As consumers become more and more fluent in the nuances of different social media platforms, brands are tasked to tailor their content marketing efforts to adhere to the "zeitgeist" of each social platform.
We have all seen the strong trend of B2C and B2B marketers becoming "publishers" of content, by producing and commissioning content that supports their place in their industry, and their brand specifically. Combine that trend with the amount of digital time consumers spend on social sites, and you have a critical imperative to align content strategy with social strategy.
That imperative requires some careful planning. Brands are tasked to deliver the right content to the right audience in a way that respects the "zeitgeist" of the social platform. This has become quite complex. With the increasing diversity in social - an increasingly dizzying array of choices for brands that are worth a whole separate commentary - as well as a rich choice of content tactics - an average of 13 for B2B marketers, according to a recent study by Nielsen - brands have to carefully curate their content production and distribution plans to maximize value.
Here are ways some brands are aligning their content message to the social medium.
Favored by B2B marketers, the trusted standbys of webinars, blog posts, articles, case studies, and white paper downloads are still being heavily leaned upon, and in the old days, used to remain locked on the company's unsocial corporate website. Now, long-form content sharing by B2B marketers on LinkedIn, Slideshare, and Google+ has increased across the board. To encourage this trend, LinkedIn expanded their long-form posts functionality in February of this year, and more recently launched Direct Sponsored Content to support their sponsored advertising platform. This has fired up B2B marketers to complement their long-form content outreach by injecting a healthy dose of business social. American Express is a brand with a long history of building long-form content which, in the early days of the brand, included travel brochures and glossy magazines. Now American Express invests in their impressive OPEN Forum, a hub filled with long-form content to help small business owners. That popular hub is now completely powered by the LinkedIn social login, allowing the content to be more directly entwined with the visitor's social profile.
For some brands, it's all about photo content, and the potential offered by photo-centered social represents a huge draw. That opportunity is still largely owned by Instagram. Nike, the NBA, H&M, and Starbucks are among the most popular of all Instagram accounts - right up there with celebrities in terms of popularity - and they have learned to perfectly understand just what kind of quick-hit photo content appeals to their millions of followers. On Instagram, brands tend to favor either primarily brand-created, or primarily fan-created content. Converse tends to go more for fan-created content, as does GoPro, because even though they are a video brand, it's all about the fans. But a brand like Victoria's Secret focuses on brand-produced content - presumably because they don't want to follow Dove's example and show everyday people in their products. Outside Magazine as a publisher enjoys access to a huge library of content that appeals to their passionately "outdoorsy" audience, so their social photo content is largely their own. Whatever they choose, when they get it right, Instagramers are loving it, and apparently just can't get enough.
Just as Tumblr is the home of GIFs, Vine has rapidly become the source of amusing bursts of branded short-form video, some of it very popular, such as the Burt's Bees "6-Second Classics" - charming parodies of American classic novels - an example of a brand creating their own content, and seeming to have a wild amount of fun with it.
Other brands call out for fan content that aligns with their values and their expertise - such as GE, which featured their fans' Vine content on Tumblr in "#6secondscience Fair," and this publication - ClickZ - which [asked its readership] to produce Vine videos that described their biggest challenge in digital marketing.
In all these examples, brands are recognizing that consumers are expecting to be entertained and engaged with content that is socially loaded and respects the platform. Consumers are trained on social. Consequently, they expect the brands they follow to give them content that's both high-quality, and positive, to share. Content that's perfectly tuned to the social place where they find that content. Sometimes very socially savvy brands slip up, as PepsiMax did with their World Cup Voodoo dolls.
And sometimes brands just forget their followers love them so much, they just want more of who they are, such as Audi's Instagram followers, who begged for "just more cars" during that brands #PaidMyDues campaign.
If consumers follow a brand on Tumblr or Pinterest, they want content they can re-blog or re-pin to their own followers. If they access that brand with their LinkedIn credentials, they want content they can share with business colleagues that improves their reputation. When the content aligns the brand's values with the fan's social compass, it's marketing gold.
Roger Katz is the CEO and founder of Friend2Friend, a social media technology and solutions company that works with global brands and media agencies. Launched in 2007, Friend2Friend works with over 100 global brands through its offices in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Barcelona, Spain. During Roger's 20 years working in marketing, strategy, and social media, his career has included management and consulting roles at companies such as Photobucket, Agilent, Brocade, Quantum, Bell Labs, and Pacific Community Ventures, as well as a number of startups. Behind his marketing mind lies deep engineering expertise. He has engineering degrees from Michigan State and UC Berkeley and an MBA from Wharton. He's a cycling fanatic, aspiring guitarist, and (slow) swimmer.
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