In the previous post, I mentioned the split of the information constituting your web presence into that within your controlled domain, and that in someone else’s: the distinction between content and extent.
What qualifies as extent is a somewhat fuzzy question; to what degree you use extent will depend upon your web policy. On the one hand, everyone seems to be adamant that they require a corporate presence within the social media sphere. Yet when it comes to the crunch, almost as many fiercely resist the idea of opening up their branded presence to the uncertainty of user-generated content.
On the one hand, there are organisations such as English Heritage which actively crowd-source images of their properties, for inclusion within their web site. While this approach almost certainly includes some oversight of the posted material, it starts from the viewpoint that those who will contribute to the source channels will be responsible. On the other, I know of (but will not name, sorry) a drinks brand with a hundred thousand Facebook followers, who desperately want to tap this resource to strengthen their branded site… but are hampered by draconian policies that forbid any hint of material that has not been scrutinised by their legal department making it onto said site (is it any wonder the latter sees only a few dozen visitors per day?).
There are many other forms that extent can take. Another, unrelated, blog of mine that deals with photographic composition uses – and analyses – other people’s images. The originals are on Flickr, and remain there. While the analysis is content, the discussed material is extent. And, at any time, the owners of that material could remove it, leaving the blog with unsightly holes.
So, what is the solution?
It comes down, basically, to managing extent properly. While content strategy is built on the pillars of Creation, Delivery and Governance, all held together by scheduling, extent strategy is a different kettle of fish. It includes more pillars.
Identify where you will be getting your extent from. This is as much about the information types that will be sourced from each location as the locations themselves. It also covers how you will import them to be used within your site (assuming you are not copying them to create content).
Depending on the type of material you are sourcing, and who owns it, you may need to consider the licensing implications of using that extent. This is especially relevant for commercial ventures, as many licensing models will be open only for non-commercial use.
How do you intend to use this material? Are you displaying it into your site? Ore you linking off to it? If it is a live feed, what moderation are you putting in place? Or are you confident enough in your brand that you will accept real-time criticism on your site?
Depending on how you choose to use extent within your site, you will need supporting content to go with it. This may be in the form of microcopy if all you are doing is showing a Twitter feed. But it could require a serious investment in writing content to accompany each element of used extent.
This pillar is a critical part of extent strategy: what do you do if the used material is no longer available? How do you cope with the feed you are drawing on having nothing in it? Is there somewhere else you can source it from? Commercial licensing will offer protection here, as the agreement can include availability guarantees.
The container that holds extent strategy together is logging (yes, there is a scheduling element too, but that is part of the usage plan). Logging is important for many reasons: it keeps track of what you are using, providing an audit trail for licensing; it keeps you to your usage plan; and most importantly, it provides a check list for fall back management. If you do not know what you are using from others, how will you ever keep track of whether it is still there?