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Despite what you may have heard, good Web and social media presence is still about having quality content that people want to know about. Focus on content, and less on tricks.

When we started consulting for MNCs and government agencies a long time back in the 1990s, when Internet became commercially available, one of the first things we did, and continued to focus on, was content. The earliest websites we created, were content-rich, rather than following on the trail of fancy animations and superfluous designs. We created one of the earliest content portals (Global Asia) in 1996, featuring interesting sights and sounds in our region.

Fast forward to today, and the rules of engagement on the Web remains fundamentally the same, albeit having been through some detours and distractions along the way.

For example, just some years ago, I received many spam emails purporting to improve our SEO (search engine optimization) through some esoteric means, for a fee. I have been an Internet programmer, developer and designer since 1996, and SEO is something I am deeply familiar with, and know just about all the techniques these folks might be peddling.

At some point in time, those techniques might have worked, but search engines these days have much more sophisticated techniques of indexing web sites and content, as well as rejecting junk and spam content just as readily. Stuffing pages with keywords, links, and meta tags, have become anywhere from meaningless to taboo, depending on how harsh you are. The reality is that search engines have gotten much smarter than many marketers may have you believe. The crux is down to if you have good and readable content or not. A recent article by Michael Mothner on INC is a great reminder.

And let’s not forget that Websites are not much different from social networking sites. Social network properties are also content-driven, just like quality websites are. Some companies have social media properties only populated with product advertisements, with little else to engage their users. Worse, some marketers or consultants may persuade client companies that ROI should be measurement in terms of “likes”, which has very little meaning. In fact, in some cases, some users “like” a social media page simply to criticize negatively, which is ironical to the word “like”.

It is no wonder that many companies report poor social media “ROI”. Social media properties are not advertisement billboards, but are more akin to realtime forums where users and property owners can interact equitably with each other, exchanging and sharing together collegially. Stephanie Chandler contributed to a Forbes piece that provides a timely reminder, that we must always blog regularly (even, or especially) on our social media properties. A social media property is as similar to a website – they should not be tombs of cold, dead information, but lively and continually updated forums of excitement.

Taking the Web and social media a step further, and we have the mobile evolution. Increasingly, more and more users reach out to content via the mobile device, whether a smartphone or a tablet. With 3G and now 4G reaching out to many places, it becomes easier to retrieve and read content via a smartphone or an untethered tablet. Therefore, by extending our outreach to the mobile platform via HTML5 or native apps, we need to think of the mobile app as a content extension platform, rather than a billboard or advertisement. The same logic and advice applies.

One of the key stumbling blocks some clients face with the Web, social media, and mobile apps, is that they find it difficult to blog and create quality content.

First, get a good content manager who has the focus of an editor, the words of a journalist, the perspective of a researcher, the vision and charisma of a good leader. Then get this person to assemble a team (either in-house, or outsourced), to run the holistic Web, social media and mobile platform as a content-centric environment.

Second, quality content must engage your users. Therefore, take some liberties at creating interesting topics and content that would engage users to discuss and occasionally debate about (in a positive way, and moderated). Do not be trapped or caged by boring corporate-speak that nobody (but your bosses) want to read about. Get innovative, get creative, get expressive.

Third, do not be afraid to invest. A good tech-centric outreach these days is no longer a long body of text, but is succinct on words, and rich in multimedia. You would need to be enlightened to invest in creating video content, interactive games, and integrating all these together to target the Web, social media, and mobile platforms. Invest little and you end up with hopeless properties that are no different from a printed brochure. There is a cost attached to quality, and invest wisely.

The world seems overloaded with information, especially unprocessed information that bombards our senses relentlessly. And yet, in the mountains of it all, good content that engages users will always stand out at the top of the heap, and shared by many.