Your content must build your own business, not someone else’s

Mark Schaefer wrote a post advising a “liquid” content strategy, with content posted only on various rented, third party platforms and not on a site that you own. This is diametrically opposed to the hub and spoke (or “spine”) strategy I support. In the hub and spoke model, your content lives in your hub (usually a website or blog) and is shared elsewhere (third-party spokes). Imagine your entire content team spinning their wheels — and your budget — in a constant search for “woo” to accommodate this pseudo strategy. It’s not sustainable.

This concept might work quite well for companies like Groupon, but B2B companies or companies that need to convey complex ideas will find little success scrambling after the next shiny object that has captured the public’s attention. Rather than frantically posting original content on third-party platforms first, like so many corporate lemmings, consider the fickle audiences the platforms are attempting to capture and realize that to do so is to support the quest of the platform for relevance and business longevity in the face of mutable tribes – not necessarily to support your company’s best interest.

Savvy companies need a content strategy based on trust and ownership. Ownership of your content comes first. The bulk of your best content should live on a platform that you own. No matter how seemingly stable the shiny third-party platform, you have no control over its terms of service, copyright issues, privacy of user data, access to user information, scale, or even their longevity. Placing all of your eggs in someone else’s basket puts you (and your business) at their mercy.

Paradoxically, leveraging these third–party platforms most effectively requires trust. In this case, I’m not talking about trusting the platform – I’m talking about trusting your team. Determine the platforms that will have the most use for your needs: marketing, sales, customer service, thought leadership, community building, and product feedback. Give your team loose guidelines for each, as well as access to the tools they need to do their jobs (including design, style guides, editorial guides, image rights management, and content creation and editing tools). Then get out of their way.

A great editorial team is going to know when and how to create your best content and then adapt it for each platform, and when not to. This excellent team is also going to know how to generate real-time content, as appropriate.  A fantastic community manager will know how to leverage the community’s content, thus building engagement. A savvy social sales person will know how to generate leads from paid, owned, earned and rented media. A superb customer service rep will know how to offer support and empathy in a social media setting, in a time frame the customer understands.

In short, what causes companies the most pain is not the challenge of maintaining multiple, continuously changing platforms – it’s the pain of leaving bureaucracy, land grabs, and office politics behind; killing inefficient approval processes; and generally getting out of the way of a great team.  New shiny platforms have their uses. Trust your team to identify the right ones, and fret less about converting every piece of content into a platform-specific tidbit.

This post also appeared on LinkedIn and Medium today.