Content Strategist vs. Content Analyst

By: Guest | November 29, 2011 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Tim Otis.

It’s no secret we’re overwhelmed with content.

But where is all the good content? How do you define it? And most importantly, how do you ensure you’re not consuming content that turns out to be a total waste of your time?

Stories come and go. And they become the inspiration for other stories strewn about people’s social feeds and channels.

What separates you from the last guy who just shared a link is you’re not buying into it right away because you understand your other role aside from “content strategist” – the role of an analyst.

The Analyst Role

The role of an analyst is to understand the landscape and have a gauge on where things are going next. Analysts are thorough in their research and don’t make assumptions until they know all the perspectives, and in this case, all the conversations.

We need to take the same approach in digesting content. Why? Just look at how many pieces of content are pushed out daily, and the percentage of that content that isn’t original, rather regurgitated or aggregated from something someone else said.

You read it and like it because you like that person and their postings. Fair enough.

However, there is this “first-there” fight on the social web and it’s the biggest offender of content that is wasteful. A lot of what we read by our friends, followers – and post ourselves – is posted prematurely.

We don’t look very smart when we recommend something to a client based on a post or an article we read, which, in a month, becomes obsolete.

Case in point: The launch of question-answer platform Quora, whose plateau rate turned out to be not that far behind Google Buzz. Yet we saw countless articles about how this platform could be a break-through, innovative platform for market research and would alleviate costs for on-site focus groups.

In traditional print, how about that AT&T and T-Mobile merger that doesn’t seem to be panning out? Yet, it was the hot topic for many investor publications, and earlier, top-tier dailies such as The New York Times. While this story did involve many an analyst’s perspective, it’s a great example of how we easily get carried away by news and how that news becomes a conversation that trends, plateaus, and then dies.

Given our current consumption habits, the social web seems to be missing the analytical component and it needs to be added to the conversation. Desperately.

Digesting content shouldn’t be about the next best thing or being first in the conversation limelight on Twitter. It’s about taking a step back and going with your prognosticating gut to avoid the reality of time you can’t get back. Sure, this may require some initial research on your part, but I guarantee you that by doing so, you’ll be much more ahead than others.

To be good at social media, that doesn’t mean you have to comment/like/share what everyone’s talking about. It means you’re there and listening, and in some cases, taking a critical eye – and ear – to shared content.

Tim Otis is supervisor of social media and PR for Gabriel deGrood Bendt, a full-service marketing agency based in Minneapolis. Alongside a tenacious team of always-thinkers, Otis manages all social and traditional communications initiatives for a variety of CPG brands. In his spare time, he is a musician and foodie and advocate for time well spent in social networks. 

  • If it’s on the web, it must be true, right?

    This is a big big issue and thanks for bringing it up here. Too often people want to be the first to share something and it’s how rumors get started, and false news passed around. I was watching Wolf Blitzer the night Osama Bin Laden was killed and we had known for HOURS before CNN would confirm it to be true. I had to respect their attention to detail even though they were a bit late. All that online chatter could have just as easily been false.

    While I don’t see us digging up the source and verifying the truth every time we share something, there does need to be a level of responsibility when we curate content.

    • @Lisa Gerber The one cool thing that I’ve noticed about the social web is that because there are so many checks and balances in place, it seems to be rather quick at self-correcting. For instance, if someone reports on Twitter that Justin Bieber has died, or whatnot, there will be those who will retweet it, but many others who will question and seek to verify, and with the web, we can verify rather quickly.

      • @KenMueller this is true, and then, there is the “Free tickets on Southwest Airlines….” that gets shared and does damage before the truth is uncovered.

        If it’s too good to be true, it is too good to be true.

        • @Lisa Gerber Wait, so that “Win a Date with ginidietrich contest on Facebook isn’t true? oh, you said TOO GOOD to be true. So then it’s real…

  • joecardillo

    Vetting information is something print media owned for a long time, I’m wondering how much you think that’s a part of the content analyst role? Is there some other place that’s supposed to happen?

    There’s so much information out there and it seems like with traditional media consolidating/downsizing we’re seeing less vetting… seems sensible on the surface, but can we truly crowdsource that sort of thing?

    @Lisa Gerber and @KenMueller curious to hear what you think too….

    • @joecardillo@Lisa Gerber In my earliest incarnation I was a radio journalist, and the gatekeeping function of the news media was pretty darn powerful. If we decided not to cover a story, well, then it just wasn’t news and might as well not have happened.

      In some ways, the vetting process is now done by all of us. For instance, if Lisa decides to retweet something, I might give that a bit more weight because I trust her guidance, than I would give to someone else. She might be retweeting something I never would have found on my own. Plus, with crowdsourcing and Google, the info we want or need is just a click away. In some ways, the search engine algorithms do some of the vetting for us.

      So, ultimately, we can choose to vet things for ourselves, let others do it for us, or a combination of both. And I think the last of those three options is what happens for most of us.

      • joecardillo

        @KenMueller The third option is how I operate as well. I think the ability to vet material in addition to trusting others is a strong selling point for those of us who like to know what we consume. I guess my hesitation is that since it’s a less formal process there’s more room for things to slip by. But there are upsides too of course.

    • timotis

      @joecardillo@Lisa Gerber@KenMueller The role of content analyst is to not just look at content for the sake of pass-along but rather investigate to see if the pass-along is based on credible, accurate, and most importantly, non-hasty claims. If it’s shared with haste, it likely needs some investigation. And we’re not just talking about credible content, we’re talking about GOOD content — the stuff that’s worth a read because it outlasts the frenzy it first received on the social Web. My bigger argument here is to not act quickly in an effort to share news because in this micro world of content tidbits, news changes on a dime. That’s something traditional media is constantly trying to stay ahead of. No one can really. We all just need to wait and see where the story goes…

  • ginidietrich

    Hey Tim! Thanks for the guest post!

    I’m in the middle of re-reading Groundswell and I find it interesting that they recommend you read blogs in order to find fodder…that it’s good to repeat what others are saying for your own audiences.

    That said, I’m with you about critical thinking. Too many content creators are simply repurposing someone else’s thoughts without putting their own take or opinion on it. I’d love to see more thought and differing opinions (and debate, but that’s a different blog post).

    • timotis

      @ginidietrich Thanks, Gini again for the opportunity. I’d just like people to be more mindful of how it’s better to not always jump the gun with sharing content. Let’s be smarter, more ahead of the curve and not “regurgitate” the well 😉

      • ginidietrich

        @timotis I mentioned this blog post in a podcast I did with hackmanj yesterday. I think it’s really important for all of us to use our critical thinking skills.

        • timotis

          @ginidietrichhackmanj Very kind of you. Can you send me the link to the podcast. I’ll promote!

        • @timotis@ginidietrich I just posted the episode summary Tim, it should show up under this paragraph as “My latest conversation”. Thanks.

        • timotis

          @hackmanj@ginidietrich Fantastic. Yes, it is!

      • timotis

        @ginidietrich Bah, I mean wheel!

  • fergusonsarah

    For me one good thing that I’ve noticed about the social web is that because there are so many checks and balances in place.

  • I feel that its more important to reject content from certain sources than read content from important ones. The former takes up all our time and actually hampers the latter.

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