What’s Good On This Site? Popular Content Lists Create A Community Feel

Participation, engagement, community—asset manager Web sites have a long way to go to foster these. Ultimately, in all likelihood, most companies will cede community-hosting to Facebook or other social networking sites.

But don’t be too quick to assume that you can’t deliver community-like value for your Web site visitors. Two unconnected news items took place last week that might trigger some ideas.

Example 1: It was an impressive accomplishment Thursday when the 10 billionth song was sold in the iTunes store, but it was a long time coming. And ultimately that story was about Apple’s innovation.

Concurrently, Apple released a list of the top 25 most-downloaded songs. To us, this was the more interesting announcement. Each of us knows what we bought from iTunes, but Apple aggregated all of those 99-cent (mostly) purchases and told us the rank order of what we all bought.

Example 2: Earlier in the week we were intrigued by the basis of an InvestmentNews.com article. “The ETFs financial advisers can't get enough of” wasn’t based on sales, performance or even survey data.

Rather, it was a list of the top 10 ETFs advisors researched most in 2009 using the Morningstar Advisor Workstation (and provided by Morningstar). Morningstar, Investment News and ETFTrends.com (which provided an expanded analysis of each ETF on its site) all saw the information value in advisor searches. (Are the searches predictive? We wished one of the media sites compared the top-searched to top-selling.)

Here again, users of the Advisor Workstation knew what they were looking for last year. But Morningstar was in a unique position to rank and share what all financial advisors were looking for.

By now you’re getting the idea, right? What insights could you share, externally and internally, about your customers’ use of your Web site and other digital products? Most viewed, most downloaded, most emailed, most ordered, most searched content all are possibilities for you to consider publishing.

Common on many sites today, most popular or trending lists are few and far between on asset manager sites. We’ve seen them on Vanguard’s site (list shown at left) and behind the password on BlackRock’s financial professionals site. If you’re aware of others, please fill us in by commenting below.

Adding such lists to your site will provide a few benefits. You’ll see that many users use them as navigation, more so than your “What’s New” listings.

By definition, “What’s New” is driven by your firm’s timetable. With their views, your users are pointing to valuable content for others who follow them (and if you haven't been paying attention to your Web analytics, there may be some surprises for you). Publishing a list of “Most Popular” content is as close as your FINRA-regulated site may get to users’ endorsements.

But don’t stop at just publishing the lists online. You can create content based on your users’ content consumption trends and preferences, the more segmented the more valuable.

As unformed as it may be, there is a community of users on your site daily. What would it take for you to begin representing their collective interests to one another and to your firm?