How Much Do You Need to Know?

There’s a persistent problem with content-based (i.e., effective) means of driving traffic to your site: the people who know about the subject aren’t always the ones who can do the content.

A client told me yesterday, “The problem with these things is that they always end up putting more work on our plate.”

I see his point. He makes software, and here he is fixing up his website and redesigning his user interface and putting out a newsletter (or at least overseeing people who do those things), and I’m suggesting that forum participation might be good for the company. What’s more, I’m telling him that I probably can’t participate usefully in a forum of hardware guys talking about his product, which I’ve never used and probably never will use, since I don’t have my own servers.

“Usefully” is key here. Another thing I did yesterday was to sign on a new client who has been having people visit forums and drop random links for the company. I could do that for the software company, but a forum post saying, “What do you guys think about SoftwareX? Click on the link to download your free copy and try it out!” is not useful to anyone. Nor will it generate traffic. It will mostly just make you look shady, especially if you run around the internet posting it hither and yon under multiple names with accounts that have no other activity besides that. This new client is just going to have to give that up.

And yet, the people who have the knowledge to participate effectively in forums may be the very people who can’t be spared to do so. The people who have the knowledge to write that newsletter may be the very ones who are least able to explain their knowledge.

What’s the solution?

  • Delegate what can be delegated. Another of my activities yesterday involved sorting out animal biologicals for a specialized directory. While it’s true that I wouldn’t, off the top of my head, be able to tell you what western blotting (mouse or otherwise) has to do with neuroscience, I’m perfectly capable of recognizing the term and knowing that the biologicals company I’m working with has the stuff. It makes more sense to have an information worker like me filling out the complex computer form than to pull a scientist out to struggle with it. Let the company’s specialists continue getting those sheep livers ready for shipment, and leave the linkbuilding to someone like me.
  • Collaborate on things that need your input. It takes the software maker’s hardware guys several hours to write a page of copy, and it’s frankly not that scintillating when they finish. However, they can spend a few minutes jotting down notes and I can write the article in twenty minutes. Not only is it cheaper to pay me for twenty minutes than to pay the hardware guys for three hours, but the opportunity cost of having the hardware guy away from his green lights for several hours can be significant — enough so that sometimes the alternative to having me write the page is not having the page written at all. You may also find that scheduling time to answer questions is a good investment: one efficient Q and A session can provide enough information for many pages of content.
  • Coordinate your own efforts. If your topic is highly specialized, it’s possible that you’re going to have to have some input into the process of creating content. That shouldn’t mean that you have to write things yourself, though, if you have a writer. You should be able to shoot a quick email off when you have an idea, or when a customer asks a question, or when you notice a news report which your writer might have missed. Taking a few minutes to do this can save you lots of time in the long run. You can also give your writer access to memos or meetings, with no extra time investment. And you can put the time-consuming things on your calendar at some point when it’s practical to do so, rather than trying to fit them in at busy times.

In the long run, it’s worth a bit of effort. But lessening that effort is a sensible goal.






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