In today’s modern workplace content creation is almost constant. New files like contracts, presentations, photography, and creative assets are being added daily, if not hourly.
When these files are created, inherently, so is their metadata — or data about data. Metadata can include things like the document’s name, date, file size, and creator.
As a result, companies are awash with content and its related metadata. They need a system for keeping it all organized. That’s where metadata management comes in.
What is metadata management?
Metadata management is the administration of metadata in order to make it easier to access and retrieve content. It involves creating and managing a repository in which files are consistently tagged with the right metadata.
Metadata management systems have been around for a long time. For example, the earliest known library classification scheme is thought to be the Pinakes created by Callimachus — a scholar at the Library of Alexandria during the third century BCE. But today, the term is typically used in relation to digital media.
How metadata management is used
Metadata is what allows content in a digital repository to be found. It organizes everything into buckets or categories and powers search tools. That’s why metadata is said to be as valuable as the content itself. Because what good is great content if you can never find it again?
A metadata framework, or schema, is comprised of metadata fields that are determined based on the kind of content in a repository. For example, a collection of photographs might have metadata fields like photographer, date, photo caption, and descriptive keywords.
There are a range of different kinds of metadata fields, but they all fall into two categories:
- Free text metadata fields: which allow users to enter information freely
- Controlled vocabulary: which require users to choose from a list of pre-set options
Regardless of the metadata field type, each field should be completed with accurate metadata values to see the best results. Though it's good to note that using controlled vocabulary fields will make it easier to be consistent. Whereas opting for free text fields requires more detailed training and policies to ensure quality control.
When it comes to managing any metadata schema, policies and processes are key. Having a system of guidelines in place helps control and enhance the metadata terms — and their relation to each other — over time. Using a strategic approach to create and curate metadata ensures that tagged content is organized, findable, and shareable throughout its lifecycle.
Why is managing metadata so important?
As organizations generate more data and content, metadata management only becomes more critical. In addition to making assets findable, good metadata management can unlock new insights and lead to a range of business benefits.
Keeping metadata consistent and well-managed will, first and foremost, make the underlying data and assets it describes searchable and easier to navigate. This can have a big impact on efficiency and productivity. Whether you’re producing social-ready video clips or trying to track down the most recent brand standards, having rock-solid metadata will make life easier.
Metadata management also helps maintain the quality of an organization’s data overall. As that pool of data grows, data quality — things like its accuracy, completeness, timeliness, and validity — can become vital in ensuring that it is both useful and free of errors that can cause trouble down the road.
What are the benefits of having metadata management?
Good metadata management can have wide-ranging benefits for organizations of all sizes. Indeed, as the breadth of the content we generate grows, the implications of effective metadata management can stretch far beyond the risk of messy files. Well-managed metadata leads to improvements in marketing ROI, customer experience, team productivity and more.
- Increased team productivity. Good metadata management provides a natural boost to team productivity by removing many of the bottlenecks and inefficiencies associated with navigating and making use of content assets and other forms of data. By ensuring everything is tagged with a consistent, logical taxonomy of metadata, organizations can speed up content workflows, empower teams across departments, and allow those teams to deliver projects in a more timely fashion.
- Improved ROI. By making data and assets easier to navigate, well-managed metadata can drive efficiency for marketing teams by speeding up their ability to find and use assets – not to mention the time and headaches it can spare for the creative teams making the assets. As a result of these efficiencies, organizations often see improved ROI on their marketing efforts.
- Better customer experience. When metadata is applied accurately and consistently, content is able to be used in the same way to provide a better overall experience for not only your users but ultimately, your customers. Having trust-worthy metadata means content can be confidently distributed when and where it’s needed. Delivering the content your customers want and expect drives brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.
Metadata management use cases
Whether you’re a data analyst, creative, or a member of a team like sales or marketing, good metadata management can make a world of difference in the way you and your team work day to day. It impacts everything from workflows to customer experience.
Here a few examples of use cases where effective metadata management can make a difference:
- Analytics. Metadata and metadata groupings that are consistent across systems and teams can help power insightful business analytics dashboards that can unlock previously unseen trends and insights. Analyzing content based on metadata offers insights into how specific types of content is being used which can help inform decisions about budget allocation, content gaps, and even consumer behavior.
- Operations. Effective metadata management is an essential component for improving and streamlining workflows.Using integrations and automation options like metadata mapping or artificial intelligence (AI) auto-tagging tools allows teams to speed up the metadata application process, improving tagging accuracy and getting new content out to teams faster.
- Compliance. Well-managed metadata taxonomies make it easier to comply with legal regulations and data policies. Digital rights management (DRM) is a critical part of keeping your digital content safe. Leveraging metadata to assist with permission management and copyright compliance will help protect your assets and your organization, as well as make usage guidelines readily available for content consumers.
Why you need a metadata management system
Having a metadata management strategy in place allows those adding metadata to do so quickly and accurately while ensuring that people throughout an organization can find the content they need with ease. Ultimately, metadata management improves a wide range of marketing and creative workflows.
Implementing a metadata management strategy can seem overwhelming if you’re not using the right tools. A digital asset management (DAM) solution can help. DAM systems are built to facilitate metadata management for an extensive range of content — from photography to video, and everything in-between. They also offer a suite of security features to control content access and distribution, and tools to support creative workflows.
Note: This article was originally published in August 2019 and has been updated to remain current.