Originally posted on Britopian.

I am not the kind of guy that can predict future shifts in organizational business models or trends in social media like my two colleagues Steve Rubel and David Armano. And, I am clearly not as smart as some of the other awesome people I work with at Edelman.

One thing I am pretty good at though is building community. I have been doing it for many years and for many different brands. And, I can only share insights about what is working today. And what works today may or may not necessarily work tomorrow, so please take this with a grain of salt.

Now, I hate to say “content is king” for the sake of saying “content is king” because it’s been said almost as many times as “it’s time for brands to join the conversation.” But at the end of the day, content is what pays my bills. Content is everything on the social web — tweets, status updates, ad units, search, billboards, press releases, copy on corporate websites and blogs, etc. But it’s more than just content!

It’s about the right content, at the right time, to the right person in the right channel.

When a brand can achieve this, they will not only deepen community engagement, but they will create customer advocacy. That’s why I love the social web and the tools available today. Through real time analytics, it’s very easy to identify what content (messages) clearly resonate with the community. This is one reason why Social CRM is such a hot topic right now. From an elementary point of view, Social CRM is just that – using back end, traditional CRM data coupled with external data (Twitter, Facebok) and social listening data so that brands and marketers can provide a more relevant customer experience.

When I think about content, I can’t help but think that it needs to relevant and that timing is critical. For example, when my wife and I wanted to refinance our house several years ago, I began to notice content about mortgage rates everywhere (online, print, billboard, tweets, TV). It was actually kind of scary and overwhelming at the same time. Fast forward to today and I can’t even tell you the last time I’ve seen a piece of content discussing mortgage rates. The sad reality is that it’s probably all around me, it’s just not relevant anymore. That being said, relevant content:

  1. adds value to the conversation
  2. positions your brand as a trusted source of information
  3. is authentic and believable
  4. build trust with the community
  5. happens as a result of listening and acting
  6. increases the reach of your messages
  7. increases your “organic” search rankings
  8. drives purchase intent

In a nutshell, if you add all this together — relevant content drives business value.

In my mind, there are two types of content, proactive and reactive. Both are equally as important. Proactive content is all about outbound engagement (i.e. blogs, tweets, videos, wall posts, contests, coupons, etc.) This is content that is meant to excite and inform the community. Reactive content deals with crisis communications, dealing with angry customers or simply saying “thank you” publicly to a fan.

Now, most consumers are inundated with content. They live their lives in the stream and are bombarded with irrelevant content. Brian Solis refers to it as the attention dashboard. The following diagram is an example of a customer journey and all the content that they are subjected to on a daily basis.

Key takeaway is this. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, consumers need to hear/read/see a piece of content up to five times before they actually believe it. And, because every customer journey is different, a brand needs to have multiple channels of relevant content for the consumer to interact with.

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