How Does Situation Influence The Value of Sharing?

We all understand, to some degree or another, the value of sharing useful information online to reach new prospects and clients. Do we also recognize the importance of situation in this marketing transaction?

Recently the folks at Search Engine Guide published the first post in a new series titled Seven Building Blocks of a Destination Website.  The #1 building block of a destination website? Expert information. To whit:

If you can’t be considered as an expert on your subject, what reason is there for someone to [engage you or your service]? For most people, they want to find people who are confident and know their information inside and out. If I’m not confident that you’ll be able to answer my questions intelligently, I’ll move on to someone who can.

Author and SEO expert Stoney deGeyter mainly approaches this in the context of giving away information on your own website (with a focus on retail sales; his real-world example: buying a television set). Yet, deGeyter’s points about sharing information are valuable to anyone working to establish authority and expertise online, no matter the context:

  • You can’t exactly sell yourself as an expert unless you have the content to back it up.
  • If your visitors feel that they can trust the information you’re providing … you’ll be able to make a connection with them that other[s] don’t.
  • Content for the sake of content is pointless.
  • By focusing on providing expert information, you’re letting your visitors know that you are knowledgeable about what you are doing.

Less obvious is what happens when you consider the sharing of expert information in other situations, other contexts (beyond the obvious example of product reviews on your own site to drive retail sales).

Take, for example, the situation created by JD Supra. As a legal professional you could publish the documents you write on a daily basis directly to your website (and, in fact, you should). But something shifts when you take those very same documents and, along with peers and colleagues, share them in the service of free legal information, in a larger collection of other work, on a third-party site, under the umbrella of an entirely different brand: online research.

Same expert information, different situation – your own website vs. a user-generated research tool. As a consequence, the way in which the work is received changes.

Another example: from childhood. Once a year, when I was a young schoolboy in South Africa, the Coca-Cola company drove their trucks to our school and every kid lined up to receive a free bottle of ice-cold Coke. Of course, as children we didn’t think of this as marketing. And, more importantly, given that this happened before soft drinks and child obesity became red flag issues, parents didn’t think of it as marketing, either. It was just a treat.

I wonder how our parents would’ve responded if we’d been bussed to the Coke factory annually and given a bottle there? Maybe most wouldn’t have cared either, but I’m guessing a fair number would’ve thought twice about it because the situation – the details surrounding the freebie – had shifted. No longer a cold soft drink on a school playground, now the creation of a more blatant marketing opportunity. A free coke during a school break vs. a bus ride to a factory.

Situation influences the value of what you are sharing.

The lesson? Share expert information (including on your own website or blog), but be sure to share it in all of the right places.

JD Supra and a free soft drink at school are my examples. Can you think of other situations that influence the value of what’s being shared? Share them (no pun intended) with us here, please.