This may seem obvious to some but I come across many brands (big and small) who have yet to optimize their content distribution network. A content distribution network is sometimes referred to as the “hub and spoke” model of a brand’s web presence. The hub serves as the “base of operations” and could be a web page or blog. The spokes are the brand’s “off domain” web properties and can include sites like Facebook, Youtube, Flickr and Twitter. One trend I have noticed is that many brands are using their Facebook fan pages as the hub and leveraging multiple media channels to drive traffic and awareness to these pages. Friend and colleague Steve Rubel calls these “Digital Embassies.”
An optimized content distribution network tightly integrates the hub and spokes so that users can connect with a brand in the communities they choose. For example, if brand X’s hub is a blog, they should make it very easy for users/readers to connect with them in other communities. This is usually achieved either through editorial content or simple links w/icons somewhere visible on the web page.
The rise of social search is an important element to consider and what makes the network so important. YouTube surpassed Yahoo as the world’s #2 search engine a few years ago and it’s safe to assume that Facebook, Twitter and Flickr yield substantial search queries as well. It’s imperative for brands to have optimized content within these communities so they can be found in the search results. Optimization of these spokes should also include links back to the “base of operations” in case users want more information or want to connect with a brand more personally. Tight integration is the key to a successful content distribution network.
Real-time search has brought social media to search engines. With Twitter and Facebook updates now appearing in the Google search results, it’s important for brands to create content on a consistent basis in order to capture search engine real estate for relevant queries. This means that brands must be more strategic when posting messages and work closely with SEO teams to understand what keywords people are searching for relevant to the brand.
The end result of a well optimized content distribution network is social omnipresence; where brands have some level of presence in external communities. Rohit Bhargava talked about this four years ago when he wrote about the “5 Rules of Social Media Optimization (SMO)“, specifically “helping your content travel”. It’s still very relevant today. When a brand either creates content in a “digital embassy” or makes it VERY easy for content on their hub to travel, the end result is the same – social omnipresence, which is the first step in creating community and advocacy.
This by no means is a plea for brands to spam the community. The content created should be strategic, relevant and human (i.e. feeds are okay sometimes, but a real life human being — usually a community manager — should be the face and creating the content).