Microcontent, Lego, and the Future of Customer Success
Microcontent has been a buzzword in the content industry for quite some time, building traction more recently, sometimes referred to as snippets or blocks, segmented or “componentized” content. However, its implementation has been limited due to the need to build the architecture and framework from the ground up, as well as the tooling to support its creation and delivery. Now, with the accessibility to new tools and capabilities, the functional and effective implementation of microcontent in a broad scale may be closer than we realize. This post will explore what microcontent is, how it can be implemented for customer success, what the challenges may be, and what the next best actions are to make it a reality.
What is Microcontent?
Paraphrasing Michael Iantosca in his white-paper “From Microcontent to Neurons” microcontent is a collection of semantically self-describing elements, enriched with the right metadata to become reusable objects. In simpler terms, it is bite-sized pieces of content that can be easily consumed and more importantly, repurposed and combined to form greater knowledge.
Examples of microcontent can include:
- Knowledge graph triplets
- Complete thoughts
- Complete sentences
- Bullet points
- Simple paragraphs
- text strings of varying lengths
During another conversation this week, I fell into a perfect analogy to describe microcontent and its use:
Consider micro content as Lego blocks. When you receive them in a kit, they are all of various sizes and shapes and entirely disconnected. Some are single blocks, others are 4×6, or even 8×1… but they all connect in various fashions. Using shapes and colours we can connect blocks in logical (or sometimes even illogical) ways to create something greater than the sum of its parts. In this way we can see how micro content in various lengths with appropriate metadata (i.e. colours and shapes) can be connected to build content to deliver ideas and information greater than what the individual segments or components could deliver.
How Can Microcontent Be Implemented for Customer Success?
Microcontent can be an effective tool for customer success by providing quick and easy access to information. Here are some ways microcontent can be implemented:
- Use blocks of information as content objects that combine to deliver a larger piece of knowledge.
- Maintain a single source of truth for information that can be reused across content types and delivery systems
- Write once, and reuse across support delivery, application UX, documentation, training, and sales enablement!
Using a Content as a Service (a content supply chain as a utility) paradigm to leverage relationships between content objects, we can dynamically build and deliver, in real-time, solutions to customer issues in the moment. Consider how content snippets could be connected and delivered via chat during break-fix conversations, or how the right microcontent could be used to ensure consistency across your UI to ensure a better user experience while using the same language as found in the documentation, in your support knowledge base, and in your support site web copy. When we use microcontent, we begin to build a single source of truth around concepts that allows for more efficient management through changes and reduction of customer confusion when your content doesn’t agree with itself because update were missed in some areas.
In the real world, a great example of microcontent in our daily use is how Notion implements this concept in very robust ways with the ability to move around content and link in other areas:
- Blocks can be moved around on a page and the types can be changed based on need.
- Pages can have a lot of metadata fields, which for microcontent would be on each content object.
- Delivery of content objects can be variable and dynamic with potentially multiple views on the same page via relational linking.
- Pasted links can expand full content behind it in-line for integrated products.
What Are the Challenges?
Despite the potential benefits, there are some major challenges to implementing microcontent:
- It’s not a one-size-fits-all concept. In application, what really defines microcontent is based on your (and your customers’) specific needs and resources. This means being thoughtful, intentional, and deeply strategic before your first step into implementation to ensure your information architecture (IA) is structured to support your needs and your growth at scale.
- Microcontent is being created dynamically across multiple content sources, so architecture is a challenge. Architecting a solution that can deliver the right bites of information in chat, web, in-app, and community can be a challenge to meet the user needs in each instance. This can take substantial resources to design each deliver method for the right audience and could impact the IA requiring updates to the structure if the needs hadn’t been identified during the design phase.
- Knowledge workers will need to capture knowledge in a different way than the traditional knowledge base article of title/body, etcetera, supports. Microcontent precedes the traditional article, so capturing knowledge in a tactical sense will need to shift a bit. Conceptually this could lean even more heavily into the KCS concept of “complete thoughts not complete sentences” if our tooling allows us to segment these pieces out into their own blocks with related metadata on each. The KCS article is primed to support this concept with some small adjustments to our tools.
- Tooling needs to support this new paradigm. As you’ve been following along, you can see how our tooling would need to be built to support segmented content in this fashion. This could go as far as changing how we capture case data to feed into an authoring platform with pre-populated metadata. There’s a lot of work that could be done to support the effective capture and use of microcontent, and that means resources devoted to the deign and development of the right tooling to support it all.
What Are the Next Best Actions?
To make microcontent a reality, there are some actions to take:
- Define the right information architecture for your specific needs. Devote some thoughtful intent to this before anything else.
- Combine or integrate the right tooling to make it happen, all without having to really build everything from the ground up. Seek out the right vendors to connect the dots for your use case.
- Adopt existing ontologies or generate new ontologies for the concepts that cover your subject domain(s). Your ontologies and taxonomies are crucial to being able to connect microcontent dynamically later. And, when defined well, you may be able to use machine learning to automagically categorize your microcontent without requiring your agents or authors to take those steps.
- Consider the potential benefits of an intelligent content supply chain, such as achieving content reuse and repurposing, at scale, improving organic and portal search, personalizing content, improving self-service, and enabling cost-effective and speedy language translation with deep automation to take out a lot of the heavy-lifting for your authors or agents.
You can see that microcontent has the potential to revolutionize the way we consume and deliver content. With the right tools and architecture in place, it can be an effective tool for customer success. However, implementation will require a rethinking of the traditional article structure, and the adoption of an intelligent content supply chain. I think the KCS framework is ideal to support this from a strategic direction, so if you aren’t yet setup in a KCS methodology, now’s the time to dig in before you get left behind.
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