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My final post focuses on developing interaction through the way content is written. In offline-interaction, different kinds of verbal communication can encourage interaction to a greater or lesser extent. I’ve been reflecting, in my own practice, on different kinds of content one can write to generate different kinds of interaction.

Compelling content

Compelling content is written in a dramatic style. It’s is interesting and encourages the reader to read on. Given that people tend to read only limited amounts of content online, compelling content needs easily printable options. Articles and debate-material can be examples of compelling content. A good article (no more than the length of this blog!) can be compelling enough as an "opener" on a discussion board.

Provocative content

Provocative content also needs to be compelling – it will attempt to provoke an interaction based on response to the provocation. A provocative question is an example, or an "opening statement" that tends towards being controversial in order to stimulate debate, reflection and response.

Inspiring content

Inspiring content can, literally, inspire interaction and response. Inspiring content contains ideals, is visionary, has motivation elements and tends to encourage a certain behavioral response. A "call to action" needs to be written in an inspiring way. In social software, the "call to action" is an attempt to encourage use; the content must be well crafted in a way that draws forth response from readers and users. Writing in an inspiring way is a bit of an art.

Informational content

Informational content prevails on many intranets and does not support interactive response unless the interaction is already a given, and the information is really just "instructions". Often interaction is lacking online because content is too informational and not provocative, motivational or inspiring enough.

Directional content

Directional content on an intranet is in the form of "rules" and "orders from above". It tends to elicit formal response, and limits interaction. Too much directional content, for example, in how to use or not use blogs, can smother motivation to work in an interactive way. Directional content is best balanced by other forms of content.

"Wilf"worthy content

Excuse my expression here. What I call "WILFworthy" content, is content that sends people off at tangents to their original purpose (WILF – "What was I looking for?") It contains too many hyperlinks that draw the user off the original path.

At the end of the day, interaction is a social process; it tends to respond better to forms of content that have a certain artistry about them. To write in a motivational way, to provoke and inspire, are positive ways of encourage responsive behavior on intranets. Other forms of content tend to create either unplanned responses, or to limit response altogether.

It’s all about finding the right balance, as in the organisational culture as a whole – the balance between clear, relevant and well targeted formal and informal messages, procedures and rules, alongside interesting, motivating, compelling call to action, guidance, conversations and ways to share knowledge and good practice.

About the author

Nancy Goebel - DWG's Managing Director for Member & Benchmarking ServicesNancy Goebel is DWG’s Managing Director for Member Services. In addition to heading up service delivery, she is responsible for member engagement, retention and growth. Nancy also sits on DWG’s Board of Directors.

Prior to joining the Digital Workplace Group, Nancy was a accomplished executive at JPMorgan Chase where she built and led a global team in desigining and implementing an award-winning intranet. She also led digital enablement and business re-engineering initiatives.

Outside work, Nancy is a wine maker, fundraiser, meditator, wife and mother of two.

Connect with Nancy on Twitter: @nancyatdwg or on Google +.

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