“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.)
5. Know Your Dimensions
People share things not only because those things look good, but because those things make them look good. If your content is cropped inappropriately or appears blurry and pixelated, it’s probably not going to get shared by users on social media channels. Be aware of how your content will display on different social networks and devices by understanding the various dimension of each channel, and how your audience most often finds that content.
6. Don’t Ignore the SEO Impact
It’s no longer accurate to talk about the “intersection of social and SEO.” These two services don’t just intersect; they coalesce into a united effort to increase findability across all digital platforms. Therefore, separating these efforts into siloes and different departments will not only hurt you today, but certainly in the future.
Google’s Matt Cutts has indicated that social signals – Facebook Likes, retweets, pins, LinkedIn shares – don’t directly impact the ranking of content, but they do help to increase traffic and generate links, which are key factors in ranking. Cutts has also stated that they are working on weighting the ranking of identities, meaning that a thought leader in a particular vertical would receive higher ranking for queries on that subject.
What Google has not openly addressed is how much weight they are giving to Google+ pages and posts. But they are – a lot. Enough so, that I had to mention it again in this article. The key takeaways for Google+: Create a Google+ page. Add publisher markup to your website. Actively post links back to your site content (at least once every 72 hours). And increase your circle count.
7. Measure Success
Before creating a single piece of content or posting one Facebook message, determine the objective of your content and what metrics you will use to measure performance.
Start by identifying the important metrics within five buckets: awareness, consumption, engagement, actions, and SEO impact. While the specific metrics in each bucket will vary based on your strategy, objectives, and resources, some common ones are:
- Awareness – impressions, reach, mentions
- Consumption – clicks, visits, referrals
- Engagement – likes, shares, +1s, time on site
- Actions – leads/sales, PDF downloads, newsletter sign-ups, site navigation
- SEO Impact – increased organic site traffic and activity, increased organic backlinks, increased engagement on specific content pieces
By learning who your audience is and how you can provide value to them, identifying additional distribution channels, integrating SEO, and creating a solid plan for measurement, you can ensure your content has enough fuel to inflame across social media and other digital marketing channels.
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