If 2011 is the year publishers of paid-for products and services get their heads around social media optimisation then there will be some interesting implications for the way content and marketing teams work.

Over the last 18 months I worked at XpertHR, XpertHR is a subscription service for HR professionals, in a role that straddled content and marketing. We had great success in driving traffic to and engagement with our content. Here are a couple of initiatives that demonstrate how opportunities are opening up for publishers.

Traditional still matters, but behaviour is changing

It is worth noting that traditional marketing and sales channels remain highly effective for publishers but user behaviour is changing rapidly and so are user expectations, which is why the coming year is so important for getting the digital marketing mix right. Digital also represents an opportunity to dramatically cut the cost of acquisition and build longer lasting relationships with customers.

Back to the content: Historically, XpertHR had one blog – Employment Intelligence – and some free areas of content. Most of the content lies behind a subscription wall.

But over the last 18 months it has started to use Twitter and new blogs to great effect. Not only to drive traffic to the blog but also to start building relationships with customers and potential customers.

Here are some examples of traffic drivers:

1. Blog series – “If I could change one thing in HR… “

Benchmarking editor Michael Carty used his Twitter connections to pull together a set of guest posts from leading bloggers, practitioners and academics from the UK and around the world.

As well as thousands of page views on these posts the content received tremendous amounts of comments. Michael worked hard to curate the series – promoting new posts, alerting followers to new comments and responding to comments on posts. The series has helped Michael, and ultimately XpertHR, to forge new connections with key industry figures and to raise the brand profile nationally and internationally.

Other new blogs, such as Pay Intelligence and Tribunal Watch, have enabled content experts to build free to air following and to share their expertise. Blogs in particular enable the authors to engage with users via comments and at the same time this blog traffic acts as top of the funnel free content.

2. XpertHR’s Frequently asked questions

XpertHR benefits from a free database of more than 1,500 frequently asked HR questions. Over the last year there has been a 400 percent increase in visits to XpertHR from its sister free-to-air community title Personnel Today. In the main this was due to promoting articles on Personnel Today, such as this article on Employment Law changes, with links to relevant FAQs on XpertHR.

Things like this provides marketing teams with a great opportunity to promote lead generation content that sits well in the visitor’s user journey. This could well be a related guide, a quiz and so on.

But there are challenges

1 Who can write the content for lead generation?
2 Where will this fit on the page?
3 Where and when is the right place for this content on a user’s journey?
4 What quality of lead comes through this engagement and what to do with them?
5 What does success looks like?

Interestingly, XpertHR is tackling the first issue head on by recruiting for a content manager to provide lead generation content. The core skills include employment law knowledge, so this is not a role for a generalist copywriter – they need a thorough understanding of the subject matter. Note also that data will play an important role: understanding social media buzz and engagement metrics will be key to delivering successful lead generation content.

To give you an idea of what’s required in a content manager, the key responsibilities include:

Utilising subject and market knowledge to drive lead-generation activity

Selecting suitable XpertHR content for lead-generation purposes, taking into account the specific requirements of the target audience

– Liaising with the wider editorial team to ensure that XpertHR core content is suitable for subscribers across the spectrum of XpertHR products

Content team skills

Optimised content teams will need to be suppported by marketing teams that can demonstrate a whole range of emerging skills including persuasive design, marketing automation, lead nurturing, social media data analysis and a deep understanding of the customer experience.

Put these skills together with a well optimised content team and you begin to see how a subscription service can begin to drive traffic, engagement and ultimately new business through digital channels.

Martin Couzins is former user development editor at XpertHR and is now looking for new opportunities. He can be contacted on martincouzins@gmail.com.