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The Content Corner: GIF? Meme? Embeds? Oh, My!

You probably have heard this before, or may even hear it all the time, “Content is King.” What that means is, that in today’s fast moving digital communications age, with social media as the driver—organizations (agencies) must have a content plan to stay relevant.

Sure, not every agency has the resources, or frankly is as interesting as NASA, with spectacular 4K video of the Aurora Borealis as a show on their own non-commercial consumer ultra-high definition (UHD) channel. But each agency has a citizen-base to serve, to connect with and meet their needs—they just need to do it differently.

Aurora Borealis from Space in Ultra-High Definition (4K)

Give your audience, and your potential audience, what they want, and in many cases, what they need. As government communicators, some of us with less than interesting content for the average person, we need to think outside the box on ways to display the valuable data our agency has for the American’s who need it. Providing value should be our focus, and can be done by considering the context to our content. But you can’t do that until you understand what each piece of content is, and eventually which platform—social media-wise or other—to publish it on for maximum value.

You may already know what each one of the following content types are, but let me try and break them down as it’s always good to have a refresh. These content types might mean different things for different people—and I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments section (or send me a tweet @SSgtKRich!)

Video

These days, it’s essential for any communications/marketing department to have access to high-quality videography skills, whether it be a videographer (or two) on staff or outsourced to a talented firm. With each social media platform vying to keep its loyal visitors, implementing native video, that trend looks continue to grow. In fact, one marketing firm predicted that in 2017, 74% of ALL Internet traffic will be video.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, not all of us have the spectacular footage that NASA has, but look to produce videos on topics important to those you serve.

Livestreaming Video

This is a totally different monster. Livestreaming is dependent on so many factors outside the control of the producer, the largest being the connectivity bandwidth to push the message out.

Last year, for the first time ever the Digital Gov Citizens Summit was live streamed, including interviews before and after, for online viewers across the country. The US Navy has been livestreaming its graduation ceremonies for a while now, with thousands of excited parents and family members ready to see their son or daughter take those memorable steps.

During the livestream of your video, traffic will be flooding into your site, so consider inserting calls-to-action for your agency services, while not going overboard. More best practices for live streaming is available on Digital Gov.

Graphics

Not to be confused by infographics (below), graphics are a fun way to take some textual information and inform your audience about a certain topic or encourage them to take action. I really like what DoD Inspector General did with this graphic—it’s quick and to the point, and grabs attention for anyone who may casually pass by it.

Infographics
Set of 3D infographic elements

Often used, rarely perfected. Infographics allow content creators to display a lot of statistics, data, processes and images in one graphic. Infographics are eye-catching, and can be used for almost any subject, to display it another way. When shared on your social media channels, such as Pinterest, infographics can also be good for bringing people to your site. We’re a visual generation, and it’s been proven that a person’s craving for any form of visually-strong information arises from the human brain’s penchant for the more visually-appealing graphic information rather than text.

From a simple infographic like USA.gov did, to a much more complex infographic like the Congressional Budget Office produced, infographics are meant to be informative in nature, and to teach the audience something.

Blogs

By now, probably most of us know what a blog is—you hopefully have a blog on your website, which you regularly produce content in an easy readable, hopefully plain language format, for your audience to read. A blog can take many forms, it can be posted natively on your website, on a social networking page, etc. For example, recently at FirstNet we launched a Tumblr account, which we use as an extension of our blog to tell real stories of our nation’s first responders.

As Tyrus Manuel said in a previous Content Corner post, “there is great benefit in allowing a subject matter expert (SME) to simply convey the knowledge that they have”—and a blog is a great platform to allow for that.

Animated GIFs
President Barack Obama and David Karp, CEO and co-founder of Tumblr, fist bump at the White House for his Tumblr chat about issues surrounding college, education and student loans in June 2014.

Not since recent memory, have animated GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format) been mainstream on the Internet. Originally created in 1987, the aforementioned blogging platform Tumblr has brought GIFs back into fashion with a passion. These fun animations can add an interesting visual element to your content. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) does a great job with GIFs, animating their textual archived content to “make government records relevant,” according to experienced GIF’er Darren A. Cole from the Office of Innovation at NARA. Said Darren, “A picture is worth a thousand words? Well a GIF is worth a million.” More on GIFs is available on DigitalGov.

Embedded Tweets (or other social media content, like microsites)

Event though it’s 2016, there still are some out there (especially in government) who can’t, or refuse to, access social media sites like Twitter. Embedding content onto your website changes that, providing a seamless viewing experience to social media channels and promoting your social media presence right on your website. The CDC takes microsites to another level, stating their goal to have all of their content collections available, allowing users to embed collections on their websites. #OpenData!

Memes

A term allegedly coined in 1976, catchy, fun, memorable—these are terms used to describe memes. It’s basically an image or GIF with text over it. Generally the most popular memes are comedic in nature, and can help you establish or put on display your agency’s personality. This can be dangerous territory for agency accounts. Some memes aren’t appropriate, some aren’t relevant, and sometimes it just makes the brand look quite lame. As I said in a previous post, stick to your agency’s message—try not to stray from your brand message or demographic for the sake of trends.

Podcasts

Believe it or not, there can be great value in podcasting—both video and audio versions. Podcasts are said to be great for on-the-go professionals who want to learn while they commute or travel. Successful podcasters build ardent followings through their base of subscribers. Podcasts are typically hosted on iTunes or through another podcasting website, like Soundcloud, and can be filled with calls-to-action. A reminder, all DigitalGov podcasts are available on iTunes and Soundcloud.

Snap, Vine, Reddit messages…

So of course I couldn’t hit on every piece of content in this post, so here’s a catch-all—and I look forward to reading about other types of content you may use, in the comments section.

Let me just briefly mention a snap. Recently trending hard, even in government circles, Snapchat is an image messaging application. Snaps can be edited to include filters and effects, text captions, and drawings. USA.gov recently launched a Snapchat account, to “give the government more of a human face.”

As you look to develop your content strategy, remember these words from Gary Vaynerchuk, renowned entrepreneur:

“Every single tweet, every comment you leave, every post, every image you make becomes part of your brand. Period. Every time you post, you need to be laddering it back to your brand’s goals. Your core story needs to be consistent and your personality needs to be constant too. Doing this sets up a larger narrative, the broad context, for your content to succeed and have a clear message.”

What other types of unique content do you think agencies should be leveraging?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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