Hello, which “you” is reading this, how and where? As many others have observed in these articles, at no time has the mantra “be where the consumer is” been more relevant in our multi-channel world. But it’s not quite that simple.

Our access to information, and therefore advertising and messaging, pervades every part of our life, as Tony White put it in the recent #CXMChat Tweetjam (organized by CMSWire); quoting one of his customers, he said:

How many other opportunities do you have to communicate with a customer from his nightstand?"

It's About More Than Just Being There

Nice quote, and “the nightstand” could have been replaced by any obscure place or occasion where you might reach for your smartphone -- waiting for a friend in a bar or checking into Facebook on the train. But, is just being there enough? Is it enough to have a mobile website, an app and a Facebook page? Can we congratulate ourselves on a multi-channel marketing job well done if we’ve ticked these boxes?

In addition, planet “social media” is still forming; it’s crust occasionally starts to look like rock, something we can depend on, and then “boom,” there is a distant explosion, and we have another river of magma to ponder if that will form into our next mountain to climb or a rich seam of priceless marketing resources. For example, as I write this, Google+ has entered the social media fray, and the buzz suggests that it’s disrupting the established order.

To use the word “established” is strange for such a youthful technology, but I think some patterns are emerging. For example, broadly speaking, lots of folks I connect with consider Twitter for their work persona, broadcasting for public consumption; LinkedIn as a professional Rolodex; and Facebook for more intimate personal relationships. This is a crude rule, but it starts the ball rolling in terms of the subject of this article -- context.

Get the Context Right per Channel

If you are engaging with one of those folks that split their home and work personas by social media channel, then to make your message relevant, the context provided by the channel is going to be the critical first step.

For example, if you look at what the “Facebook me” talks about, you’ll find a favorite sports team, updates to traveling to home games, and where I eat and drink before the game. The professional “Twitter me” doesn’t mention any of these things,and to engage me publically on Twitter, exposing my sports allegiance feels (to me) like someone using my nickname in a business meeting.

I’ve emboldened the phrase “to me” to emphasize that I absolutely understand that my use of these social media channels is potentially different. Some folks do like to provide a blow-by-blow account of the agony and ecstasy of a ball game on Twitter, it’s just not me. Social media engagement is therefore not just about the context of the channel, but also about understanding that person’s use of that channel.

We can extend this, as context can be derived from location and services like FourSquare and Tripit, which provide another stream of contextual data about me that a marketer could use. But, again, the context of using that data is going to affect my level of engagement.

I only share Tripit information on Facebook and LinkedIn, and I only check-in to places through Facebook; I don’t make them very public. So, as a marketer that wants to ask me how my evening in Amsterdam went, don’t Tweet it if I didn’t.Context goes two ways.

I’ve given an example there of not crossing the social channels, but the information we use can be cross channel -- we just need to use it in context. I might tweet that I have had a bad flight, that I missed a connection and updated Facebook with a check-in to the airport hotel bar. How impressed would I be as a consumer if when I called to change my flight,the airline knew all this? I don’t mean overtly trumpeting an invasion of my privacy, but subtly made my life easier by offering me a free meal at the hotel or local restaurant?

Make Use of Content Variants

Talking of “channel” -- often when we talk about delivering content in the context of the channel, we are normally talking about repurposing content for mobile devices, creating a version of the web experience that is driven by the device, of creating a mobile-optimized variant of the content.

Ah yes, content variants. Well before I move on, I couldn’t mention that without at least a passing nod to locale and language. The primary use case for managing variants of the same content and the first place to start with relevance and context -- there is no point in emailing me in French.

Learning Opportunities

Language, locale, social media platform, mobile device, email, web (etc.) are all first-class channel citizens. Or at least could be, depending on your audience and marketing strategy. To tweak a phrase Robert Rose used in his last CMSWire article -- any multi-channel strategy that doesn’t have an engagement objective is a distraction.

As a content management professional thinking about context, “variants” is the key word here. As a marketer, how do I express my message to you on Facebook, on Twitter, on SMS?

I could blast 140 characters (or whatever is the lowest common denominator) across all of your channels. Or maybe I could have seven different initiatives.Or I could manage a library of related and relevantly packaged variants of the same message, ready to engage you when the time and channel are right.

Despite being confronted with this explosion of channels, we still need to enable the marketer to change the content in one place. The world turns, a phrase you use, a person you mention suddenly becomes inappropriate -- you don’t want to be chasing around playing “wack a mole,” trying to find every variant on every channel that mentions it, while desperately calling the agency that created that “oh so cool”Facebook or mobile app.

Make Sure Your CMS Can Handle the “Splinterweb”

The solution to publishing contextual content to the “splinterweb” cannot mean the “splinterWCM.” Our good ol’ down home CMS truths still apply, even on your fancy new social network.This, for all of our chat about WEM, CEM, CXM (etc.) is the foundation of engagement, the provision of an agile information architecture that enables marketing technologists to conjure up the right kaleidoscope of relevant content. Or as Forrester has recently defined it as:

…the management and delivery of dynamic, targeted, consistent content, offers, products, and service interactions across digitally enabled consumer touchpoints…"

And being “dynamic, targeted, consistent” is all in the context.

Editor's Note: You may also be interested in reading: