At the heart of social media is the desire that every consumer has to talk about something interesting, compelling and relevant and to share that information with his or her friends.
The question marketers must ask themselves is: “What makes my brand so interesting that people will want to talk about it and share it with their friends?” (Even boring brands have something interesting to say!)
You can’t succeed in social media if you don’t have something interesting to say.
At this point in your social media experience, you (hopefully) understand that social media marketing is not just about having a Facebook page or a Twitter profile.
Social media is the vehicle for communicating and distributing interesting stories (content) across the internet. In turn, readers share the content they think is compelling.
What does content strategy have to do with it?
The purpose of content strategy is to facilitate the consistent delivery of interesting stories. The end result is that you will attract and retain the attention of the targeted audience that you want to reach.
Imagine for a moment that you’re invited to pitch your business to a room full of potential investors. They’re willing to hear your story and let you persuade them with your ideas. How much time do you think you would need to prepare for such an opportunity? A week? A month? More?
The point is you’d be foolish to simply show up, stand on the podium and say whatever comes to mind.
And yet, most businesses do exactly that when it comes to social media. Given the opportunity to present their brand to an online audience of potential customers, they simply show up without preparing a compelling message.
What a wasted opportunity.
Preparation is important because social media is a very active space. There’s a lot to do and a ton of conversations taking place. It is a very distracting environment, and everyone has a very short attention span.
You have to figure out what kind of conversation you’re going to spark that will make people pay attention to you because in social media attention is very hard to get (or retain for that matter).
Your competition isn’t the guy or gal who sells the same stuff that you do. Your competition is every person, every brand, every church, every small business, every big technology company, every politician and every celebrity who has something interesting to say.
That’s why it’s important to have a plan (content strategy). And that’s why your plan must be put in place before you show up on any social media channel.
How do I approach my own content strategy?
As you brainstorm your own content strategy, ask yourself these questions:
- What niche do I want to be known for? Example: Chiropractor.
- What are my customers’ challenges? Example: Back-pain.
- What kind of content do they consume? Example: Articles and videos
- How can I create interesting yet consistent content that will attract new customers and retain old ones? Example: Create a blog on my website showing them how to manage back injury and how to treat back pain (featuring both text and video). Publish weekly.
- When all is said and done, what business results do I want to achieve for all my hard work? Example: More clients and more sales.
- How will I know if this stuff is working? Example: By periodically measuring how many new customers and how many new sales, I have made since executing my content strategy.
Do I need a social strategy to make this work?
Indeed, you can achieve your business objectives through your content strategy without social media marketing. For example, visitors using long-tail search terms (e.g. lower back pain or injury-related back pain) can certainly find your content through Google or Bing (although this doesn’t happen overnight).
However, social media marketing can help you distribute your content much faster and reach more people than your website. But, your social strategy doesn’t need to be complicated, and it certainly doesn’t need the help of a ‘guru.’ It’s simply a plan that will work seamlessly with your content strategy to help you achieve your business goals.
To do this, first understand how consumers behave online:
- They meet in different places (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube, Digg);
- They read, share and discuss different content (blogs, videos, podcasts, music);
- They evaluate brands based on content. “People buy products to accomplish something” ~ Clayton Christensen author of It’s the Purpose Brand, Stupid. A brand’s content needs to explain what that ‘something’ is.
- They are connected with one another and influence each other’s purchasing decisions (e.g.GAP logo story)
In other words, online conversations are the new market place.
The conversation opportunity
Organizations that understand this behavior are able to communicate directly with consumers and influence their perception of their brands. Here’s what you need to do:
- Think about where your customers are located online and join those communities.
- Establish a listening campaign to figure out who’s doing the talking and what’s being said.
- Consider how you will connect with the more influential ‘conversationalists’ within those communities. Do you need to create your own Facebook page or Linkedin profile? Or do you need to comment regularly on select blogs? Use these channels to interact with your community by asking questions (surveys), participating and contributing to conversations (comments/discussion forums) and sharing your expertise (your content).
- Share whatever is going on in your offline world with your online community (pictures and videos).
- Reach out to other bloggers (guest blogging).
- Respond quickly to comments and feedback on your own blog.
Quick recap: Content marketing is enhanced by social media but can also survive without it. Social media on the other hand, would not be popular without interesting, informative or humorous content. Before entering the social media space, you need a plan to figure out how to deliver interesting content on a consistent basis so that you may attract and retain the attention of your target audience. That is your content strategy.
**Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on the Content Marketing Institute blog on May 9th, 2011. The original author is Patricia Redsicker.