Big Content no image

Published on May 29th, 2012 | by Rahel Bailie

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Move over, Big Data. It’s time for Big Content.

It took me a while to figure out how to frame this topic. I’ve had it kicking around in my mind for a month or so. As the Big Design conference approaches, it occurred to me that the idea fits nicely with the notion of Big Design. This is about Big Content.

Just as Big Design is consideration of design beyond the site (or the product), Big Content is consideration of content beyond the copy, and even beyond the content. It’s a consideration of the infrastructure and related elements that support the production and management of content. Consider the following scenario.

The organization is a consumer business that has come to realize that its reputation relies heavily on social media. The organizations has woken up to the value of capturing our warm-and-fuzzy feelings. The organization started a Facebook page, and encourages patrons to engage through the application of their choice:
“Like us on Facebook.”
“Check in to FourSquare for special offers.”
“How was your meetup? Rate it now.”
“How was your experience? Write a review on Yelp.”

Funny thing about user-generated content, though. A content strategist may be tasked with curating the content that comes in, and possibly with increasing positive feedback while amicably dealing with negative feedback. But what happens if the supporting infrastructure isn’t set up to help with those efforts?

Let’s look at human behaviour when it comes to user feedback. Positive feedback is very temporaneous: when users feel good about an experience now, they will give feedback now. Conversely, when users have a bad experience, they are more likely to hold onto that feeling of indignation until they feel heard. This often takes the form of negative feedback, and may get reported a day or two later, or more, particularly if the poor customer experience was unacknowledged or unresolved.

For organizations that increasingly depend on user-generated content as part of their marketing strategy, it’s important for them to (a) get users to generate content and (b) get users to generate content that reflects well on their customer experience. In other words, building an environment that encourages users to give immediate feedback should increase the number of instances of positive feedback.

So how can organizations make sure they’re not unwittingly weighting their content toward the negative, and instead, encouraging the positive comments? Compare these two recent situations:

  • While in Hawaii, I had my data plan turned off to avoid the exorbitant roaming charges for which Canada is known. Every time I would find myself wanting to share my location or my delight with a find, I would ask, “Do you have wifi”? If the answer was yes, I would log in and share. If the answer was no, I would make a mental note to do it later – but as you might imagine, by the time I got back to the hotel, I had abandoned my resolve. In fact, an entire day at an attraction went without note, though it was a thoroughly engaging experience, because of lack of easy access to the internet. Another, less interesting event got lots of coverage, including a video upload to YouTube, because the coffee shop where we happened to be hanging out had wifi.
  • Conversely, when a bad experience in a restaurant fell on deaf ears, I offloaded my frustration on a social media site. Of the four people at the table, the other three got their lunches delivered; mine had not arrived by the time the others had almost finished their meals. I cancelled my order and left before my dining mates. Later, I pulled up a site known for its restaurant reviews, found the listing, and started my review with: Worst service ever.

So beyond the call for content is the call for an infrastructure that supports the creation and submission, shaping and management, and publication and curation of that content. The content remains the center of attention – it’s what users will react to and consume, for sure. For this reason, content should not be constrained or limited by factors such as hardware limitations, software shortcomings, or bad data inputs (and therefore bad data outputs).
Some may say that goes beyond content strategy and call it digital strategy. I simply call it smart business.


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About the Author

Rahel Anne Bailie is a synthesizer of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase the ROI of content. She has consulted for clients in a range of industries, and on several continents, whose aim is to better leverage their content as business assets. Founder of Intentional Design, she is now the Chief Knowledge Officer of London-based Scroll. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she has worked in the content business for over two decades. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits, and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy, and is working on her third content strategy book,



3 Responses to Move over, Big Data. It’s time for Big Content.

  1. Pingback: Content strategy in context at Anna Wahrman

  2. Susan Boyer says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation today in the STC Tech Comm Content Strategy in the Mobile Device Age virtual conference. I especially related to the idea of developing content that tells a story. Your best example was the beautiful web design for system checker that had no data for headache. Made me LOL. My favorite slid was Content in context. To me, context is everything. You made attending today’s sessioni really enjoyable!

  3. Rahel Bailie says:

    Glad you enjoyed. Just for the record, I engineered the search so that nothing would come up for headache, for demonstration purposes. And indeed, context is everything! (Someone said if content is king, context is queen – I don’t remember who, though.)

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