This is a guest post from Melissa Campbell, Content Manager at Distilled, who recently launched a video store selling access to recordings of their popular SEO conferences. The video store is powered by the vzaar video platform.
In a world where people are increasingly turning to the internet to learn new things, companies are somewhat hesitant to join in the conversation. This might be a mistake, however, as sharing knowledge can give companies much more than it risks.
Sharing knowledge helps make your company better at what it does, helps give you competitive advantage as your competitors try to catch up to your knowledge, helps increase your profile amongst your customer base and, after all of that, helps you win the internet.
Don’t believe me? Well…
It’s fairly well known that teaching other people something helps reinforce it in our minds. That’s (one of the reasons) why teachers have the students who finished their work help those who haven’t. The extra engagement with the subject helps in the information wedge itself in our brains.
So when you research a topic, then write a blog post or record a screencast about it, you’re reinforcing the information you researched. Just by thinking about explaining it differently, you’ve ingrained that knowledge in yourself.
This also applies when you have conversations in blog comments or on Twitter or Facebook. Chris Anderson, curator of the TED Conference, gave a really inspirational TED Talk explaining how videos in particular are perfectly positioned to help us share knowledge and collaborate in unprecedented ways.
Importantly for businesses, though, Chris shows how international collaboration fuels what he calls Crowd Accelerated Innovation. As he describes it, the internet allows people to see what the best in a particular field are doing something, and they will emulate, then try to top, that. It’s that cycle that drives the innovation in the field.
As you learn more, you’ll do more interesting things.
Once you’ve started ingraining all the new knowledge you’ve acquired, you can expand your business in ways you won’t have expected. You can start producing content using new media, like videos, interactive infographics and white papers. You can speak at more and bigger conferences to raise your profile even further. As your profile continues to rise, you can become the go-to expert for news media, which makes you even more visible to potential clients and customers.
When Distilled was started five years ago, the MDs were starting a web development company. But as they shared their knowledge with other companies, they learned that SEO was the area they wanted to be in. Then, as they started building up their reputation as a company, they were able to grow quickly and expand their client base and their staff.
These days, we have offices in London, New York and Seattle, we run internationally renowned conferences, and we’ve even started selling videos, all because our founders started off their sharing knowledge to build up the company’s reputation.
For example, in 2000, Goldcorp released their geological data online, challenging people online to find gold ores and refine the mining process. People from around the world took the challenge and found the Red Lake mind, one of the richest gold mines in the world, and they found ways to make mining cheaper and easier, quickly making Goldcorp the third largest gold producer in the world.
It doesn’t actually matter if your competitors learn some things here and there from you.
Thinking of it one way, your job will always be too technical or time consuming (or inconvenient or boring or whatever) for others to do, so it doesn’t matter if you share your knowledge.
If your computer froze, you could go online and learn how to fix it yourself. But most people will still opt to take it to a computer store to have it repaired. They want to be sure it’s fixed right the first time, they don’t have the time to sit around and figure out how to do it themselves, or it just seems like it’s too hard. There are a multitude of reasons why companies like Geek Squad still exist and even thrive today.
The important thing is that people will be able to see from a quick internet search that you really do know what you’re talking about. By putting step-by-step how-to videos of how to repair a transmission online, you are giving some people the opportunity to not pay you for your car repair expertise. But those people probably wouldn’t have paid for your expertise anyway. What you’re really doing is showing all those people who don’t have the time or aren’t willing to do it themselves that you not only know what you’re doing, but you’re willing to use laymen’s language to explain what you’re doing. Which will really mark you out in an industry that often seems to purposefully obfuscate their explanations to confuse patrons.
Thinking of it another way, you will have a particular competitive advantage by sharing your knowledge. You will not only start the Crowd Accelerated Innovation mentioned above, but you will also get a head start on your competitors if you are careful about what you do – and don’t – release.
Recently, Novartis released all the raw data from its Type-II diabetes research – not their findings or anything, just the raw data. They knew the research revealed too many promising leads for one lab to follow up on, so they shared what they found with the world. Since they didn’t share their conclusions, only the data, Novartis still have the advantage of years of analysis, and when other researchers make breakthroughs, they are more likely to return to Novartis with that information, giving them even more advantage over their competitors.
Essentially, the research labs will get access to a huge amount of data which they can use to further their own research, whilst Novartis will hedge their R&D risks by getting the best people in the world to research all the potential leads their data reveal. Beyond that, Novartis have at least a two-year head start on their competitors when it comes to actually developing treatments based on the research.
Finally, links FTW!
So we’ve shown how sharing your knowledge can make your company smarter, give you a competitive advantage and make you more visible and memorable to the people who pay you to do what you do. But we haven’t quite explained how that wins the internet.
Well, as you share your knowledge and do more interesting things, you will get coverage in industry blogs, forums and sites, and you will feature in certain sections on mainstream news sites. This will give you a massive amount of exposure to industry insiders and potential clients. It will also put you in the forefront of journalists’ minds, making you a go-to expert, which will increase the exposure you get.
And as these sites, blogs and forums write about your site, they will also link to your site. As you become a go-to expert for news media, you can get links from those incredibly authoritative sites. Even if you don’t become a go-to expert, when news sites cover your inventive approach to your company’s knowledge, they will still give you invaluable links.
And the more links you get from authoritative or relevant sites, the more search engines see your site as a great result for certain search phrases. And as we all know, the higher you rank for a search query, the more people will click through to your site.
And that, friends, is how you win the internet.
Please Note: Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily that of vzaar.com.