Links, Likes, and the Social Document

The Implications are upon us! In the past month, I’ve seen a surge of discussion about the rising impact of social networks on the traditional habits of Web users. One of the most trending articles has been “The Web is Shrinking, Now What?” In it, Wetpaint founder Ben Elowitz noted the historical rise of Facebook visits against a declining trend of Google visits. While his comparison is not quite an apples to apples (one doesn’t linger to read at the google.com domain, for example), Ben’s article does tease out some implications of this recent discourse for DITA users.

The argument is essentially this: the document-oriented Web, accessed by search, is ceding ever more user time to the social network Web, which is comprised of personal commentary, relationships, memes, and ratings. Content publishers who want their products to remain relevant need to pay attention to making their content increasingly discoverable within the social network mechanisms. In short, “Likes” are now competing with “Links” as the primary reason why someone might visit one of your content pages.

How would you really put any of this talk into practice?

  1. The analytics for SEO trend (how you increase search rankings for static content) is maturing towards analytics that augment business intelligence (how you improve your awareness of market trends and business opportunities–see “Data is the new platform, and social is the intelligence“). While you might still use analytics to drive search traffic to your site, you should also be using analytics to refine your actual product design and your strategy for raising brand awareness and reputation on social networks. Your brand’s importance in the social network is becoming your most valuable Web asset–it’s about ratings over rankings!
  2. People are now competing with documents in the way the Web is being used. So if you want to make your site or even individual topics more visible, figure out how to “friend” or “follow” them and get “likes” for them (see “Can Documents Become More Social?“). Facebook has already been enabling this for business or interest pages on its ecosystem; news networks and other content publishers are now using that API to enable “liking” stories on their sites, thereby creating lists of friend-recommended articles on their home pages.
    Taking the idea further, in traditional online reviews for product documents, the review workflow management system typically pushes out schedule-driven news about progress through the review cycle. Now imagine the “follow” equivalent, where a social network capability uses tweets as the messaging system to keep you (and others on the interest list) abreast of all new activity with the document, including a better sense of how the approval ranking of the content is going (even the prospect of early signoff if the cognizant approvers are already in agreement). It’s a heady thought, but this is about innovating to make better use of social networking trends.
  3. As this title indicated, “Likes” are the New Order’s equivalent of “Links” in the Web. Whereas you might bookmark an article that YOU want to get back to, you “like” an article that you want OTHERS to get to. By so doing, you are raising the ranking of the article, not necessarily on the searchable Web, but on the social Web, where your friends or customers are apparently spending more time.

You might think of your DITA-based content on the Web as being used in these ways, then:

  • Searched, for someone engaged in a specific task, to get quickly to specific procedural, conceptual, or reference endpoints (usually the output of DITA Open Toolkit). They might bookmark this content if it is worth getting back to apart from using the search intermediary again.
  • Read, for someone engaged in the content, whether out of interest, to gain knowledge, or even just reading a novel (DITA for Publishers fits this role). I think of this as being typically “rated” by readers.
  • Socialized, for someone engaged with news or trends relating to the content (the domain of some of the emerging collaborative DITA tools). Content is typically tagged as notable by a “Like” button.

Given the well-documented growth of social networks and how they impact the use of content on the Web, how are you preparing for the change? Is your DITA content still only Linked, or can it be Liked?

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3 Responses to Links, Likes, and the Social Document

  1. Scott Abel says:

    Excellent article, Don. Great analysis and spot on (as usual).

  2. Scott Abel says:

    Just one question…where are your “like” and “share” buttons?

  3. Don says:

    Thanks for the reminder!

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