2010 was the year that businesses were introduced to the idea of managing web experiences in the sense that they were encouraged to actually do something about it. 2011 has been the year that organizations tried to do that something -- with varying degrees of success.

Last year around this time, Marisa Peacock wrote an article called “A Look Back at Web Engagement in 2010.” In it, she outlined the key areas that had been covered on the topic of “Web Experience Management” throughout the year. The article highlighted that 2010 had brought us:

  • An abundance of new publishing and social channels that we need to manage.
  • The idea that these new channels operate on a two-way, conversational basis, and we now must closely monitor and manage that conversation.
  • These conversations need to be customized, personalized and optimized.

Over the past year, businesses have added more blogs, social media channels and mobile web sites. They have looked hard at the mobile app vs. mobile web strategy. Web teams have continued to decentralize content, adding specialized content management systems, and globalizing web strategy. This year saw almost every CMS vendor pivot and reposition their message on how they would solve the web experience management challenge by providing more and more features. Businesses were encouraged to produce more and more, and yet more content for marketing, testing, personalized, customer service and SEO purposes.

In short -- 2011 was a year focused on MORE.

In 2012, More Will Not Be Enough

As we move into 2012, the worlds of collaboration, information management and experience management will only get more complex. The growth of content strategy as a practice, content governance as a process, and the idea of content as a valuable asset that should be managed carefully, only reinforces the idea that the quality of our collaboration, the information and the experiences we want to create are going to be a big priority.

This was recently captured very well in a post by Seth Godin (who popularized the topic of “permission marketing"), entitled “Getting serious about the attention economy.”

Every interaction comes with a cost. Not in cash money, but in something worth even more: the attention of the person you're interacting with. Waste it -- with spam, with a worthless offer, with a lack of preparation, and yes, with nervous dissembling, then you are unlikely to get another chance.”

Consider this from the web point of view:

Every Web “Experience” Is Precious

At this year’s Gilbane Conference on Content Management, in a session on web engagement management, Senior Analyst Scott Liewehr essentially confirmed Godin’s view when he said, “the biggest risk to engagement is the failure of a single interaction.”

There is real value in this. Web managers spend inordinate amounts of time optimizing their websites to be found -- but not enough time on what actually happens once they are found. In 2012, organizations need to really focus their efforts on what kind of experience consumers will have once they arrive.

Web page content has mere seconds to engage the user and hold their attention. If web content is hard to consume, stale or filled with errors, it will be a struggle to keep users engaged. The Stanford University “Web Credibility Project” conducted a few years ago found that web site content mistakes are one of the top ten factors that reduce a site’s credibility. A key conclusion was that “typographical errors have roughly the same negative impact on a website’s credibility as a company’s legal or financial trouble.”

And this focus of quality feeds back into SEO strategy as well. As website owners are discovering, more content does not equal better results. With Google’s Panda and subsequent updates in 2011, content quality -- including spelling, grammar, consistency and “shareability” should all factor into search strategies in 2012.

Finally, this focus on engagement and quality will also extend into social media channel plans. In 2012, brand marketers who want to improve engagement on their social media properties will need to ensure that their content remains accurate, consistent and usable across all of the channels they manage.

Your Content Strategy Is Already Fragmented

The practice of content strategy is moving from the “why” to the “how.” The number of companies hiring specialists focused on strategically managing content is rapidly increasing.

And, as these professionals will tell you, they are not going into these organizations and creating green field strategies. They are, in most cases, repairing a process that’s fragmented and broken. At the Content Strategy Forum in London earlier this year, Martin Belam, the lead User Experience and Information Architect at Guardian News & Media, illustrated this very well in his session called “Taking Content Strategy To People Who Already Think They Have One.” Martin discussed how fragmented workflow processes and standards are common. They have now centralized and simplified their processes at the Guardian’s website.

But in the enterprise, not all content is created as equal. And in many enterprises, the number of workflows and governance processes can match (or sometimes even exceed) the number of content channels being managed. And while a simplified workflow and content management strategy makes the process easier and more fluid, there is a corresponding increase in the risk of “mistakes.” For regulated industries or those that have less tolerance for compliance or content quality mistakes, this may lead to big challenges. The net result is that many organizations overcompensate and even the simplest social media or blog update can mean a complex, draconian approval process.

In 2012, that level of delay on content publication just isn’t tenable. To maintain a high level of engagement across content channels will need much more fluidity. So, to achieve the confidence and security needed, balanced with the flexibility desired, organizations would be wise to stratify their content governance and strategies. This means applying velvet gloves for some content -- and the iron hammer for others. Content monitoring processes can also, of course, help to provide ongoing confirmation that a more loosely based workflow and approval process is continuing to work.

Multi-Channel Content Management Now Goes Both Ways

In the amusing television ad for Ebay, the enterprise worker feels “left out” because he’s the only one at a conference table without a tablet device. One of his co-workers sums it up by saying “Sorry I’m late, I was just in the 16th century looking for Pete’s pen.”

The Yankee Group just published a paper called “2012 Mobility Predictions: A Year of Living Dangerously” (registration required) in which they conclude that mobile enterprise workers will embrace tablets, smartphones and cloud services at unprecedented levels.

While this opens up many new opportunities for improving the ease, quantity, efficiency and even contextual relevance of the information managed -- it also opens up an incredible amount of risk for managing content quality. This risk goes well beyond just how well the CMS can facilitate these new interfaces, but is actually increased by the very ease that these new interfaces enable. It may manifest itself as a snafu as UK Vodafone and Chrysler discovered with a foul-mouthed employee with a “publish” button on his mobile phone. Or, it may reveal itself as just a confusion of new interfaces issue like the Red Cross discovered when an employee accidentally published a drunken tweet to the wrong account while outside the office. The point is that new monitoring and quality policies will have to be put in place in order to manage the explosion of both display and new publishing interfaces.

More Is Easy -- Quality Is Harder

In November, Magus conducted a study of 200 website owners. We found that only 13% of the respondents were confident that their sites were error free. And almost 90% of them admitted to consistency issues with branding, poor usability and accessibility and compliance errors.

The big benefits of all the content tools which enable more effective collaboration, easier content creation and more rapid publication have all been realized. In 2011, it’s just simply easier to manage and publish content. But in 2012, we need to realize that it’s easier for everyone. Now that everyone has these tools, quality control and governance processes need to be put into place so that these tools can be used most effectively.

The focus in 2012 should be both to make sure that what is being published represents the organization in the best, approachable and most accurate way possible; and that when it’s not, there is a way to know about it immediately. That’s the way that content will rise above the noise, engage consumers, allow more efficient collaboration and enable content marketing to take a big step towards success in 2012.

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