The Internet is a huge, unwieldy monster that never sleeps. From the blogosphere to the twitterverse, it’s a 24/7 hurricane of communications, entertainment and information. It’s hard to keep up with it, let alone nail it down. But we must try.
Mapping websites or companies is a fool’s errand—the landscape changes so fast charts are out-of-date before you can post them. But the types of content that appear on—or traverse—the Internet are longer-lived.[i] On this basis we have constructed the Periodic Table of Content. Originally conceived to organize chemical elements,[ii] the Periodic Table concept has been hijacked for many subjects: jazz music, beer, and typefaces, among others. It’s a convenient, easily recognizable structure.
Ignoring email and its evil twin, spam (numbers one and two), 21 types of content are shown in the Table. This is not real science, but they can be loosely organized by category (Communication, Entertainment, Information), and to some degree, medium (the first row is basically text-based, row two is primarily audio, row three visual). As a result of this x/y organization, content types tend to get more complex from top to bottom, left to right.
Very interesting. Any practical value? Yes. The Table reminds us just how many different types of content there are. Few companies will make movies or develop games (unless that is their business), but there are many other types of content that businesses can create to help get their message out, trigger social conversations and get greater SEO traction.
Everyone (almost) blogs and tweets, but what about writing white papers, hosting webinars and designing infographics? To stand out you have to do something different. One way is to go deeper and provide more value. Google’s Penguin release was designed to favor deep, original content and discount the superficial. Take advantage of the new rules. Stop selling and start helping. Share your expertise, use real–life examples, involve customers. Help people.
The ultimate form of content marketing is building an online community. Create a site filled with high-quality information. Not about your product, but about a relevant subject. If you sell skis, skiing. Write about all things skiing—how to learn to ski, best local places to go, types of snow—but don’t mention products. You can put ads on the site, but not in the content. Ads are ads and editorial is editorial. They don’t mix.
The advantage to creating an online community is that you have the place to yourself. If you provide real value (content, forums, contests, etc.), people will come back again and again. And they will see your ads and your messages. And only yours.
Not that you’re fooling anyone. Research by the Custom Content Council found that 77% of people understand that an organization’s goal for content is to sell them something, but are OK with it as long as it provides value.[iii]
In any case, whether or you’re putting content up on your site or building out an entirely new community, the first step is to know the content possibilities. Posts and tweets are a good start. Deeper is better.
[i] New forms of content like tweets emerge now and then, and can be added…periodically.
[ii] Dmitri Mendeleev is credited with the first Periodic Table of the Elements (1869), though similar (less comprehensive) work had previously been done by others. It’s never simple.
[iii] Custom Content Council. Research Report, 2011.