Last year, David Meerman Scott and I had a discussion on his great blog - Web Ink Now - about one of the core issues that I often run into both internally in our own work at AIIM and externally as we provide content sponsorships to our trade members. [Note -- The discussion centered around an e-book that I released in October 2009 – 8 Reasons You Need a Strategy for Managing Information: Before It’s Too Late and the relative merits of using a registration form to access content.]
To gate content or not to gate? That is the question.
In other words, is it better to put up a registration form around content in order to acquire leads, or is it better to leave content as open as possible in order to facilitate viral marketing and distribution?
David’s point – which I tend to agree with – is that organizations lose a large multiple of readers – perhaps as high as 50x – when we put up registration forms that scare readers away. In our case, back in 2009 we came to the conclusion that the multiple could be as high as 16x.
I know in terms of my own content consumption universe of one, something needs to be a pretty compelling piece of content in order for me to go through a registration process. 90% of the time I bail immediately if I encounter a form.
So let me update my discussion with David with a few new stats to hopefully shed a bit of light on the “registration form or no registration form” question in terms of my own experiences.
For those marketers out there, what are your perspectives?
I am still convinced that open access is best for content like my e-books.
Since David’s original post was published, we have published 4 additional e-books, plus a second edition of the original. Over the most recent 6-month period, the e-books have had more views (9,719) than almost every other piece of pure content on our core web site.
When I started my 8 things project, I really didn’t have much in mind other than bringing some fresh content into my blog through expert guest commentary. That in turn has generated a mini-cottage industry for me.
We published our first e-book in October 2009 based on the blog content.
This has led to 4 additional e-books since then.
The landing pages for the e-books are used as jumping off places for other revenue-generating products and content.
We have repurposed the original individual blog postings onto the main AIIM web site as individual pages, and they are generating robust traffic on their own.
We used the same model as the framework for a series of in-person seminars we do around the country – 8 things blog posts by sponsors, followed by a complementary keynote and individual sponsor presentations, culminating in a special 8 things e-book for seminar attendees.
Even if you are already a registered user, requiring a log-in cuts views.
Two of our most valuable pieces of free content are our webinars and research studies. I took a look at 3 of each for purposes of my analysis. For our purposes here, I am focused on data from the six-month period from 8/1/2010 through 1/31/2011.
- A Future History of Content Management (2,228 unique views, 31.9% conversion)
- Capture to Communicate (1,990 unique views, 27.7% conversion)
- Case Study - Baylor Health Care System’s Advanced AP Automation (1,591 unique views, 34.7% conversion)
- SharePoint - strategies and experiences (4,384 unique views, 36.1% conversion)
- State of the ECM industry (3,027 unique views, 41.7% conversion)
- E-Discovery and ERM (2,351 unique views, 38.2% conversion)
In the case of the above content, most of the views are likely coming from those already registered on the site, but not necessarily logged in. This content has a registration gate because it is sponsored, and we provide leads back to the sponsoring company.
Thus even in a pre-registered audience, a log-in process drives down views. The bail-out % for those coming to this content without previously having registered on the site is obviously many times higher.
This is a hard mindset to get companies to change. I am convinced that for many companies, viral visibility through AIIM’s various capabilities would be a far better objective for this content. But if the marketing people paying the bills on the back end are measured by hard leads, getting rid of gates on this type of content is a hard thing to do. Even if in many instances the gates are counter-productive.
The next phase for us is integration of our social tools with our back-end processes.
As a non-profit with limited resources, we’ve been aggressively guerilla marketers via social tools. In addition to our blog and e-book presence, here are a few of the other things we are involved in (just a sample, not an exhaustive list)…
Our core LinkedIn group (AIIM Network for Intelligent Information Management) has 12,472 members. We have additional groups for association events and activities.
My colleague Atle Skekkeland and I make a point of posting many of our presentations on Slideshare. Often we get reactions that question our sanity in freely making this content available. “How can you just give this away?” [http://www.slideshare.net/jmancini77/presentations and http://www.slideshare.net/norwiz/presentations].
And these doubters have a point. It certainly would be great to know exactly who has viewed our Slideshare presentations. But I am convinced that the sheer volume of exposure we have gotten on Slideshare is worth the risk. Together, our presentations have gotten 250,131 views. Not too shabby for a somewhat esoteric topic like content management.
We have a variety of Facebook presences, as well as an extensive Twitter presence [all AIIM Twitter people are here - http://www.aiim.org/Connect/Twitter]. Plus my latest pet project, my Facebook group, “E-mail sucks. It’s Time to Move On.
We’ve launched a set of 4 open communities with an extensive network of Expert Bloggers on topics such as SharePoint, E2.0, Capture and Image, and Electronic Records Management.
So all that is well and good. But what comes next?
The key thing in all of this is to move to the next stage where these tools are integrated and leveraged off of each other. Right now, most of this is a manual labor of love set of unlinked processes. Right now, we tend to measure inputs too much (# of tweets, # of blog posts, # of links).
The marketer of the future will be the person that can restructure traditional processes and link together the front social end of customer engagement with the company web site with socially-aware back-end CRM systems with back-end fulfillment and tracking systems. And do so in as automated a fashion as possible.
Know anybody who does this well? I'd like to write about him/her.
What are your perspectives on registration vs. open? Share your thoughts via a comment...