Today we discuss content (or rather brand) management in the internet age, including an exploration of how the internet era has developed (at pace) and the opportunities and challenges faced in making the most of this amazing resource.
It is quite extraordinary to think that search engine technology on the web has been around for little more than a dozen years. Google, following in the footsteps of the likes of Lycos and Alta Vista was launched in 1998.
Prior to search engines there had been directories – notably Yahoo! And DMOZ – but it was really the advent of the full functioning search engine that proved the key application to the growth of the world wide web, to everyday folk, outside of it’s previous home on private networks (AOL, Compuserve) or in educational institutions.
Breathtaking! Just twelve years AG (After Google). They used to say a web year was the equivalent of a quarter year real time – that would place the googled web universe at a comparison of 50 ‘regular industry years’ in it’s maturity. Sounds about right.
Naturally, the hand-in-hand expansion of bandwidth to a global level of broadband availability (at least what we understand of as broadband today) has provided an explosion in scope of the capabilities of the internet: From the promise of video on demand to the chance to conduct business ‘Martini style’ – anytime, any place, anywhere: From the world’s greatest reference library and encyclodpaedia to the promise of the most extraordinary interactive social networking platform: From the humble beginnings of a ‘private club’ to the expanding promise of an inclusive global community.
To everyday domestic users and to businesses for that matter, it is one thing to have access to such an extraordinary platform but if adding content were challenging then there would have been little to find in the web ether. It is with something of a double take that one realizes the mask and cloak of the ‘black art’ of website development was only removed within the last decade.
Only a select few have been literate, able and competent in HyperText Markup Language (HTML). I’m sure to many, pages of HTML code read like some baffling foreign language that could never be mastered. However, content appearing on the web was, from the beginning, written using this apparently obscure technology.
This fact may have again propagated the concept of the net as ‘private club for technocrats’ and seen the web left in the hands of a few enthusiasts rather than available and accessible to all. Two crucial early breakthroughs came from Vermeer Technologies and Pyra Labs. Neither company trips off the tounge?!
Vermeer were acquired by Microsoft in the late 1990s and repackaged as Microsoft Front Page. Pyra labs launched Blogger (www.blogspot.com) and were taken over by Google during a similar time period.
Both website development and the simpler attractive subset of blogging became relatively easy – people could write, draw, insert whatever data object (image, audio, video) in English and the tools would translate all the content into world wide web computerspeak – into HTML.
For the more advanced, the mid 1990s also saw the launch of Java (a project initiated by James Gosling at Sun Microsystems) as a C++ style programming language that would allow dynamic applications to be written once and run anywhere – an open, secure, internet application programming language. In an environment that moves at breathtaking speed, the platforms of HTML (more advanced versions of) and Java still form the basis of content and applications across the web today.
When fine-dining-guide was being considered in late 2003, a website was by far the most common vehicle for providing and sharing content.
There were forums; where those with common interests gathered to share posts on topics of conversation. There were blogs; where people wrote interactive diaries and perhaps posted some photographs (however these were nowhere near the endemic levels we have witnessed over the past few years.) There was little else.
The job of a search engine was relatively simple.
In effect, subsequent to the development of google, should you have wished to find material about Michelin Two Star chef Claude Bosi then typing into the search facility “Claude Bosi Interview” would return a straight forward list of everything you might want to know about the chef.
In fact, as of May 2010, typing this into google continues to return the early 2009 Bosi interview with fine-dining- guide as the number one result.
The internet world has however, moved on significantly to a state where such a level of enquiry is little more than adequate. PR, marketing and brand management has become substantially more complex.
Consider for instance the website of a brand – say a person, a restaurant, a company or even fine-dining- guide – as merely the ‘information hub.’
There exists a multitude of spokes to that hub on the internet wheel of 2010: Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, WordPress and iTunes podcasts are “spokes” that are redefining the web universe and setting new challenges for search engines as well as marketeers.
Each spoke is likely to contain unique information about the brand to attract the new or existing customer. While a set of consumers will seek out a restaurant website directly, a subset or new set (within differing demographic or social groupings) will be attracted to any one or more of the spokes.
This is why we see brands of all colours and flavours posting unique content to these new outposts on the internet, taking restaurants as an example: chef’s news to twitter, video cooking masterclass to YouTube, special restaurant offers to facebook , cellar tasting notes to a WordPress blog.
The website of the chef’s restaurant may merely act as an information hub – or core advert – saying follow me on twitter, be a fan (or now like) on facebook, visit flickr, see video on youtube or comment on a WordPress blog or download a podcast from iTunes.
From a consumers perspective, searching becomes far more challenging, likewise the vendor must consider how to make the task of access to information as simple as possible.
Let’s say that at some point in the future, a consumer searched on a brand then the returned results would encapsulate all the content in the web universe – the hub and spokes – in a single neat and attractive listing.
So for example, you type into google “fine dining guide” and returned is the hub (website) as the number one result, with the description “A site aimed at like minded enthusiasts, focusing on the top end of the restaurant business” and underneath the little pictures of iTunes, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, WordPress and so on.
Clicking on one or any of the pictures would take you directly to the corresponding content page on the internet that represented the brand, fine dining guide.
Indeed, the logo of fine-dining-guide would appear as a ‘common theme’ of the brand together with the common strap line and common description.
This last point is fundamental as to how content makers can make life easier for next generation search engine – get meta data consistent! Having consistent titles, descriptions, logos and strap lines whenever and wherever content is posted.
This will enable the search engines to make simple correlations across different internet spaces and amalgamate into a single search content listing. So for those coming anew to the internet space for brand development, consider first your information hub – or core advert – then expand into the spokes of the internet universe in a methodical and consistent manner.
This will surely serve you best in both the present and the future and save you significant time and effort in replacing content descriptions at some point in the future to adhere to a consistent internet marketing strategy.
Be also aware that, for example, a byproduct of the twitter phenomenon is that the internet era is increasingly ‘immediate savvy’ – content must be new, unique and fresh – a headline is no longer enough, make content appealing, interesting and exciting or page views are at a risk of dwindling before they have begun!
This level of granularity is however, not as interesting as the general breathtaking speed of the internet universe development; of new social networking platforms building at pace before our eyes; of reach and touch of communications ascending proportions never before even dreamt.
One can only wonder, with a pinch of fear and a dash of excitement at the extraordinary path down which we are being led…