like Netflix did, but you can go well beyond the regular way of thinking about your content and ensure that you really understand everything that is available to you and how it can be applied. With the right tools, you can tag your original content with a flat organizational architecture that keeps items highly relatable and build a truly killer library of assets that are easily browsed and line up with your customers’ needs and interests.
When I was at Edmunds.com, we followed this philosophy religiously to organize thousands of pieces of content (by makes, models, vehicle types, price range, options, etc.) before we ever published a single piece of it. Sites like The Huffington Post or TechCrunch vigorously tag their content and provide a plethora of related content and topic navigation paths as article tags or even more visual related content widgets. Trust me, this type of navigation works and it increases engagement and stickiness. If marketers take the above cues from retailers, publishers, and design experts like Spool, they can help readers better discover their content by ensuring that it is well-categorized for their industry or interest, sortable, and immediate.
Think of your content like an online retailer would think about their product catalog. Every product is tagged to make it extremely easy to find. Why not think of your content the same way?
Recirculate the Content You Own
With your unique tagging in place, it’s easy to find opportunities to recirculate your previously created content. When you are ready to publish new content, use your tags to find existing material that is related to the subject at hand. Your content may be relevant to a discussion you want to start, may be new to audiences that have developed since it was originally used (this happens constantly with social media — Guy Kawasaki recommends tweeting the same content four times to ensure maximum exposure), or it may effectively supplement new original material or add context to curated content you are about to share. Through recirculation, you can often increase the return on your original investment in content and even scale your efforts more effectively through reuse.
Personalize Your Content
Naturally, your advanced tagging plan will be influenced by what you know about your customers and prospects from your CRM system. With this advanced tagging in place, you can more easily personalize messaging and nurture targeted content to your customers and prospects. Even past information on what newsletter items they clicked, their behavior when clicking on blog posts or your website, and their interactions with your social presence can provide you valuable insight as to what they need next. This could mean the right internal documentation to help close the sale, a study they need to see to further their interest, or even just an article you know will keep them engaged with your company because it is useful to them.
Merchandise Your Content
With a content library rich in specific types of messages and subjects, finding existing material that aligns with promotional opportunities becomes much easier as well. If there is an opportunity to freshen an older campaign with a modern perspective, you will be able to recapture the value of that content again and launch a sequel to previous campaigns that worked well.
Will uniquely identifying your library of content let you read the minds of your customers like Amazon or segment it down to the point of near uselessness like some of those Netflix categories (be serious — Sports-Themed Zombie Romantic Comedies for Ages 8-10)? Probably not.
But it will help you achieve the goal of providing targeted, increased interaction with your prospects and customers while potentially unlocking the value of content you already created. Just like old movies on Netflix that get a second chance when they show up on those recommendation panels, your content can get a new lease on life and possibly delight and engage a whole new group of customers and pros