Why do we create content? This seems like a simple question. To make customers more successful? To provide more information about a product or service?
A closer look usually reveals more nuance than we might like to admit. Each business and use case—each person, place, and new technology—adds layers that can complicate the why.
Maybe it’s more useful to start with who. Who, specifically, do we create content for? And who (or what) ends up consuming that content at the end of the day? The answer is broader than simply “the customer.”
Internal and external customers
Let’s start by extending the definition of “customers” or “end users” to include both external and internal varieties. Yes, a prospect could be viewing knowledge base articles on their smartphone while walking around the supermarket. And yes, existing customers are definitely hitting your web self-service portal.
But it’s not just external customers that need troubleshooting information, setup instructions and product information. An internal customer, such as a customer support agent, might be accessing that same content to assist a customer over the phone. A sales representative might be emailing product docs that help inform prospects during the sales cycle.
Do we have all these people in mind when we create the content in the first place?
Much like trees falling in a forest, your content doesn’t make a sound if it lives on the tenth page of search engine results. If you want your audience to find your content, you need to consider Google part of that audience. Can the Googlebot crawl your content, follow your content structure and hierarchy, and determine relevance? The better suited your content is for search engines, the more likely Google is to surface that content for your audience where and when they look for it. The trick is writing content that is at once useful and optimized for search—product documentation, marketing materials, or otherwise.
Don’t forget robots
Yes, robots. We mentioned Googlebot, but there are other … non-human … members of your audience to consider. The future is now! According to Gartner, AI technologies will be in nearly every new software product by 2020. Chatbots are gaining wider use, especially in the context of self-service and customer support.
Why? Because bots can automate simple tasks, for one; in many cases, AI can perform these tasks faster and more efficiently than humans. That makes artificial intelligence an important consideration for content production. Because AI platforms need quality content to bring value to the humans interacting with them.
Optimize once, extend to all?
In the end, it has to be people-first, because it’s people we make content for first and foremost. When we know our audience, we can see to it that our content is actually useful to that audience. But the technologies that facilitate our delivery and consumption of content are becoming part of the audience, too. Without them, there’s no show. Treating them that way allows us to create content once and extend it to many different channels.
When we understand the who in this way, the why tends follow.