You can't just create a video, post it on Facebook, and expect it to generate tons of awareness, engagement, and sales. You need to put thought and structure behind the content you create and share on social media profiles.
"Content is fire. Social media is gasoline."
Jay Baer uses this analogy to explain the idea that content is the main substance in any digital marketing campaign; social media channels ignite that content and help it to spread. What this means for marketers is that content must be at the core of your digital marketing initiatives. Content is what people find when searching on Google. Content is what people share on social media channels. Content is how brands tell their story and connect with customers. And content is what ultimately drives leads and sales.
But you can't just create a video, post it on Facebook, and expect it to generate tons of awareness, engagement, and sales. You need to put thought and structure behind the content you create and share on social media profiles. Start with these seven tips for managing and maximizing content in social media.
1. Know Your Audience
If you don't know who your audience is, how will you ever connect with them? Most brands have an understanding of their audience's demographics - age, gender, HHI, ethnicity. But you have to go beyond these statistics to get a better understanding of their interests, needs, mindsets, and behaviors to truly make a connection and become an important part of their lives.
In addition to the standard methods of audience discovery - industry research, focus groups, and brand surveys - you can also use social media data to build audience personas. Social monitoring software, Facebook Custom Audience, social referrals to your website, and question-and-answer sites are just a few of the sources you can use to learn more about your audience.
2. Provide Value
Your content must provide some type of value to your audience. That value could be education, increased productivity, entertainment, or cost savings. To the consumer, it shouldn't seem like marketing, even though we know it is by nature. It's providing long-term awareness and brand recall. It's making sure your brand is right there with the consumer at each step along their path to purchase so that when it comes time to make a decision, you're the first brand that comes to mind.
Take Charmin's Sit or Squat app, for example. This Seinfeld-ish app allows you to find which public restrooms in your vicinity are clean (i.e., safe sitters) and which are dirty (i.e., strictly squatters). Any user can add and rate public restrooms, include a review, tag various amenities (e.g., handicap accessible, free), and upload photos.
Charmin isn't selling anything with Sit or Squat. Not one roll of toilet paper can be purchased through the app, and they do not try to push any sales messaging. The purpose of the app is that when a consumer is standing in front of the wall of toilet paper at Target, desperately trying to figure out if they need grandma-quilted, ocean-breeze-scented, quadruple-ply, or pillow-top TP, they'll reach for the Charmin because they remember that Charmin helped them find a clean bathroom on their last vacation.
3. Expand Your Conversation
Brands, especially B2B brands, have a tendency to be egocentric. They talk only about themselves ad nauseam - their products, services, features, benefits, staff, culture, financials, and on and on. Customers don't want to hear about this. They're egocentric, too, and want to know what else your brand can do for them.
To broaden the conversation and take the spotlight off your brand, you should create content pillars. Content pillars provide a creative filter and platform that is rooted in customer needs, brand voice and personality, and business objectives. These pillars represent a starting point that allows you to live within your brand's core environment - your products/services - while also stretching into adjacent, relevant, and credible aspects of your customers' lives. An example would be Whole Foods talking about fighting poverty in the United States, or General Electric providing fascinating content with their #6SecondScience campaign. Or even Method's fun and engaging #DirtyLittleSecrets campaign. These topics are not directly about their core products, but they are compelling to the brands' core audiences.
Method's #DirtyLittleSecrets campaign sticks to their core mission of designing green cleaning products, but has broad appeal for inspiring user-generated content.
4. Look Beyond Facebook and Twitter
Creating content doesn't automatically mean users will come consume it and engage with your brand as a result. You must draw attention to the content through owned, earned, and paid methods across a variety of channels, not just the big ones.
Ask yourself how else you can maximize the value of each piece of content and each campaign: Can you make the content more visible and sharable on your website? What other social channels does your audience use besides Facebook and Twitter? Can you use sites that accept submissions of specific content, like Visual.ly for infographics or Online-Sweepstakes.com for contests? How much are you able to pay to distribute your content on sites such as Outbrain or Taboola? Are you using Google+ to link to content on your website? (If the answer is no, I urge you to start today. Google+, while lacking in the engagement department, has a major impact on organic ranking.)
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Angie Pascale is the social media director at Location3 Media, providing strategic direction for social media and content marketing campaigns, and helping to integrate social media, SEO, paid media and other digital marketing efforts for enterprise, franchise and multiunit brands.
Angie has provided content for a variety of industry conferences and publications, including the Google Website Optimizer Authorized Consultant Summit, Search Engine Strategies, SMX Social Media Marketing and eMarketing Association Conference.
Prior to joining Location3 in 2006, Angie was an account executive at Marich Communications, a literary, entertainment and consumer products publicity firm based in Los Angeles. She graduated from Penn State University with a bachelor's degree in English. Follow her at @angiepascale.
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