Aggregation of content as the first step in your online communications programme

March 26, 2009

Unless you’re involved in cement, sea salt, seeds, bricks, envelopes and the like, chances are there are relevant conversations happening online about your sector or the issues affecting it. Across the globe, experts and non-experts are likely asking and answering questions, putting their points across, or engaging in dialogue in blogs or forums about the very things you communicate about.

Does this matter? Yes, because the beauty of the web doesn’t lie in having another medium you can use to push your key messages. It lies in hyperlinking, aggregation and engagement – in short, all the other people out there who are communicating who you can connect to or whose content you can use, and who might use and spread your content too.

What’s my point? In short, if you run a campaign, hell, if you even just barely communicate, you should leverage this activity rather than just letting it happen and getting on with your own thing. You can take this as far as you like down the social media engagement path, but the best way to get started is to simply collect (aggregate) relevant content published by other people on their sites and blogs and showcasing it on your own.

By doing so, you’ll be adding value to your output by having more good quality content and you’ll hopefully have material that backs up your side of the story, giving you credibility in the process. What’s more, the people providing the content will be happy that you’re promoting them and might reciprocate, and best of all, it’s automated and done using free tools.

How do you get set up? Two basic steps:

  1. Listen. Establish a simple monitoring set-up so you can follow what’s going on around your issue in the blogosphere or from news sources published online. I won’t get into the details here, but in short, using free tools, you can pick up all relevant blog posts or news items on your issue, automatically via RSS, in what’s called an aggregator (Google Reader or Netvibes, for instance). It doesn’t take long, and once it’s running, that’s it, the process is automated.
  2. Publish the best aggregated material. Once you’ve listened for a while, you’ll know what bloggers (or whoever else) provides the best quality and most relevant material on your issue. Remove all the clutter from your aggregator and only provide material published by your trusted sources.

If someone is struggling to visualise an “aggregator”, have a look at Alltop. Alltop takes a number of terms, news items, people even (Barack Obama, for instance) and aggregates material from relevant sources on each, such as key sites, news sites and blogs.

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