Ten years ago business-to-business editors were grappling with how to transition from a print model to one that combined both print and online. While that challenge seems easier than the one we have today—striking the right balance of print, online, social media and even tablet apps—the goal is the same: Getting closer to the audience.

Whether b-to-b content is accessed on an iPad or iPhone app, a LinkedIn group, a Twitter feed or a Facebook page, the fact still remains that it is uniquely targeted to a specific audience. And attracting and retaining that audience still comes down to the basics: Good editorial eventually translates into strong readership, regardless of the platform.

Loading slide shows, writing sensational headlines or trying to game the system in Google News are all shortsighted tricks that may yield a site some quick gains at first. But the real traffic drivers are about good old-fashioned reporting, knowing readers’ wants and needs and, from there, offering up the right content on a variety of platforms. Good editorial always aims to deliver a kernel of truth, even if that truth is encased in a particular point of view, a distinct voice or blatant advocacy.

A Focus on the Customer

Unfortunately, we are in a world where we are easily distracted, and most readers are barraged by noise and sound bites masking as real editorial. As a result, editors need to focus on their customer, understand what differentiates their content from competitors, and be able to articulate their own value proposition. From there, social media and other platforms can kick it up a notch and take reader engagement to a new level.

In fact, b-to-b has a greater opportunity with these platforms than it did with just online and print. Apps allow your readers to become very sticky and access content anywhere, at any time. Social media allows your engaged readers to share content with networks that may not be in your database. If the content is spot-on, those friends of friends will visit your site, increasing activity and traffic. Your job is to reach them where they want to consume the data.

More Choices, More Challenges

But multiple platforms also offer multiple problems. The first is burdensome segmentation. A Facebook friend may be looking for some of your best content of the day, a discussion forum or photos from industry events. A LinkedIn group may be looking for thought leadership and more philosophical discussions. And a user of your app may just want the content on the weekend or when there are a few minutes before another appointment. Through trial and error you need to figure out the opportunities for each platform.

The second problem is in identifying your audience. Who is really reading your content on those platforms?  Editors lose some detailed analytics when they publish their content in the Apple store, for instance. And while you can monitor how much traffic Twitter, Facebook and mobile platforms are bringing back to your site, it is difficult to get very granular data if your content is passed on. The third problem is in measuring your return on investment. While you may be able to get a sense of the clicks to your site or the Likes or Fans of your page, how does this translate into editorial ROI and investments? Today’s tools make this difficult to measure.

But these challenges are very typical in a nascent market, and the opportunities far outweigh the obstacles. Online analytics and technical glitches will get ironed out as the market matures. But the onus is on editors to get the content right so it is worth sharing.

Kelley Damore is vice president and editorial director for UBM Channel and CRN.

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