Content is the single greatest factor in attracting, retaining, and developing your online community. Smart community managers understand that key indicators like time spent on the site, new user registrations, downloads, and traffic rise or fall depending on content. Content drives engagement — the quality, timeliness, and relevance of articles, answers, profiles, and other information found in your community matter.
The challenge is deciding where to invest time and dollars to gain the best return on content. Some questions to consider:
- Should I pay others for content?
- Do I syndicate it from the wild?
- Should I write it myself?
- Do I count on community members stepping up?
It helps to classify the sources and types of content typically found in an online community, and to identify the content that yields the highest ROI from time, effort, and dollars. Using an example from a B2B community I manage, I categorized content into a value matrix:
Quadrant I: Dialogue
The enchanted quadrant. Facilitating communication and collaboration between people requires the most energy, and the resulting insights, learning, and knowledge are like gold — desirable and valuable. This means finding subject matter experts, getting them to share openly and often, and exposing the resulting dialogue to those who stand to benefit the most.
Quadrant II: Aggregated Content
As a curator, you filter and sift content in the wild — blogs, comments, forum threads, social network sites — and cherry-pick the best of the best. All this collecting, scanning, tagging, and editing takes a lot of work. You are adding value, because you save your community members from having to do this.
Quadrant III: Repurposed Content
Communities about things people use, like products, processes, and knowledge, often have a history with information artifacts. Whether it's an FAQ cobbled together by loyal customers, a white paper commissioned by sales, or a webinar recording produced by marketing, these reference materials can be useful, depending on how frequently they are updated.
Quadrant IV: Authored Content
Hot button topics raised by the community with few answers are perfect candidates for researching and arriving at a better overall understanding. Of course, addressing the needs of the community with quality information developed just for them means an outlay of time or dollars. Try to leverage domain expertise — find the person(s) closest to the answer. They need to be great communicators and committed to answering questions long after the white paper or ebook is delivered.
It's likely that your community will dictate content needs that span all these quadrants — no two communities are alike, after all. Using a model like the content value matrix helps you explain the reasons for investing in community moderators, monitoring social media, writing blogs, or hiring a research analyst firm. And, when measured against key performance indicators, you'll have a better idea of how each of your content investment areas is performing.