When Charles Darwin introduced the idea of the ‘survival of the fittest’ it presumed a certain kind of biological competitiveness, an implication that only the self-serving and strongest would reach the top.
Further studies, both in biology and sociology, have revealed a far more complex system at work; a system where altruism and co-operation are beneficial from a social level right down to a genetic level.
Collaboration is a key tool in humankind’s success. The nomadic and shy caveman would have gotten very hungry very quickly without the help of others to find food and firewood. ‘Ug,’ he might have said, disappointedly.
Working Together: Collaborative content has both implicit and explicit benefits
What have cavemen got to do with content? Well, other than the increasing trend amongst content marketers for unruly beards, we can learn a lot from the collaborative instincts of our Neanderthal ancestors. Working together works. And some of the most powerful content you can produce comes from joining forces with others.
What is collaborative content?
We class collaborative content as working with others in some way. And we’ll be focussing on these four main types:-
- Joint blog posts
- Guest blogs
1. We’re a communicative bunch, us humans. We love to chat. More so, we love to learn. Interviews are a perfect way to get some insight into a problem, issue or area of expertise. Now, we all like to think we know what we’re talking about, I’m sure many of you do. However, you simply can’t know it all. By chatting to an expert in a certain field, you can learn a hell of a lot more.
- You may like: Top 11 tips for the perfect interview
Let’s say you’re the boss of a firm which manufactures car engines for road vehicles. You have a wealth of knowledge but you’d like to produce a blog about say, engines for F1 cars and how their performance differs from yours. Sure, you could research a bunch of facts, figures and stats online. Even better would be to talk to an engineer who actually works with F1 cars. Their insight would be an invaluable addition to your blog.
2. Sticking with the car engine manufacturer, let’s say you want to investigate local race tracks or track days. What better way to look into this than create a profile on the tracks themselves? Talk to the person in charge, find out about the track itself. Make the post about something other than you and what you do.
Taking the mic: Interviews are one of the most powerful collaborative tools in your blogging arsenal (image via Wikimedia commons)
3. Joint blog posts are an incredibly powerful tool for companies. Bringing things a bit closer to home, let’s say we want to direct a post at a small business interested in building their brand. Future Content can offer advice on the content marketing efforts for that company but that’s a small piece of a much larger pie.
What about branding? Website design? Social media? SEO? We can certainly talk about these things, our content marketing adventures have taken us into all these different places. But there are companies who solely specialise in these areas. Why not get them all involved in the creation of a blog post or, better still, an in-depth white paper?
4. Whilst not an out and out collaboration, someone else is doing the work of course, guest blogs are still a fantastic way to increase your profile. If your blog consists of you, and you alone, talking about your area of expertise, it can start to get stale. A guest writer can bring in their own style and their own knowledge both of which can add value to your content collateral. Not to mention easing the burden of content creation for you.
Why should you use collaborative content?
The benefits and impact of collaborative content are both explicit and implicit.
Explicitly, collaborative content such as interviews and profiles can reach a much larger audience. As well as your ‘fans’ (i.e. people who follow you on Twitter, Google+ etc.) you have the added benefit of getting your collaborator's fans involved. These people will be drawn to your interview or profile, allowing the post to reach people who otherwise may not have come to your blog.
Nice Cave, Man: Altruism and collaboration is an inherent human trait. Harness it (image via Wikimedia Commons)
If you have 500 followers on Twitter and your interviewee has nearly 5,000, the potential reach of that piece is phenomenal. Not all of the followers are going to come to your site, but some will. And from that group a percentage will like what they see (we’re presuming you have a whole bunch of other excellent content on your site right?), follow you on social media, become engaged with your brand. The next time they need a car engine (or another example), you’ll be front of mind.
For more implicit value, collaborative content shows you off as a business who likes working with others, likes to communicate, is excited by the thought of collaboration. A friendly and open organisation.
There’s a huge change in thinking in the business world right now; a move away from hardcore competitiveness to co-operation. Look at the work of Margaret Heffernan for instance. In her recent book A Bigger Prize she argues that competition often doesn't work and, in fact, regularly produces just what we don't want: rising levels of fraud, cheating, stress, inequality and political stalemate. See more below.
How to produce collaborative content
This is perhaps the best part of collaborative content creation: it’s really easy. You already know people in your field you can interview or profile. You know your market better than we possibly can. Think of those names who could provide some real insight and expertise to your clients and simply, get in touch.
Start with a phone call, explain what you’re doing and arrange a time to conduct an interview. Most phones come with a call record function these days. Failing that, organise a Skype call or Google hangout. Q&A’s posted to your site are great, but if you can record the interview in person or over Skype you can even post that directly to your website either via YouTube or soundcloud if you’d like to present the audio.
And the same goes for guest posts or joint posts. Simply call. It never fails to amaze me how open and enthusiastic people are to talk about their work or simply help out.
In fact, it’s great to see the caveman spirit alive within us still. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to hunt some buffalo.