I’ve been thinking about the purpose of content lately, believing that businesses that understand the purpose of their content can make sure they are reaching all potential audiences with the right content in the right places.
The matrix below is an early-stage idea (read: it’s still evolving and you’re welcome to leave comments with your recommendations) to define where different content channels can be “mapped” on a purpose landscape.
Below, you’ll notice that I started wtih a simple X/Y matrix…
The horizontal axis measures the “humanness” of the content: The left side is all about relationship; the right side is all about information. You might say that Chris Brogan is on the left and Anderson Cooper is on the right.
The vertical axis has to do with the directness of the content in relationship to the transaction. At the very top of the chart is positioning — the general credibility you try to achieve by producing content of value for your audience. At the bottom of the chart is very direct and compelling sales copy. So, Harvard Business School is at the top of the chart and the ShamWOW/Slap Chop guy is at the bottom of the chart.
With the matrix labeled, we can start plotting content channels…
Obviously, these are going to be fuzzy definitions. And, without a doubt, people don’t always use these channels in the way they were intended. Twitter is a content channel you can use for connecting with people and for positioning. Press releases and articles tend to be more informational and positional. Websites are often a good channel for a more obvious sales pitch, and they don’t always have the connecting mechanisms that other channels offer.
(There are many other content channels than just these but I needed to start somewhere, so I started here.)
After observing this matrix and thinking about it a bit more, a couple of other thoughts became clearer, especially about business models…
This is very much a “web 2.0” business model. Social networks, social marketing, social sites… this social business model is all about connecting and positioning.
I don’t think there are a lot of content channels for this connecting/selling space (perhaps LinkedIn… to a degree) but the business model is very much a multi-level marketing business model. Start a business, contact friends and family, add them to your downstream.
Lastly, I think the right-hand side of the matrix reflects a pre-21st century business model: Connecting was saved for conferences and networking events but content tended to reside on the informational side of the matrix, up and down the positioning/selling axis.
What this means for businesses
- Content choices become clearer: People will (hopefully) use each channel more appropriately knowing the role that each one plays.
- Opportunities become apparent for businesses to launch sites that allow for gaps to be filled.
- Target markets can be appropriately addressed and content strategy can be more effectively developed with a fuller understanding of the purpose landscape.
Agree? Disagree? I tend to use my blog as a laboratory of ideas and this is definitely an idea in progress. I’d love to hear what you think.