Make Content Consumption Social To Deliver More Organizational Value

By Ethan Yarbrough posted 01-18-2011 17:54


Making the discovery of relevant content easier and more efficient is one of the potential business benefits of Enterprise 2.0 systems. It's good for the company if employees can more quickly find and consume the content they need. And social computing technologies present us with the opportunity to turn content consumption from a transaction into a community enhancing activity.

But how does that happen.

From A Transactional Model To A Social Model

First an explanation of what I mean. In the transactional model of knowledge sharing a company posts documents or videos or other content to a location – think a share, an intranet, a portal -- where they can be accessed by the people who need them. That content can be viewed and downloaded and it may happen that it’s viewed and downloaded quite a lot. But no one ever knows how much it’s accessed. Because each download of the content is an individual act by the single person choosing that content. It’s a transaction: person accesses the site, finds the content they want, and takes it with them without any record they were ever there.

But as social computing has taken hold it has become clear that knowing what other people consider valuable content is valuable knowledge to have too.

The acknowledgement by a community that a piece of content is worth consuming changes the distribution pattern for that piece of content. After all, this is the principle behind the retweet.

Mining Content Use Patterns for Meaning

A couple weeks ago I posted the Microsoft Academy Mobile ROI Whitepaper to this blog and it was in reading that document that I came across the idea I’m discussing now.  Specifically, it was a passage on page 10 that caught my eye. Academy Mobile allows user ratings and comments on the podcasts hosted there. The authors of the whitepaper discuss the organizational impact of increasing numbers of downloads and the corresponding increase in content ratings:

The parallel growth of downloads and ratings means that the learners are doing more than simply consuming knowledge; they are actively engaging in the knowledge publication process by rating a SME’s (subject matter expert’s) knowledge and ability to convey that knowledge to the community at large.

When your organization has only a transactional knowledge sharing model, consumption of the content is the end state.  It serves the consumer but no one else.

On the other hand, when you have a social knowledge sharing model, consumption of the content can be a contribution to a community awareness of what represents the most useful, relevant and important content. Consumption gives back.

The Retail Analogy To This Content Strategy

So I’m suggesting moving content consumption away from transactional model and interestingly, there’s an analogy to be found for what I’m describing in the standard behavior of online retail transaction web sites. Go buy something at and you’ll be presented with a list of recommendations: “Other customers who bought this item also bought….” What I’m describing here is applying that same recommendation approach to content consumption.  When a user downloads a piece of content, show them what else their predecessors have downloaded after downloading the content the user has just chosen. If your site users have profiles and login credentials show them what content other members of their profile cohort have downloaded.

Knowledge Is Power

The transactions that occur within your content system are a resource to you. Tracking them, mining them for patterns and exposing those patterns can make the reach and the usefulness of the content far greater than it would be if each download remained a hidden, one-off transaction and nothing more.

#SocialBusiness #content #contentsharing #ContentManagement #contentdelivery