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The Content Corner: Defining Your Core

Through the course of this blog, I have frequently mentioned the need to feed the content beast and have discussed tactics such as the content pillar and various other aspects of developing a solid content strategy.

Recent research from the Content Marketing Institute found the average business-to-business (B2B) company uses 13 content marketing tactics or channels, such as blogs, videos, events, etc. I’m sure that most federal agencies also have as wide an array of channels as well. DigitalGov itself is a good example, where we leverage blogs, videos, podcasts, live events (both in-person and Web-based), plus several social media accounts. That is a lot of ways to share and consume information.

One important thing is to remember or establish what your core channel is. I like to refer to it as home base: it should be where all your other content channels lead back to. And it doesn’t always have to be your .gov homepage; in fact, it seems more and more common that an agency or company’s core is not their traditional homepage.

Building a Home on Someone Else’s Land

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As you work to establish your home base or core channel, be careful if you set up camp on a platform where you have little control and no true ownership. Similar to concerns about user-generated content (UGC), you have to be aware of the terms of service on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Tumblr.

A frequent issue with these platforms, such as Facebook, has been their changes to algorithms and how that can impact your exposure. A slight tweak can have a huge impact on your audiences, such as the news feed changes they implemented in 2014. We all know the importance of various social media channels, but I recommend thinking of them as supplements or feeders for your core and not your core itself.

Or, you can follow the recent move by Nescafé whose chief marketing officer declared, “The dotcom is reflection of us talking to people; this approach is dead. It should be much more inclusive and allow conversations.” This was during an announcement that they converted their dotcom website into a Tumblr blog. While I agree with their focus on conversations and their acknowledgement of the power of UGC, but establishing their core on someone else’s platform? Time will tell if that was a good move or not.

Planting Your Flag

Once you have decided what channel will be your core, whether it is your blog or .gov page (or maybe even Tumblr), you should then examine and establish your content flow. Your core is your focal point—all other media should feed back to it, and you should not have a haphazard combo of both social media content that promotes back to core and core that promotes to social media and various other places. What is your main sign post? Where is home base? Always lead back to it because you have to have one.

Some of this also reflects your content strategy and the goals of your various other channels. Asking the simple questions of:

  • “Why do we have a Facebook page?”
  • “What do we expect a user to do with it?” and importantly,
  • “What will be the main home for our content?”

As I state above, as a general rule, your various social media channels should flow two directions: out to the user and back to your core. What it seems like Nescafé is doing is trying to have all of their conversations in one single place (Tumblr), but traditionally social media is where you reach different audiences to perhaps discuss different topics. At the core (get it?) of these various conversations are content types that would typically lead a user back to your core for additional information or to take some action (volunteer, find a form).

I have already presented DigitalGov as a great example, and one of the other agencies that led me down this path after falling in love with their Tumblr page is Bureau of Land Management.

At first blush, one could offer an argument that their Tumblr page seems like their core, with its breathtaking photography and leveraging of other Tumblr accounts. But as you look deeper, you can see the answer to their, “Why do we have this?”, question. BLM’s Tumblr is using its rich vein of photography to promote specific initiatives, and once they grab your attention, you can then go to a core and explore further. One of their current main initiatives is Every Kid in a Park, so in various places throughout their Tumblr, you get fed back to that core. There are also examples, such as using appropriate images, to make people aware of the Continental Divide Wilderness Study Area.

Each agency has a different mission—and audience—and different ways they need to serve the citizen, but in the end, all their efforts should lead back to one central location: the core channel. From a practical standpoint that makes it easier to maintain your content and perform audits (not to mention any archival requirements). It also helps provide a clear focus for all your promotional efforts instead of creating a tangled Web of various social media sites or blogs. Make sure that regardless of how many channels you have, they all lead back to your core.You’ve just finished reading the latest article from our Monday column, The Content Corner. This column focuses on helping solve the main content issues facing federal digital professionals, including producing enough content and making that content engaging.

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