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18 March

Best Practices for Explorable, Contextual Content Ecosystems


Plagued with clickbait and an abundance of content vying for readers’ attention, today’s users aren’t likely to spend much time determining whether a given piece of content is relevant. Brands must rebuild trust with users in saturated content ecosystems, while also making a value proposition for the data collection required to qualify more relevant recommendations. Opening content to provide users with the freedom to explore concepts more in-depth is a great way to maintain relevancy while also structuring content for omnichannel experiences.

Creating these experiences requires a continual state of testing, tweaking and experimenting for success—in essence, you’ll never be finished perfecting your recommendation engine or finding new ways to contextualize content. It might also require building a new CMS that is more adaptive and responsive to omnichannel content, something increasingly necessary for brands that rely on outdated content strategies that are siloed to single channels.

Think in Micro Moments

The consumer journey isn’t a straightforward path; rather, it’s a hopscotch across a sequence of brief, frequent interactions. These interactions are “micro moments”—the short flashes of inspiration that prompt users to check their devices (usually a smartphone) for quick bites of information. An example of a micro moment that has stuck is Taco Bell’s “fourth meal” concept—that time late at night in which many of us are craving something to eat, only to discover that few places are open. This moment is defined by recognizing a user need (hunger) and specific context (late at night) and a white space to fill (inform customers that the restaurant is open and ready for their order when cravings strike).

The important thing to remember about micro moments is that they aren’t just a launching point in the consumer journey; they’re frequent and often lead from one to another. When planning out a content strategy, think in micro moments and chart out a journey model that considers the full breadth of interactions users will seek across channels, touchpoints and devices. From there, you can build around those moments to provide a sense of continuity and divert users’ attention from one touch point to another.

Use Visuals to Direct Attention

Using visual cues helps to lead users’ attention and engage them quickly within the micro moments explained above. Users gauge relevance at a moment’s notice, and visuals help to draw in attention at a glance before providing them with the option to dive deeper.

We put this to action in designing and building Viacom’s site, which is a bit flashier and visually appealing than your typical corporate website. Using content to differentiate the brand, the dot-com features a carousel of high-impact images with headlines appended. Once users are hooked by the visuals, further content is recommended for them to click through and read.

For example, a post about SpongeBob’s fan-fueled appearance at the last Super Bowl (and the meme-fueled frenzy that sparked from) leads to another post about memes surrounding the character and his cultural legacy, as well as a year-end roundup of the most beloved digital content related to the brand. Holistically, this content highlights the relevance of Viacom’s sub-brands and IP, offered in a simple and engaging way.

Provide a Sense of Coherence

A key consideration when charting out a journey map or content strategy is to predict user behavior and contexts, then building content around that. When organizing or creating content, consider the questions that users might have, leading them from one piece to another—or to further steps down the sales funnel. This also ensures content recommendations remain faithful to user need and don’t come off as clickbait.

An elegant example of how to build added layers of contextualization allowing readers to dive deeper is Siemens’ Defending Against a Cyber Attack microsite, produced in collaboration with WP Brand Studio. Working with the brands, we helped realize an interactive WebGL experience that illustrates what can happen in a cyberattack in two scenarios. Due to the level of technical understanding required in such situations, it’s not the easiest thing to get across to lay readers. Thankfully, the microsite highlights terms and situations that users can hover over to receive definitions and added context, anticipating likely points of confusion or friction. When finished with the experience, users find a CTA that leads to the Siemens website, where they can check out the products and services that help solve the specific situations and challenges they just explored.

Brands should likewise open up avenues that let readers approach topics or subjects in more detail. This again highlights the need for starting with the top-down, macro view explained in the earlier best practices outlined above. Such a process guarantees the overall content architecture is reactive to the types of information users seek, allowing for more relevant content along a streamlined path to loyalty.

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