What are you doing to prepare for changes taking place online today that affect Web content?
Despite the fact that content is the value underlying much of the social media phenomenon, the discussion about social media has largely dealt with other issues—the practices, the practitioners, the policies, the enabling technologies. Content is my first love and I’m guilty, too, for having given it short-shrift in recent posts.
The sharing of Web content has sweeping implications for the development, delivery and analytic resources you invest in your firm’s content portfolio—Marketing and non-Marketing text, images and especially charts and graphs, video, audio. And it has direct bearing on how you build out your Web site, especially those of you who are working on redesigns.
Here’s a quote from a Beyond Analytics podcast with Justin Kistner, Sr. Manager Social Media Marketing at Webtrends, that will quickly take you into future mode: "One day I'll explain to my kids about how I used to have a whole Web site to myself. And they'll say, ‘What are you talking about, Dad? You mean somebody would come to a page and it would be all you and they'd look at pages that were all you?'
“I think we're going to see a much more mashed-up form of the Web, not necessarily that we'll think about going to social sites but just that the pages we go to are mash-ups of a lot of linked data from different data sources."
We like Kistner's setup but he's not alone in saying that the future is content that's distributed, piece by piece. The future is not a perpetuation of the last 15 years and how asset managers have grown accustomed to publishing content on their Web sites. Are you factoring that in your plans?
A Quick History of Asset Manager Content-Sharing
Asset managers have years of experience in distributing content offline. Think of your shelf space on the product literature rack at an advisor’s office or bank investment center. Your firm’s press releases, your investment strategists and portfolio managers in media interviews, your executives’ appearances at conferences—all distribute your firm’s content.
But, online over the last 10 or more years, there’s been little advancement in asset manager content-sharing let alone distribution.
Without question, Adobe Acrobat files are the primary way asset manager content is shared today. They’re offered on Web sites, exchanged via email and we’ve commented previously on the form of content syndication that involves offering Adobe Acrobat files on other sites (e.g., Scribd, SlideShare).
We are surprised that still only a handful of sites offer the social sharing icons that are ubiquitous elsewhere on the Web. With the social-sharing icons in place, you enhance the usability (and share-ability) of the site by enabling others to endorse your content—it’s a win-win. Is Compliance denying you? FINRA has no prohibition that we’ve heard of. It’s definitely worth another conversation. For examples, see Virtus.com, as shown below, EatonVance.com and Calvert.com.
An early example of enabling distributed content is the Email this page capability, which just a minority of asset manager sites offer. If you do and you track its use, you have higher-level insight on the value of your content—not only has someone landed on a page, they've thought enough of it to forward it. Offering podcasts via iTunes, something else relatively few asset managers do consistently, is another form of distributing content.
The Mindset Change Required
Technically, social sharing icons and publishing podcasts on iTunes are trivial. Preparing yourself and your firm to distribute content is something that requires an evolution in your digital strategy. It will require thought, discussion, preparation, infrastructure (IT, content management, analytics) support and Legal/Compliance involvement in reviewing content likely to be consumed out of the context of the rest of a Web site.
This is a reach for sites that barely link to other Web sites. And, if you’re still launching Web site tours encouraging visitors to explore site sections, it may be a seismic psychic shift for you and your firm to accept that your domain is not the center of your clients’ and prospects’ universe. But it's a mindset change that must take place. Your firm’s overarching goal, remember, is to be relevant. Going forward, that will include showing up where content is consumed and in whatever size slice is desired.
There are a few asset manager initiatives in this direction. Rydex is one of a few firms that offers product category-specific emails. RidgeWorth’s custom RSS feed offer is an example of content architected and available to be distributed at the fund level via a few delivery methods.
Is your content tagged and organized in this way? Even in the near-term, firms with this in place are in a much better position to, for example, satisfy national accounts’ information requests for only products approved for their platforms. As we watch independent financial advisors aggressively build their brands online, we expect advisors to be asking for specific content feeds from their asset manager partners.
But don’t limit your content energy to product content or even to just content that resides on your Web site. How are you fixed for local content—data about wholesalers and events, for example? You will have a means of publishing local content someday either via your own mobile app or an invitation to appear on someone else’s.
We could probably stop here. But, for as much work as it represents, what I’ve just described isn’t the endgame. For continuity, let’s return to Kistner later in the Beyond Analytics podcast as he comments on the practical effect of Facebook’s recent introduction of the Open Graph.
Some quick background: Facebook’s announcement that it was switching Fan status to Like status also included the launch of the Open Graph. The Open Graph is an API that enables any page on the Web to have all the features of a Facebook page—users are able to "like" the content on the page, it will show up on the user’s profile and in search results, and the owner of the Web page that’s been “liked” will be able to publish stories to the stream of its fans. That last part is controversial and part of the uproar over Facebook’s management of user privacy.
And now back to Kistner for his comments on what the 400-million user Facebook has just enabled: "If you like an object that I own [on a brand domain, for example] I have publishing rights to be able to send you updates. It's looking more and more that even within Facebook it's better to have a distributed presence than have the hub of your fan page and try to drive everybody back to that.
“Now the goal is to create an army of likeable objects and to be able to use those likeable objects as your connection points to your audience. You no longer think about your presence as a hub with all of these tentacles out but rather a distributed presence.”
In a blog post Kistner shows how “likeable objects” work on a Web site (whose product content is obviously fed from a database) and we encourage you to read it and the comments it attracted.
The notion of likeable objects leads to all kinds of imagining that we won’t indulge in here, now. But we submit to you that now is the time for a reality check on your content assets, how you’re creating them and even valuing them, how you’re tagging them, how you’re storing them and to what granular level you will be able to retrieve and share them.