Kill the barriers. Hang a welcome sign on your door.

It started when I tried to comment on a blog post at Knowledge Infuser. I looked and I scanned (in the real-time Web jet skiing of 5.5 seconds), but I couldn't see how to comment.

So I left and tweeted about how frustrating it was to run into a barrier like this online, especially when I wanted to be part of that particular conversation. Within 10 minutes the Jasons replied.

Don't get me wrong – Jason Averbrook and Jason Corsello are icons in the human capital space and I'm an avid reader of their blogs. But the answer I received was the fact that, because of so much spam these days, they require registration at Knowledge Infusion in order to participate in commenting.

Barriers are barriers, though. Most blog platforms have security measures built in to verify you're a real person commenting and to give bloggers the ability to screen comments. And that got me thinking about more than commenting on blogs.

It got me thinking about content in general and how liberating the Internet has been to giving global access to content (we can debate quality and objectivity another time). However, more often than not companies still try to control their content and messaging, and that isn't working anymore. Transparency and accessibility is where it's at, but the more I immerse myself in social media and networking, I realize that as marketing and PR professionals we still put up way too many barriers potential buyers, partners, you name it.

To register or not to register is still the question – but it's even more than that these days. It's also about easily accessible "complimentary" content (free is a spam word remember) versus premium content that comes with a price tag.

First registration. We knew when we launched our HR community that requiring registration to access over 500 vendor profiles and nearly 2,000 of pieces of content would be a barrier and limit our traffic. Yes, we require registration when vendors and individuals want to complete a profile and link to their white papers and webcasts and podcast and the like, but that's not the same thing as giving open access to visitors.

I'm even starting to wane on requiring registration for content download offers. I mean, the current social media marketing super stars would tell you that just because someone downloaded your white paper or a research report doesn't mean they're a prospect. And that's true. Maybe if they download your content over time (in conjunction with other marketing/PR activities), start seeing you as a thought leader in your space, that your solutions just might help them, and then when the timing is right and their organization needs a new ATS, compensation software, I-9 compliance software, leadership development, whatever – they just might reach out to you to talk about your products/services. (We can also debate building a house another time.)

Then there's the premium content "exclusivity" business model – content sites like The HR Specialist and MarketingProfs and industry analysts like Gartner and Forrester that sell premium content along with other products and services.

But with old media dying and the sheer volume of "complimentary" content available on the Web, including podcasts that will grow exponentially in number in the next few years, how long can the premium content model be sustained? I'm sure some of these firms could show me otherwise, that their models are viable and their subscribers are there, but I'll bet that number gets smaller and smaller, even for the industry analysts. Buyers have access to too much online already, and vendors are going to have to use the content to market and sell very select content (eBooks, printed books, annual research reports) but particularly their products and/or services.

I propose that HR (and senior care) vendors use their quality content to generate visibility and website traffic, kill the barriers like registration and premium content, and the true leads will come over time.

Hang a welcome sign on your door.

Post by Kevin Grossman (join me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn)

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