One of the most important elements of any content marketing campaign is the platform on which your content is published. The amount of control or ownership you either assume or give up when publishing is directly impacted by the platform you use. Understanding how this ownership can affect your content marketing strategy is crucial to successfully making the most of your content and the platforms available.
Owned vs. Shared Media
On a website or blog, you are the full owner of the content you publish on your website. It was created by you (or your organization) and you are the only one who can change or modify that content. As the owner of the website, you also have control over the discussion which takes place on your website. You can delete spam comments, track the conversation, guide the discussion, encourage and stimulate comments or eliminate them altogether.
Any changes to the platform are controlled by you, the owner of the website.
When we publish on social media platforms, although the ideas may be ours, we do not fully own the content. It can be shared and distributed, conversations can develop beyond our knowledge and control and new content can be developed by others based on our original content. Changes to the platform can also impact our content. For example, changes to Facebook’s edge rank algorithm can have both a positive or negative effect on the chances of our content being seen by our target audience.
We call these platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) shared media. In the best cases content is shared throughout the platform, migrates to new platforms and is exposed to new audiences who may not have originally seen the content on website or blog. In the worst case, changes to a shared media platform can have a devastating affect on a business. A business too heavily invested in one shared platform will be forced to scramble if the publishing rules change or the platform shuts down all together. Just ask those who built their fortunes on the now defunct Posterious. (Sort of makes this article look silly doesn’t it.)
Embedded Media – A Window Looking out
Most shared media platforms make it easy to embed shared media on an website which you own. For example, bloggers have been embedding YouTube videos to their websites for years. The videos may be created and published by someone else but they can be viewed directly on the blog or website. The same is possible with individual Tweets and even Facebook posts.
When you embed content from a social media site into your own website, the content doesn’t really live on your site. It is still on the original platform where it was created. The embed provides a window into the platform where it was originally published. You can see how this works in the embedded Tweet below:
Google+ Embedded Posts; Viral Gold Mine or Context Nightmare?: http://t.co/nXpOJptgxf
— Jim Lodico (@jlcommunication) September 10, 2013
In the case of an embedded YouTube video only the video is published on your site, not the comments that follow (thankfully). The same is true of a Tweet or embedded Facebook post. The shared media is being truly shared on a platform which is owned by someone who did not originally create the content. Other than the displayed number of “likes” or “shares” the embedded content remains fairly static. This works because the content creator gets full credit and an opportunity to expand their audience and grow followers.
Blurring the Lines
There are times however when the line between owned content and shared content is not so clear. This is most readily apparent in the recently added ability to embed Google+ comments and posts to a website or blog. Embedding a post from Google+ is similar to embedding a video from YouTube in that you are creating a window to view the content which actually lives on Google+. The biggest difference however is that along with the original post, you are also embedding the comments and any discussion that follows.
Embedded Google+ comments takes just the commenting element of Google+ and adds them to a blog or website. Sometimes this is done to compliment the commenting system which already exists on the site. (You can see an example of this here.) It can also be used to replace the comment system on a website altogether.
Unlike embedded content from YouTube, Facebook or Twitter, Google+ embedded posts and comments are not static. As comments and sharing grow in Google+, they are also displayed in the post and/or or comments of any website where they are embedded. Although the Google+ content is visible on the website or blog, it doesn’t actually live on that property. It is shared content which technically lives and grows on Google+. People can comment on and share the G+ post without ever seeing a website where it is embedded.
This becomes an even more obvious phenomena when Google+ comments are embedded into a blog or website. New comments made to a blog post (on a third party “owned” website) using G+ embedded comments show as a “share” of the post on Google +. For example, if I were to make a comment on the blog post using G+ comments linked above, it will show as a “share” on my G+ timeline completely independent from other comments made on the post.
Content Growing Wild
One thing that makes Google+ such an amazing social media platform is that G+ has developed a culture which fosters extended and often thought provoking discussion. Unlike Twitter or Facebook where a quick retweet or comment is the most an item may see, Google+ discussions can quickly grow into hundreds of comments branching out in any of a number of directions. From a the perspective of viral content, the potential is huge.
As you can see in the image above, when I comment on a website using G+ comments I am also sharing that comment with my G+ following (my “circles”). However, what was originally a comment on a piece of owned content now shows as an independent post on Goggle+. People who see my comment in their Google+ stream are free to add their thoughts to the discussion, share the comment (which in turn shares the link to the original blog post) and acknowledge it with a “+1″–all without seeing the original blog post on which my comment was made. The comment is now a living entity which can grow and develop entirely on it’s own. Depending on the comment, it is possible to intelligently add to the discussion without ever reading the original post which spurred the discussion.
Now let’s say that my comment above stimulates a lively discussion which includes a number of participants and tens if not hundreds of comments. As the discussion developes, it’s relation to the original post which spurred my comment may be completely irrelevant. Since my shared link is also a comment on a third party website, each of those 10s or 100s of comments also appear on the original website where the comment was made. If the owner of the website is closely monitoring the discussion and doesn’t like the direction it has turned, they can remove the comment/share so that it doesn’t show on their website. However, the discussion is still alive on G+ along with all the comments and the link to the original post on the blog.
You can see a living example of this in the embedded post below which was once a comment on my earlier post on G+ embedded comments linked above:
The embed above started as a comment on my blog post, appeared as a shared link on +Sean Murray’s profile, was removed from the comment strand on my blog post and embedded as the G+ post you see above (confused yet?).
So the question becomes, what exactly did I embed and who “owns” the content or discussion that goes with it?
Remember, what you see above was originally displayed as a comment on this website. When the comment was made, it also appeared as a “share” on Sean Murray’s G+ profile. I deleted the comment from the comment string on my website and now the comment lives on own.
A Question of Ownership
Now that we’ve released our comment into the wild, let’s take things a step further. Let’s say that Sean wants to edit his original comment. There is nothing preventing him from doing so (he wrote it right?). He can fix a few spelling errors, create a new comment, write an extended post and even remove the link to the original content that spurred his comment.
In the example above, this seems somewhat trivial but take this to a comment which has generated a much larger discussion. Let’s say “Bob” makes a comment on a blog or website using G+ comments which spurs a heated debate. “Sue”, the website owner, is glad to see the discussion growing around her content and appreciates the social recognition that comes with it. At some point however, Bob feels that the discussion has outgrown Sue’s original blog post. Or maybe Bob decides that he wants to take full credit for the discussion that has developed.
Does Bob have the right to remove the link to the content which spurred the discussion?
In doing so, he will remove all evidence of the discussion from the website where it was originally displayed. Sue’s blog post which once displayed an extensive comment string may now only show a small spattering of comments.
With the original blog post removed, Bob now has an independent string of comments based on what looks more like a Google+ post than a comment on other content. He can edit the post, remove comments he doesn’t like and even embed the post in his own website as a new piece of content.
At this point, who actually “ownes” the discussion at hand? The comments formed under Bob’s remarks. However, it was Sue’s blog post which generated the discussion.
Let’s take this one step further, when Bob embeds the post in his own website he can add content above the embedded post. This could be as simple as a blog post explaining the embedded content, an original blog post on a related topic, a link or an image or even other embedded content (Tweets, YouTube, G+, etc).
At this point, depending on how Bob uses the embedded post, he has the ability to change the context of the original comment thread.
If Bob really wants to play games or do potential harm he could keep the original link but edit or replace his original comment with something inappropriate or offensive. He could also embed the comment on potentially offensive content on his own website. Comments made in response to the offensive content on Bob’s website would also be visible on Sue’s website, however, she would not receive notification that the comment had been changed–neither would the people who originally left comments in the string. An embarrassing discussion could develop on Sue’s website without her knowledge.
Although this may sound far fetched, consider the potential for damage.
Knowledge is Power
Understanding the power and potential of both owned media and shared platforms along with potential negative complications which can arise will help you take full advantage of your content. Some content does much better in an environment where you can maintain a tight control over how it is used while other content offerings are better served on a platform where they can grow, develop and get passed around.
For example, a lead generating ebook designed to build a mailing list will do better on a controlled landing page where the distractions are reduced and everything is designed to lead the target to the desired action. A discussion of an important topic in the ebook might do better on a shared platform where issues can be hashed out while exposing the ebook to new audiences.
When to Embed Shared Content
When embedding shared content on your own website or blog (ie. owned media) it is important to keep in mind the goal of the new content you will be creating with the embedded post. Are you curating shared content on a given topic? Providing a source such as with an embedded Tweet? Looking for quick a quick blog post to relive the demands of blogging? Supporting or expanding on larger topic? Illustrating or providing visual impact to a blog post (ie. YouTube video or Slideshare/Google Deck embed).
It’s also important to think about audience behavior and if the embedded content will lead them away from your website to a social media platform where you may not get them back. In the case of an active discussion, leading them away from your website may not be a bad thing — especially if you have established yourself as an expert in the discussion.
Embedded content can also serve a website beyond the blog post or content marketing efforts. For example, positive reviews from a Google Business or Places page can be embedded into a business website as verified testimonials.
Real Life Examples
Below are two posts (embedded from Google+) discussing some of the issues with embedded G+ posts and comments. The first post was originally written as a comment on MaAnna Stephenson’s website “BlogAid”. To illustrate the point, I’ve edited my comment (which is also a G+ post) and removed the link to MaAnna’s website. Now what was originally a comment on another website stands alone as an independent post in Google+. The second post is a stand alone post which actually appears as an extended comment on the attached image:
What do you think?
How have you used embedded content in your marketing efforts? What strategies have you used to encourage others to embed your content? Are you concerned with potential abuse? Please share in the comments below.