More and more often, you can determine yourself how and when you view online content. Think of RSS feeds, for example, or e-mail alerts, pod- and vodcasts and personal homepages, such as iGoogle. Corporate websites can also make clever use of these personalization options. This article looks at opportunities for online communication.
For the eighth consecutive year, Jungle Minds conducted research into the quality of online financial communication of all companies listed on the Dutch stock exchange for the annual FD Henri Sijthoff Award. In the run-up to the award ceremony in November 2010, Jungle Minds wrote a number of articles with interesting insights about online communication.
Why personal content?
A website with personalized content offers benefits for both stakeholders and companies. By giving visitors the opportunity to make their personal preferences known, you get more insight into their wishes. As a result, content can be offered in an even more targeted way. And this, in turn, is important to the website visitor.
One important remark should be made about the organizational impact of personalized content. The content on the online channel must be topical and regularly updated, otherwise its personal character will be lost. After all, no one wants to read the same articles week in and week out. Organization therefore plays an important role in the success of a personal corporate website.
Visitors can put together their own homepage
Personal homepages have been public property with online media for some time now. The BBC went down this path two years ago with a personal homepage, and many portals, such as kpnvandaag and netvibes, allow users to assemble their own homepage. Recently, MSNBC also completely modernized its website, and it is now possible to determine for yourself how much content about a specific topic you want to see and where.
Corporate websites can also benefit from these kinds of homepages. Just like online news sites, corporate websites should make a large amount of information available. In addition, corporate websites have very specific stakeholders: job seekers will search for different information than a journalist or potential investor. Corporate websites therefore frequently offer each stakeholder group their own entrance to a website. A personal homepage that provides relevant content to each visitor would further improve user experience.
GDF Suez allows users to choose from a number of categories (target groups) on the homepage, each of which displays different content tailored to the chosen category. Once a certain category has been chosen, it can be stored in order to display this specific content during the next visit. Although the content is completely fixed per category, the website can be partially fine-tuned to a visitor’s preferences. The major challenge with this variant is to determine the relevance of the content for each category. Because who determines what the average shareholder, investor or journalist wants to see? The visitor’s choice remains restricted to predetermined, set content at GDF Suez.
Orange goes a step further and lets users choose from a number of tools that can be placed on the homepage. In doing so, Orange is assuming that visitors are sufficiently web savvy to get the maximum out of these options. The idea is good, but the execution leaves something to be desired. For example, the page does not increase in size as more tools are dragged onto the page, so the homepage quickly becomes a chaos of blocks stacked on top of each other.
Corporate websites can still learn a lot from the previously mentioned online news sites when it comes to personal homepages. The idea of offering customized content for each stakeholder group is a good idea, but its execution and user-friendliness could be seriously improved.
Visitors get their own environment
A function that can further strengthen the personalization of a corporate website is a ‘my environment’. Visitors of corporate websites increasingly encounter a tool that allows them to collect content. This tool enables you to store pages or documents that you find interesting in a special environment. You can view and manage these pages yourself.
Heineken, for example, has an environment where these collected pages can be stored and downloaded as ZIP files, and then printed or e-mailed. This makes it easy for users to put together a document.
They even go a step further in their annual report, where notes can be made on each page.
Visitors have access to RSS feeds and e-mail alerts
RSS feeds have become public property and can be used to keep visitors informed about the latest developments. Determine what kind of information a target group needs and what kind of a role RSS feeds or (e-mail) alerts can play. Here is a summary of possibilities:
- Presentations. Ensure that visitors can receive e-mails or text messages in order to keep them abreast of the latest publications. Think, for example, of the presentation of the most recent quarterly results or the last sustainability report.
- Search results. Ensure that visitors can subscribe to specific search results. Think, for example, of the most recent vacancies in Brazil or in the marketing division.
- Latest news. The more specific the RSS feed, the better. Not everyone is interested in every single news item a company publishes. Categorize or tag the press releases in order to make them more accessible to the target group.
- Events. Offer your stakeholders the possibility of subscribing to reminders for important events.
Outlook reminders can be offered for this last category as well, so visitors can put the event in their Outlook calendar with a single press of a button.
PDF builders, RSS feeds and alerts are increasingly being used by the corporates, and they show that there is a need for personalizable content. But not all possibilities for rendering content in a personal way are being used. Personal homepages and personal environments are still in their infancy. Corporates can get ideas from online news sites, which are already showing excellent initiatives in this area. Place stakeholders in the centre and give them control by deploying the latest technological developments.
The next step in this personalization trend is to respond to user behaviour: behavioural targeting. This development is already used often by commercial websites, especially to make advertisements more relevant, but it also offers opportunities for corporate websites. Based on your visitors’ user behaviour, you can fine-tune the content even more to their personal needs. The content of corporate websites can be even more personalized based on page views, search terms and other surf patterns!