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A Real-Time, 'Psychic' Publishing Preparedness Plan

I read a story last week about Facebook dipping its Fred Flintstone-sized toe into the water by testing "instant" ads based on status updates and wall posts.

Basically, this is speeding up what Facebook is already doing with targeted ads. It got me thinking, what can and should health marketers do to be prepared to handle such sped-up online lifecycles where conversations and sentiment can conjure content and targeted messaging in the blink of an eye?

For example, what if your company has a product, articles or a community centered on a certain treatment or condition and which condition becomes talked about by a larger audience, in a flash? Are you ready to respond and engage? Are you even equipped to know the condition is a growing conversation topic? Or put another way, if Charlie Sheen contracted a condition you have a treatment for, how would you respond online?

First, a bit of background. Prior to working for Genuine, I worked in print and online newsrooms and for a wire service. These were environments that expect to react at a moment's notice to breaking news and were organized accordingly.

Every day, I read more stories about how brands have more opportunities (and a greater responsibility) to better engage with their audience. These posts center on themes of curation, reaction, relevance and responsiveness. Now, with Facebook's new ad service and the existing immediacy of Twitter, another theme is being ingrained: Real-time rapid response.

Years ago, I used to joke with colleagues that I was working toward achieving the holy grail of "psychic publishing," where a content creator simply thinks about a topic and it appears on the screen. Every day, it feels like we're getting closer to something I was previously only joking about.

So how do marketers prepare for this new reality of real-time response driven by social media and an always-on audience? The answer, largely, lies in analytics.

I had a chat about how and what marketers should know about their audience with Michael Svetchnikov, a senior online marketing analyst at Genuine, whom I collaborate with on the redesign and digital strategy for one of our hospital clients.

While we covered a lot of ground, we narrowed down the conversation to four areas that marketers should be constantly aware of: Referring traffic, the top landing pages, the top exit pages, and the segmentation of your visitors.

Referring Traffic

Where your site's traffic is coming from can tell you a lot about where conversations might be happening online. If there is traffic coming from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or a community site, there's a good chance it's being actively discussed. Even if it's not a ton of traffic, it might be worth your while to see how close you can get to those conversations and become a valuable contributor to the dialogue.

Top Landing Pages

You may be surprised to find that there is a discrepancy between what you think is good and interesting content versus what your audience is finding and consuming. In some cases, you may also discover popular pages that see more visits than your homepage and promoted content. What are your plans to enhance those popular landing pages to showcase more of your content on that topic, or showcase more of your site? Are people diving straight into specific topics not readily available or easily found from the homepage? Perhaps this could be your cue to deliver on the top trending topics and discussions. Or perhaps it's a PDF that can find new life as an HTML page for an improved destination that gives your audience a better chance to engage with your site.

Top Exit Pages

These are the pages that people leave your site from. Chances are, they're either leaving because what they saw wasn't relevant to them, or once they were done looking at what was relevant to them, they saw nothing else of value.

For example, you work at a pharma company and you have a background page on the research your company is doing on a certain condition. You also have a fairly active community around that condition, but it's on a different domain. All you have on the reference page is a related link that says "Join our community." A better approach would be to list the three to five latest topics in addition to the generic community link, so your new audience can see a vibrant community and be more compelled to peruse additional content.

Do you have a lot of related content to this page that you could link to? Could you pull additional relevant content together? These are good questions to ask daily or weekly about your content so you can constantly be in "preparedness mode" for new visitors.

Segment Your Visitors

Content segmentation and visitor paths provide insight into what your audience is looking for on your site. The more you understand how visitors engage with particular content and the paths they take to finding it, the more prepared you'll be to extend the paths they take deeper into your site. For some sites, like that of a large hospital, it can be quite an adventure to figure out how visitor segments vary from subject, to category, to even entire sections of the site. Once you have an understanding of the different needs of your visitors, you will be at an advantage to provide relevant and timely content and be rewarded with visitors who trust and value your site.

Conclusion

The more you understand your visitors, the more you can illuminate where conversations might be occurring outside of your site. And like a good editor on a news desk, these are the baselines you can set to be prepared for real-time responses to an increasingly social and connected audience.

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