Last week, I blogged about the Connected Content Model where I explained the importance of linking to discussions outside the confines of your company blog. That’s extremely important, but there’s another aspect of Connected Content: connecting your own brand assets to help tell a more complete story. In this context, Connected Content is about connecting the social media dots of your company’s presence in other social networks.

I did this all the time when I blogged about new products at Direct2Dell. The product launch posts regularly drew lots of attention from our readers, which made sense because those posts were often the first time we officially discussed a new product. For me, it was important those product blog posts stood apart from information that already existed in a press release or on a product page. That usually started with a detailed product post augmented with high-definition product shots and product overview videos that featured insight from some of the people who designed them. We used Dell’s official YouTube channel for all product videos. Early on, we used Dell’s official Flickr page to house our product photos; later we switched to albums on Dell’s official Google+ page for this (because Yahoo! eventually asked us to stop using our account for business purposes).

I’d embed YouTube videos right into the blog post so anyone could play videos inline. I’d usually include a least a couple of examples of product images. In those cases, I’d hyperlink the images themselves to the corresponding picture in our Flickr or Google+ albums for that product. In the body of the post itself, I’d mention that readers could see more images of the product by clicking on the album link. Here’s the XPS 27 AIO album as an example.

This is an example of using a blog post to tie in several content items—part of the Connected Content Model.
Click on the image to see a larger version.

So, why go to all this trouble? Because it resonated with customers. We drove millions of page views to our Flickr page over several years, primarily due to interest in our product photos. Embedding a YouTube product video in a detailed product launch post routinely drove about 10x the traffic to that video compared to just uploading that video to the Dell YouTube channel. It worked on consumer products like the XPS 18 AIO. That album attracted nearly 15K people to look at it. And it wasn’t  just consumer products that got people buzzing. The Dell Precision Tower Series workstations album got over 25K views from potential customers who wanted to see them in more detail.

One other related concept involves packaging posts in a meaningful way. This is especially important when you have several posts dedicated to a topic that’s driving interest. I’ll use Dell’s XPS 13 Ultrabook as an example here. Ahead of the product launch, we knew the XPS 13 was an important product for Dell. It was our first Ultrabook, and we had invested lots of engineering and design resources to make it a reality. And we also knew Dell planned to put more marketing dollars behind it. Rene put a lot of effort into getting the product launch post right. Just before launch, we asked the Dell Command Center to listen for specific customer conversations once we started shipping the product. That led to posts about how we addressed trackpad issues and about extending battery life.

All told, we had many posts related to the XPS 13. To connect them, I added a unique #xps13 tag for all posts, then I’d add the hyperlink to all other XPS 13 posts and provide the link… “if you want to see other XPS 13-related posts, click the previous link.” For the next several months, I monitored traffic. What I found was Rene’s initial post continued to drive traffic due to organic search results. That was a normal pattern we saw on other launch posts. But I also found that it was increasing traffic to subsequent related posts from the link where I aggregated all related posts to. In other words, traffic to all XPS 13-related posts grew over time. It’s kind of like the long tail of related blog posts in my view.

XPS 13 blogs aggregate page views
Click on the above image to see a larger version.

Six months later, I checked all the XPS 13-related posts (that’s where the above image came from). As expected, the product launch post itself was the biggest traffic spike (almost 80K page views by itself), but that all other posts were seeing a bump in readership as well. All 10 posts collectively were viewed over 173K times by potential customers.

Packaging posts in this way makes it easier for customers to find related information. The Verge does an excellent job with this in their Story Stream functionality.  It’s important because whether they find the first post, or the fifth or sixth one, many times they are in research mode, comparing one or more products to each other. Making that information easy to access when customers are looking for it is what really makes the difference.