From Documentation to Dialogue: 5 Best Practices to Optimize Your Product Documentation
Online social communities are far more than a group of people with common interests. They’re a valuable target audience that is primed and eager to interact, collaborate, and share information about your organization – but only if they have the means and material to do so. And that’s where your product content enters the picture and makes all the difference.
Indeed, the outstanding product documentation produced by your hard working tech pubs department is the ideal content that your social community wants to engage with and discuss. At the same time, it’s the essential content that your organization needs to deliver in order to improve customer experience, while reducing customer support and content creation costs.
With the above complimentary goals in mind, here are 5 best practices to help your organization maximize the impact and value of your product documentation, and ultimately empower and engage your ever-growing social communities:
- Effectively Publish All Product Documentation
80 percent of customers feel that the authenticity level of content is the biggest factor when deciding how much they trust a brand. Ensure that your product documentation — which represents the authentic “voice” of your organization – is published in all of your social communities, and across all of your customer-facing touchpoints for support, education and feedback purposes. Making this valuable content easily accessible boosts its value, attracts traffic, enhances the authenticity of your brand, and gives your organization a competitive edge.
- Optimize Content for Contextual Access
Customers want to be informed – not overwhelmed. Unfortunately, some businesses overshoot the former and trigger the latter by distributing large PDF files. Or they copy/paste sections of product documentation into online communities, which become outdated and unreliable as new documentation versions are released.
Your organization will avoid both of these pitfalls by optimizing content for contextual access, which involves using structured authoring and topic-based formats to create smaller, more accessible content modules that feature smart search capabilities. This approach also enables your organization to create documentation just once, and efficiently publish it in a format that extends to multiple customer-facing touchpoints.
- Leverage Customer Knowledge Capital
Customers are an invaluable source of insight, and in some ways are unique among all stakeholders in that they are driven to tell an organization what they believe it NEEDS to hear – not necessarily what it WANTS to hear. What’s more, many customers are SMEs, and as such their opinions are informed, measured, fair, on-point and actionable. It’s vital for your organization to leverage all of this knowledge capital, by enabling customers to interact with your content and provide feedback.
- Use an Agile Approach to Publish Intelligent Content
Rather than manually updating your product documentation quarterly, semi-annually or annually, use an agile approach to efficiently and cost-effectively publish, edit and re-publish your intelligent content.
An agile approach allows your tech pubs department to integrate ongoing feedback and commentary into product documentation, and ultimately achieve dramatically shorter release cycles. Indeed, some organizations following this best practice have gone from updating their content once a year, to updating it once a day!
- Measure & Track Engagement
Anecdotal feedback is one thing; hard data is another. Use relevant impact metrics to measure and track the engagement level of your product documentation. This valuable intelligence will help you more fully understand reach and perception, as well as identify ways to more cost-effectively publish content through various touchpoints. What’s more, you can use this data to fortify business cases, and persuade organizational decision-makers to make investments in the product documentation program.
The Bottom Line
Your tech pubs department works hard to create outstanding product documentation – but that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Your organization needs to use advanced technology in combination with proven processes, approaches, methods and workflows.
The above best practices will point you in the right direction, and guide you forward towards turning static documentation into a dynamic dialogue with your impressed and inspired social communities.