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May 20, 2016

Great Examples Of Distributed Content Management In Product Companies

Thought by Hank VanZile, Director, Pre-Sales Consulting
Twitter - Drupal

Welcome to the fifth post in my series on Distributed Content Management.  In previous posts I’ve defined the concept and provided some great examples of Distributed Content Management use cases in higher education, the pharmaceutical industry and media and entertainment companies.  In today’s post I’ll wrap up my industry-specific use cases by investigating ways in which product companies can use Distributed Content Management to improve their approach to everything from internationalization of their websites to managing community contributions. 

Setting The Scene

Product websites, whether for physical or virtual products, must ultimately influence their visitors.  For direct-to-consumer products, the goal may be a direct conversion - to get the visitor to buy/download the product.  Business-to-business products often have a more complex buyer’s journey, starting with something as seemingly minimal as driving the visitor to contact the company for more information.  Within the digital sphere, companies whose products are extensible platforms or systems may be seeking not only end-users, but developers or contributors to expand on the value of their initial offerings.  In all of these scenarios, the content presented to the user must be keenly adapted to the task at hand and, with products especially, must co-exist with information available from external sources.  Carefully planning their approach to Distributed Content Management - to the point of expanding what they may consider content - is a key tool for a product company’s success.

Use Case 1: A Multi-System Approach to Product Experience Management

Many web platforms strive to be all-in-one solutions for a product’s online presence; however, savvy product companies recognize that they can build a superior web experience by integrating multiple systems and relying on their core strengths.  A common example of this for product companies is around enterprise e-commerce systems (such as Demandware, Magento, or BigCommerce).  All of these solutions provide some level of content management and layout control; however, larger organizations that make heavy use of Distributed Content Management staples such as content re-use and custom publishing workflows may find the out-of-the-box tools duplicative or not sophisticated enough for their processes. Luckily, these systems allow organizations to interact with them programmatically through APIs and many provide pre-built connectors to popular content management systems such as Drupal and WordPress.  By integrating e-commerce tools with powerful content management systems, product companies can have the best of both worlds for both their internal processes and customers’ experience.

Use Case 2: Internationalization of Product Websites

Entry-level internationalization may be achieved with a single website and automated text translation; however, as a product company’s reach expands so may the sophistication of their internationalization strategy - and that can impact their needs for Distributed Content Management.  A simple example of this may be the transition between automatic translation technology (such as Google Translate, Lingotek Inside or Translate.com’s Website Translator) and content management provided by native-speaking editors.  Native-language content production, with its cultural nuances and idiomatic expressions, can provide a far superior experience to a website’s visitors but introduces a number of elements to a company’s Distributed Content Management strategy. For example, how will translated content fit within the company’s existing publishing workflow?  How will different language teams coordinate around new pages and content?  Taking this further, companies that produce physical products often have unique product lines in different geographical regions, a reality that necessitates a decentralized management strategy with close coordination around company-wide content.

Use Case 3: Curating Other People’s Content

More so than ever before, potential customers have easy access to a flood of content about a product before they decide whether or not to use it.  For a company’s digitally-inclined customers, Amazon’s Q&A and reviews, YouTube videos and even social media interactions with a company have become key elements guiding their decision making.  Attentive product companies actively manage these external sources: answering questions on Amazon, providing high-profile bloggers and YouTube producers with review copies of products, etc., but companies interested in further differentiating themselves are beginning to recognize that the content produced on these channels should be part of their Distributed Content Management strategy.  For example, Twitter actively promotes itself as a customer service platform, citing not only its “unparalleled reach,” but the fact that its conversations can be “embedded across other media.” However, many content strategists promote this same approach for curating testimonials.  Curating and embedding tweets in which a user speaks positively about a company’s product is a great example of managing distributed content to increase potential buyers’ social trust in a product.

Use Case 4: Content For Contributors and Existing Customers

Prospective users are not the only audience for product companies.  Physical product companies, especially those making electronics, often provide access to support resources, such as frequently asked questions and downloadable product manuals. Companies that produce digital products may offer software downloads and updates or, in the case of open products, API and developer documentation.  With each of these areas comes important decision around a company’s approach to Distributed Content Management.  Will product support require registration?  If so, what external system integrations are required to share the appropriate content with the user?  Will developers be able to contribute documentation?  If so, what kind of publishing workflows will be in place in for community-contributed content?  While each new audience brings additional considerations around Distributed Content Management, it also increases the opportunities to improve a product’s digital experience and extend its reach.

What’s Next?

Now that we have sufficiently explored industry-specific use cases for Distributed Content Management, I’ll move on to discussing prerequisites for proper planning.  Thoughts or questions?  Reach out in the comments below or tweet them to me at @HankVanZile.

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