In this age of the Internet of Things (IoT), everything that can be connected will be connected. This means that information and content will be shared in real time between connected things. Behind the IoT is an “Internet of People,” which is the “soul” of the IoT. Only the people, among all these “things,” have purposes, goals and intentions. It is human goals that establish a context for all activity: “Why are we doing this?” Content is shared between people and things in the context of a human purpose. For example, collaboration usually happens around some type of content, in a sequence of interactions between people, processes, behaviors, data or content, and objects or things. Yet, objects cannot collaborate, for they have no intentions. The context, or purpose, of the interactions comes from the people; it is human involvement that makes an interaction collaborative.

So, how can collaborators ensure that the content they work with is the right content? A lot of human overhead goes into making sure that it is right. With few exceptions, content is “dumb.” It doesn’t know its purpose or what process it is a part of. It doesn’t know when it’s wrong or out of date. We spend countless hours tagging, tracking, revising and curating it so we can put the right document or data point into the right hands and at the right time to make a business process end in success. The stakes are high: Bad content can make you lose a deal, hire the wrong person or pay the wrong price. The need for good content, and the high cost of bad content, is a bottom-line issue across all industries and organizations.

“You have to read the house” to know your audience and understand their body language. Today, in a social-networked world, we need to understand digital body language.

The more contextually aware content is, the more predictive it can be. This awareness can be embedded in the form of metadata and links to collaborators, process maps and other content, such as customer profiles, but some of this awareness has to come in the form of human judgment on the part of those who are using the content. Performers say, “You have to read the house” to know your audience and understand their body language. Today, in a social-networked world, we need to understand digital body language.

One of the main reasons consumers opt out of content marketing campaigns is that marketers don’t understand their context, their needs or their expectations—their digital body language. The “killer content” they sent out was an intrusion and out of context. It had the wrong tone or the wrong language, or it wasn't delivered at the right time—for whatever reason, it didn’t produce a good customer experience.

What needs to happen—and we see signs of it already—
is for technology and business strategies to become more human. They need to be intuitive and very perceptive of the human context. Whether you’re a marketer conducting a campaign or a manager engaging employees, you have to read the house and understand the contextual ecosystem of the interaction matrix.

This goes beyond user location or device. It’s about behavior and understanding people's needs so you can provide the right flow of relevant messages that will really help them. Do you understand your customers or employees? How smart are your employee and customer engagement strategies? Do you constantly monitor behavior to perceive relevant contextual cues in order to respond in a relevant and contextual way? Are you reading the house?

Then, when you do,
are you agile enough to change your strategy in real time? Sometimes, all you have is bad content. It’s one of the things predictive technology is intended to address, but you are the human node in this matrix. When you see an interaction go in an unexpected way, you have to be ready to drop the script, pick up the mic and respond to the situation that actually exists on the ground, not the one you planned on. You have go live, take the wheel and deliver the right content to the customer that is right here, right now. This is a story about a group of customer service people who did exactly that. Their proactive response led to a positive outcome for themselves and for their customer—me.

MORE: Your Content Is On the Move: Is It Secure?

Recently, I experienced an almost several hour delay on an airplane traveling from New York to San Francisco. It was a mechanical delay, and there was no explanation for it really. The issue in this delay was the time it took to actually get the mechanical log. I had a connection to make, which I was now going to miss. So sitting there on the plane, I decided to tweet my displeasure at the airline. Within a matter of minutes, I received a tweet from the airline apologizing for the delay. They engaged me in a Twitter conversation that resulted in being immediately booked on the following connecting flight. I tweeted my thanks and appreciation of their efforts.

This situation represents how understanding behaviors and needs can lead to better customer experience, engagement and overall satisfaction. By understanding my sentiment and needs on social media, the airline responded in kind and pushed relevant messages to me in context of my situation and resolved my dilemma. I was, maybe, somewhat emotional, but the airline was perceptive of it. They were, in this case, intuitively human.
My digital body language on Twitter was loud and clear.

In saying that, organizations, whether they focus on employees or customers, have to go deeper in reading digital body language and targeting content to people in context. In saying that, organizations, whether they focus on employees or customers, have to go deeper in reading digital body language and targeting content to people in context. I have a lot more thoughts on this subject, which I will share in a subsequent post on predictive content.

Dave Smith is the research director and lead analyst for collaboration at Aragon Research. Previously, Mr. Smith was a research analyst at Gartner, where he covered collaboration and web conferencing. Follow him on Twitter @DaveMario.
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