Does Your Content Need a Permanent Home?
Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Medium have gone all-in on publishing, offering anyone an opportunity to get their words in front of a massive audience. As such, content marketers have a new variable to consider when planning out their offerings: Does my content need to be published on a site that I control? Or can it be “homeless” content that lives exclusively on platforms outside of my domain?
Here’s a checklist of 5 questions that will help you determine the answer.
1. Are you B2B or B2C?
If your brand is B2C, you may not need your own blog. An owned site can still be valuable, but since your content has a consumer focus—even if it’s niche—you can publish text and videos that cover culturally relevant topics and fit organically on social platforms.
For B2B companies, however, content usually focuses more on products and product education. As a result, the audience tends to be highly specific. You’ll want to guide viewers to an e-book or case studies that demonstrate your product’s effectiveness, which will then lead readers to a sales person. HubSpot is one company that does a good job of this; its learning academy features dozens of clearly organized webinars that link directly to related articles on the site. In this case, the goal is to develop more of a flowing output that spans the customer journey, which makes an owned media property more practical.
2. Are you looking to build your audience email list?
For just about every publisher, growing a healthy list of email newsletter subscribers is essential. You don’t risk much by asking readers to sign up (the worst they can do is say no), but you can gain a lot by convincing people to engage with your content on a regular basis. For this reason, it makes sense to keep your content living in a good home that you control.
But there are specific types of content that don’t need an email boost. Certain PR content may actually benefit from living elsewhere. Last year, when Amazon faced criticism in the aftermath of a damaging New York Times story about its office culture, employees fired back with personal essays on LinkedIn and Medium defending their employer. On a company blog or a newsletter, the responses would’ve looked defensive and self-serving. On platforms, however, there seemed to be less of a corporate influence.
3. Does your content follow the news cycle?
Homeless content is meant to be shared across channels. Newsfeeds tend to give popular topics and stories the most attention. So if you’re producing time-sensitive work, you could have more success with a number of posts formatted specifically on different platforms like Facebook Instant Articles rather than an isolated blog post on your company’s website.
Conversely, if you create mostly evergreen content, you’ll want to house it on your own site for SEO purposes.
4. Are you planning to monetize your content?
If you’re pursuing ad sales, you’ll need a home where you can measure, control, and promote your work. But for most companies, content marketing is designed to provide brand lift or promote the sale of a product.
If you fall into that latter category, you probably won’t be able to scale to the level where ad sales would bring in significant revenue. There are unique players like BuzzFeed, which has found a way to monetize its content by selling rich native ad deals. But that’s the exception to the rule.
5. Is your content made for mobile?
In June of 2015, mobile accounted for two out of every three minutes spent consuming digital media in the U.S., according to comScore. This onslaught of mobile content consumption amounted to nearly 800 billion minutes spent on phones, as opposed to 551 billion minutes spent on desktops.
What does this all mean? Social apps are taking share away from websites. Publishers need to optimize their work for mobile if they want to stay ahead of the content curve. Some users may still open Safari browsers to visit your homepage on their phones, but they’re more likely to click a link via Twitter or watch a video on Instagram.
It’s important to remember that just because social platforms are helping publishers build audiences, that doesn’t mean a brand has full control over the content that it publishes on these platforms. Facebook controls the Facebook universe. LinkedIn controls posts published on LinkedIn. When your content only exists on platforms, you’re at the mercy of the platform.
If Facebook decides to, say, delete archived brand posts older than five years or censor content for whatever reason, you can’t do anything about it. That’s not to discourage you from taking advantage of platforms—you should go where your audience goes. But it’s a caveat to keep in mind as you decide whether you’re going to rent or buy your digital real estate.Image by Getty Images
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