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Social media has become central to any branding content, with companies typically utilising social media to distribute important messages to customers. This is an obvious way to use social media; once you've have established a large audience it is possible to push your message far and wide.

Moving Beyond Distribution

But it is important to understand that distribution is only one part of the social media paradigm. Equally important is conversing with consumers. Smart users of social media have long since realised that to utilise the platform successfully it is necessary to be a good listener as well as a good talker.

Social listening can be utilised in order to find out what your audience is saying about you and the content that you have created. This can help you understand where you sit within the community that you have nurtured. Social media can ultimately be used as an inspirational device as well as a mere distribution tool. To pass up the opportunity to hear directly from your audience what it thinks about you and what it wants is a very grave error. But it is one that too many companies make.

It is interesting to note then that Google is currently touting a particularly unique strategy which places an emphasis on YouTube. Google is referring to this as ‘hero, hub and hygiene’ content. This is not a concept which is commonly understood, so here is an explanation of what is meant by this terminology.

Hub, Hero and Hygiene

The Google approach begins with the hero element of the piece. This is the aspect of the promotional campaign that has the highest production value, and is the element that you hope will become viral. There are no hard and fast rules for this part of the process, but it is worth noting that something universal across multiple cultures will naturally translate better, and provide more opportunity of a wider audience.

One recent example of hero content included the infamous film actor Jean-Claude Van Damme. Google recently shot a video which demonstrated that the Belgian actor still has more pulling power than the biggest truck Volvo has ever produced. This striking piece of footage soon earned the hero piece 17 million views in a matter of months.

So at this point of the process you have created the hero concept. But the problem presented by this type of content is that although your audience may view it and share it, it is extremely unlikely they will view it more than a few times. Long-term engagement with such material is minimal, and this is obviously a poor state of affairs when you are attempting to convert people into regular consumers. In the hero, hub, hygiene strategy, the next step is to keep your audience interested by publishing content that continues the conversation.

This is the hub part of the process. The content at this stage need not be as expensive and remarkable as the hero content, but it must be of a consistently high quality. The hub part of the process essentially buttresses the whole social media campaign. In the Google example, the hub part of the process comes via Brian’s Truck Report.

These are a series of shorter, cheaper videos that follow Brian, a man who has been road-testing heavy vehicles for 25 years, as he meets other truckers and talks about their interests and concerns. Throughout this content, Brian effectively keeps the conversation and engagement going with the trucking community, while all the time driving a Volvo truck.

So at this point, interaction with the wider audience takes place via chat beneath the video and on Brian’s Twitter page. One can see petrolheads and those who are particularly interested in the subject matter chatting away about all sorts of relevant material. This may well be content and discussion which is not of interest to the average person in the street, but it does capture a particular niche audience. This aspect of the process is described by Google as hygiene content.

The thing to understand about the hero, hub and hygiene content strategy is that it provides a continuous motion to a social media campaign. And although it may be relatively new to the social media sphere, hero, hub and hygiene content is actually not particularly fresh to media as a whole.

The History of the Approach

Traditionally, regular publications such as magazines have adopted a similar strategy. An average magazine contains features and section leaders, and often has classifieds or letters pages. The leader feature of the magazine will be displayed prominently on the front cover of the magazine, it is intended to attract readers both new and old. It is consistent with the brand as a whole, and intended to attract what could be described as the lowest common denominator. The front cover story should interest anyone who is remotely engaged with the subject matter of the publication. In the world of magazines, this is effectively the hero piece.

Of course, this lead article then needs backup, and the rest of the magazine is thus filled with regular sections, and other feature articles. These can be a bit more diverse and sometimes mire demographically-driven that the lead article. These can be considered the hub pieces in a modern magazine.

Finally comes hygiene. This is a more complex and nuanced process within a magazine, as the format doesn't lend itself to interactivity in the same way that the Internet obviously does. But elements such as letters pages, market research and conversations with newsagents can be considered commensurate to this process.

Making hero, hub and hygiene work

The most important aspect of getting this particular content strategy to work is to ensure that you have a more organic content calendar at the centre of your plans. Siloed thinking can be detrimental to this process. Content calendars, editorial calendars, creative calendars and distribution plans are all vital to this publishing process. Hero, hub and hygiene may sound like separate entities, but they should be intertwined elements of a single content strategy, and centred on a single purpose and raison d’être.

Although digital marketing and content publishing are different industries with very divergent histories, the former can still learn from the latter.

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