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First Things First – Content Strategy Before Social Strategy

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.

 

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  • http://twitter.com/cedarpointcnslt CedarPointConsulting

    Hello, Patricia –

    Great article; I wish I had written it.

    For my clients, it’s never a problem getting across the premise of being where their prospective customers are in terms of social media platforms, or, measuring results (since they’re paying me for consulting, they’re definitely all about measuring results). No, the problem I have with most of them is convincing them to hire someone to create content for their social media outlets.

    http://cedarpointconsulting.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/what-is-your-social-media-content-strategy/

    Most businesses, large and small, seem to believe that it will be no problem creating great content on a frequent basis, and doing that all in-house with their current FTE. And they are so terribly wrong.

    The content they produce is poor quality, or it is very infrequent. Many times it’s both – poor quality and only shows up once a month. Or once a quarter. And then they say to me, with a completely straight face, “social media just doesn’t move the needle at our business”.

    I mention this in the last piece we did, and I mentioned this in a piece we did months ago – it’s very difficult for most businesses to churn out enough good/great content on a consistent and frequent basis without hiring someone with that specific skill set and the requisite creativity to do it. Most businesses don’t already have that resource in-house.

    But, paradoxically, most businesses believe that “it’s really not going to be that big a deal” for them to generate the kind of content they’re going to need in order to make their social media efforts effective.

    It is ongoing challenge for our consulting firm; this mismatch between the reality of what is needed in terms of content and the client’s perception of their ability to provide same.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for your comprehensive feedback Cedar Point Consulting.

      Content marketing is such a new concept – and one that not everyone is embracing.

      The difficulty is that companies have to take their marketing hats off and put on their publishing hats – this is not an easy shift to make.

      The problems you’re experiencing with your clients are unfortunately all too common. But as time goes by, brands will ‘get it’ when they see the long term effects that content marketing has on social media, SEO, lead generation and so forth. At that point they may be far behind the early adapters but I believe that it’s never too late to incorporate content strategy into your marketing mix.

      As you say, it’s an ongoing challenge but one which you and I and those in our business must continue to educate others about.

  • http://twitter.com/cedarpointcnslt CedarPointConsulting

    Hello, Patricia –

    Great article; I wish I had written it.

    For my clients, it’s never a problem getting across the premise of being where their prospective customers are in terms of social media platforms, or, measuring results (since they’re paying me for consulting, they’re definitely all about measuring results). No, the problem I have with most of them is convincing them to hire someone to create content for their social media outlets.

    http://cedarpointconsulting.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/what-is-your-social-media-content-strategy/

    Most businesses, large and small, seem to believe that it will be no problem creating great content on a frequent basis, and doing that all in-house with their current FTE. And they are so terribly wrong.

    The content they produce is poor quality, or it is very infrequent. Many times it’s both – poor quality and only shows up once a month. Or once a quarter. And then they say to me, with a completely straight face, “social media just doesn’t move the needle at our business”.

    I mention this in the last piece we did, and I mentioned this in a piece we did months ago – it’s very difficult for most businesses to churn out enough good/great content on a consistent and frequent basis without hiring someone with that specific skill set and the requisite creativity to do it. Most businesses don’t already have that resource in-house.

    But, paradoxically, most businesses believe that “it’s really not going to be that big a deal” for them to generate the kind of content they’re going to need in order to make their social media efforts effective.

    It is ongoing challenge for our consulting firm; this mismatch between the reality of what is needed in terms of content and the client’s perception of their ability to provide same.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for your comprehensive feedback Cedar Point Consulting.

      Content marketing is such a new concept – and one that not everyone is embracing.

      The difficulty is that companies have to take their marketing hats off and put on their publishing hats – this is not an easy shift to make.

      The problems you’re experiencing with your clients are unfortunately all too common. But as time goes by, brands will ‘get it’ when they see the long term effects that content marketing has on social media, SEO, lead generation and so forth. At that point they may be far behind the early adapters but I believe that it’s never too late to incorporate content strategy into your marketing mix.

      As you say, it’s an ongoing challenge but one which you and I and those in our business must continue to educate others about.

  • http://www.totallyseo.co.uk Search Engine Marketing

    Hi Its great article.Its very informative article.I really want to read more about this article.We are very grateful to u for sharing this article with us.Keep sharing with us.

  • http://www.seopositive.co.uk seo

    Well written article.I will appreciate your writing skills.You have done a great job by sharing this article with us.I like this article.keep sharing with us.

  • http://www.simplyearplugs.co.uk music earplugs

    One of the core elements in any social media management scheme is learning the essentials of search engine optimization, or SEO. This term refers to the judicious use of keywords and keyphrases within the content of a web site so that pages on the site appear higher in search engine results.

  • http://www.simplyearplugs.co.uk music earplugs

    One of the core elements in any social media management scheme is learning the essentials of search engine optimization, or SEO. This term refers to the judicious use of keywords and keyphrases within the content of a web site so that pages on the site appear higher in search engine results.

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  • http://www.adanlerma.com adan

    what a breath of fresh air :

    “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.”

    thank you much! many great ideas, greatly organizes my emerging thoughts about how to promo my years of content, in this “new” age ;-)

    • Anonymous

      You’re very welcome Adan :)

  • http://www.adanlerma.com adan

    what a breath of fresh air :

    “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.”

    thank you much! many great ideas, greatly organizes my emerging thoughts about how to promo my years of content, in this “new” age ;-)

    • Anonymous

      You’re very welcome Adan :)

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  • Andrew Smith

    The main aim of utilizing Social Media is when one has a plan to revive interest in your product and retain attention at all times. A example is to use hype and the media to promote whatever you want to promote.

    • Anonymous

      That’s certainly one of the ways you can use social media Andrew. The way I look at it – the aim of using social media/content marketing is to engage your target audience, prospects and customers so that they can become passionate about your brand. Ultimately you make money when they buy your products, but engagement is a pre-requisite if the relationship is to take off.

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