Fortify the Content Hub

Illustrated

On the atomic level there are wandering x’s and wandering o’s. Both types are real people with some problem. X’s don’t know what their problem is. They’re really out there wandering — on forums, watching videos. X’s probably aren’t even asking friends yet because they don’t know how to phrase their question and they don’t want to annoy a friend by asking them something they themselves don’t know they need the answer to. Then there are O’s. O’s are expensive. They know what they need and have an idea of how they want to recieve it. They’re shopping solutions for their problem. They could be close to buying. They could be far. Point is, they probably see you. The O’s are the ones you target with ads.

The space these 2 are wandering is constantly expanding. It’s dark. It’s too much. It looks like this:

The X’s are out there in the cornfields running tripping over tree stumps and burning valuable time planting all the wrong seeds on forums and platforms, we’ll call them Outposts. That box in the center is the Hub. More on that later. Here is what this world looks like with Outposts:

Outposts include (but to the frustration of any content coordinator, are not limited to) :

  • SoundCloud, iTunes, aCast for audio
  • LinkedIn, Medium, Blogger for publishing articles
  • FourSquare, Yelp, Urbanspoon for complaining about food
  • AngiesList, Google Reviews and Yelp for complaining about service
  • ProductHunt, Reddit, Slideshare, YouTube for more stuff

And the outposts are where you capture the wanderers. To capture them isn’t to put them in a Pokeball or catch them on a line that’s been hanging in the sea while you sit back shirtless and finish multiple 6-packs of discount beer. You capture them by actually making them smarter. You make them more informed about the questions they have until they know what a solution might look like and, if you present yourself as you should in each Outpost (and each Outpost requires a slightly different presentation) they will follow you out of the Outpost and back into the Hub, where you will make them supremely knowledgable about this topic until they’re smart enough to a) hire you or b) convince somebody else, a decision maker if they’re not one or many decision makers if they’re friends with them, to hire you.

The Hub is where all the magic happens. Let’s look at the Hub:

Obviously this didn’t work out as I had envisioned. I’m using PhotoBooth to take quick pictures (it’s the night and I will take 0 extra steps) so instead of taking this with my phone I drew a dark box around the Hub, and the I, II and III symbols represent the 3 degrees beyond our Hub that contribute to its value.

Degree I is our immediate network. 1st degree connections, as LinkedIn would say.

Degree II is our 2nd and 3rd degree connectiosn.

Degree III is everybody else that could add value to the conversation, regardless of their location, business, ethnicity — anything. The only requirement to getting inside of that big box, degree III, is that you can contribute some tiny bit of knowledge to this whole thought process.

Our hub is that little black box. Content people are hired to make that black box as orange as possible. See how I made our little black box orange?

Orange is value. Value keeps people inside once they get inside. How do we make it valuable? Great question. We don’t do it by relying on the knowledge inside of our black box. We have to look outside, because other people look outside, and find more outside, and if we want to make a very orange black box, we need to bring some of that value from the outside and find a way to bring it inside. That is actually a lot of fun. You need to be creative. We’ll talk about that. First, bullet points.

I want to talk about 3 types of content. 3 breeds. Let’s think of this as a military because why not? There are three breeds of content:

  • Small Batch Original Frequent (or, SBOF) — these are the pawns. Tweets, Facebook posts, e-mails. High volume, quick digest, often just a preview of something that’s much bigger — Soldiers.
  • Soldiers are Original Reference Educational Weekly (or, OREW) — these guys could go on to do great things, like become an eBook, or a webinar, or a greater piece of content. They will also break themselves into little pieces and become SBOF. They are well-rounded team players that aspire to be Legends.
  • Legends are High Value, Share Too Much Lead Gen Docs (or, HBSTMLGD) — these will define the company’s expertise for wandering x’s and o’s. They are masterpieces. They tell the wanderer so much that he or she can’t help but wonder if we didn’t just give them everything. They leave thinking, “these guys are idiots. Why would I hire them now?”

These pieces (possibly more, that’s what edits are for, leave me alone it’s Friday night) form your Hub. When we capture wandering X’s and O’s at Outposts, and draw them in like the seductive rennaisance organization we are, they never want to leave. If we do a nice job, they learn so much in our hub that they eventually influence somebody who can hire us. This could a very long time. Think of recourses you use that you have never given any money to. I can think of several. If they know how much of a cheap bastard I was they would likely block my access to their amazing websites and blogs. Wanderers could come back dozens of times before they’re prepared to influence a decision maker or make a decision themselves. But we equip them with the knowledge. They come as frail, barely potty trained X’s:

and leave as knights wearing our knowledge armor:

Terrifying.

For purposes of the narrative, there are 2 type of organizations.

  1. The type that maximizes the Orangeness of their box from the inside and either avoids menitoning Degrees I, II and III for fear of referring potential customers to them or because they really think they can maximize the value from within. I have seen comapnies do incredible things from within. Imagine what Google could do with only knowledge from within. They could rebuild the Library in Alexendria with the knowledge between their own walls. It’s still not enough.
  2. Second, is the type that leads with others’ knowledge and complements it with their own. Podcasters today are the best example. Jason Lemkin of SaaStr is one of my content heros. For years he developed his own content on his blog and on Quora. We’ve all seen him, even those of us who aren’t interested in annual recurring revenue or churn rates or when a SaaS startup should hire a VP of Sales and when they should fire him, we’ve heard it if we’ve been on Quora for a while. Now Jason hosts conferences and an excellent podcast and builds his Hub by inputting value from Degrees I, II and III. I love the podcast. Here is a link.

You should be the second type. BUT, being the first type is really bleeping fun. Just consider the job of a “content coordinator”, which I think is just the best way to position yourself in the center of all human knowledge. You’re role as CC is to extract only the most interesting insights from only the people whom your organization has deemed insightful enough to pay. There are many filters that ideas have to get through before they reach you and you redistribute them to the Xs and the Os and your current followers. That’s really cool, and if you’re at Google, or Tesla, or Facebook, or The Gates Foundation, or there are so so so many more I could list, you are a coal miner mining all day except instead of mining rocks and getting dirty you are sitting in the air conditioning and listening to people talk. Pretty great, but eventually somebody outside of your organization will develop something that any X or any O will inevitably come across in their search for one of your solutions. There is no value, short-term or long, to pretending that value does not exist. Build on it, include it, develop a relaionship with the person who published it.

Make your Hub more orange. Like this:

Next I’ll cover Outposts in more detail. Outposts are really interesting and they’ll get their own color in my next article. Probably green.