6 Tips for Using Content Marketing & Social Media for Any Doctor

Are you a doctor who’s interested in learning how content and social media marketing can help grow your practice?

For decades doctors were able to get away without investing too much money in advertising or marketing. Then when the Internet changed everything, many of you started to use (and are still using) costly methods of online advertising to market your practices e.g. banner ads.

The problem is patients have completely tuned out to some these tactics and developed chronic cases such as banner blindness.

According to Pew Research, today’s patients are increasingly turning towards the Internet to find information (not advertisements) about symptoms, treatment and support. That means if you want patients to find you when they go online, you need to be involved in content marketing and social media.

And in case you’re wondering how social media and content marketing are related here’s what you should know…

Both are about educating people, answering their questions, and sharing interesting news about your practice. When you do this primarily on your blog it is content marketing

But there’s more.

Social media promotion is critical to online content marketing success. Because there are millions of users on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social sites, it is very likely that people who need your medical expertise (yet don’t know that your blog exists!) are hanging out there.

The best way to reach them is by taking the stories that you’ve posted on your blog and placing them in these sites.

It’s that easy?

Well, yes and no.  Yes, because once you have all your content ready, all you have to do is promote it on your social media networks. But preparation is key.

Social media is a very active space. There are a lot of interesting conversations taking place at the same time and since your target audience has a short attention span, they can get distracted very easily.

The challenge for you as a doctor using social media, is that you have to be more interesting and more creative than the other people or brands in your target audience’s network!

How do you that?

Here are 6 content marketing and social media success tips for your medical practice.

#1. Blog Regularly

If you don’t already have one, develop an editorial calendar to help you blog regularly and consistently. Remember too that social media content benefits from planning and regular updating.

You need to plan for the interesting stories that you will share on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest. Of course many of these stories will be inspired from your blog, but once in a while you may also need to add other content (photos, video, podcasts etc.) to engage audiences within those specific networks.

#2. Tell Awesome Stories

Use your blog to tell stories about your industry, practice, people and events. Each story should be unique and interesting enough to create appeal and draw new audiences on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites that you use.

Human-interest stories are very popular on social media. As a doctor, you have no shortage of such stories although you have to be careful not to violate patient privacy. Patient stories help to illustrate how your practice is impacting people’s lives, and thus generates more interest from other online audiences.

#3. Execute well

Even though 99% of patient stories are interesting by default, how you execute them on social media is very important.

For example on Facebook and Pinterest, posting visually appealing and well-edited photos will go much farther than posting links to your blog. On Twitter you will need different executions skills such as how to craft a compelling tweet with 140 characters, or how to use relevant hashtags to make it easy for people to find your content.

Every social media platform is different. It’s important for you to learn those environments and leverage their unique features to reach a wider audience with your message.

#4. Include location

One of your primary marketing goals is to attract more patients to your practice. So start by creating or updating your Facebook page, Twitter profile and Pinterest account and adding your physical location and your contact information.

When patients come in for their appointment, encourage them to ‘check-in’ to your location using Facebook Places.

Checking-in on Facebook has the same effect as word-of-mouth marketing. When a Facebook user sees (on her Newsfeed) that her friend (your patient) has checked into your location, she’ll be curious to learn more about your practice and will probably click through to your Facebook Page for more information.

#5. Work on your ‘About’ section

The ‘About’ section of your Facebook page should be optimized with keyword rich names, categories and descriptions. The words you use to describe your practice should reflect the natural conversational language that your audience uses. This will increase the likelihood of appearing on Facebook’s Graph Search results.

Similarly, the ‘About’ page of your website should not just focus on keywords that match the medical conditions you treat, but also on answering questions that typical patients would ask. Think about some of the common questions that your patients have asked in the past and update your About page with content that provides those answers.

#6. Consider contests, promotions & giveaways

Contests, promotions and giveaways are very effective ways of acquiring new clients via social media. Because contests can produce outstanding results, it’s important that you make yours stand out by offering a prize that will create excitement and enthusiasm among your audience. Giving away a free iPad has nothing to do with your practice, so don’t bother.

You can give away a relevant product with a ‘limited time only’ message to create a sense of urgency and interest. Avoid giving away free services as this might encourage people not to buy until they find out if they’ve won. To ensure high participation encourage Facebook fans to submit photos of themselves, or share stories for a chance to win.

Your Turn:

Which of these content and social media tips have you used to market your medical practice? Please share your experience in the comment box below.

5 Content Strategies for Boring Healthcare Brands

If people aren’t talking about you, they’re not talking about you for a reason. And the reason isn’t that they dislike you. They’re not talking about you because you’re boring.” ~ Seth Godin

The formidable challenge for healthcare marketers of boring brands is that you have to present content that is remarkable and interesting, even when your product or service —on the face of it—is not.

Let’s face it. Not every healthcare marketer has the advantage of selling sexy products such as face lifts, tummy tucks, or breast implants. But the fact is, boring products solve legitimate problems too. Extracting wisdom teeth or doing colonoscopies may not sound terribly exciting, but these services are extremely important, even helping save people’s  lives.

So, how do you get prospective patients or caregivers excited about the services you provide?

The key is to tell (many) original, meaningful stories, such as this one from Cleveland Clinic:

Every healthcare brand has a unique story about its origin, people and experiences. The solution is to find an authentic theme, apply creative imagination and tell your story in a way that will attract and retain people’s attention. What was widely perceived to be boring could become inspiring or at least interesting to a large group of people.

If your healthcare brand is one that solves a problem but doesn’t easily spark the imagination, here are five brand content strategies you can use to change the way people perceive you.

#1. Come to the rescue

Just like good brands, good content solves problems. Boring brands have the same opportunity as everyone to share information that improves customers’ lives or helps them to do their jobs better.

Roberts and Durkee knows this. In 2008, this run-of-the-mill law firm used content marketing to become the de facto consumer advocate for victims of the Chinese drywall problem that hit the US market toward the middle of the decade.

They created a website/blog called chinesedrywallproblem.com to help thousands of Florida homeowners whose homes were built with toxic drywall. The website provided pertinent information such as how to identify contaminated drywall, the toxins’ health implications, and the victims’ legal rights. This content strategy established Roberts and Durkee as the expert in Chinese drywall problems and resulted in tremendous business opportunities for the firm.

To create content that solves problems, ask yourself:

  • What kinds of health-related emergencies are happening in my community?
  • Are there particular groups in need of someone to speak up for them?
  • How can I create content that helps them resolve these problems?

#2. Reach out to your community

If your product does not generate excitement, create content that showcases your readers’ lifestyles, interests and passions instead. Focus your content on the consumer rather than the product and encourage conversations that resonate with your community.

Procter & Gamble – the makers of Gillette razors, Head & Shoulders shampoo and other everyday brands – created ManOfTheHouse.com as “the real man’s magazine,” packed with compelling advice on guy-to-guy topics such as money, careers, gadgets, parenting and, of course, sex.

The site specifically targets young dads and connects with them via Facebook and Twitter as well. By December 2010, manofthehouse.com attracted over half a million unique visitors per month.

To reach your community with your content, ask yourself:

  • Who do I want to attract?
  • What is their lifestyle?
  • What are their interests and preferences?
  • How can I provide a forum for them to discuss these issues in a conversational, entertaining fashion?

#3. Do something completely unexpected

No matter what kind of healthcare product or service you offer, there’s no reason to be boring. Any product can be presented in a way that is interesting, appealing, even surprising!

Agilent Technologies produces measurement instruments that help scientists, researchers and engineers measure variables in chemical analysis, life sciences and electronics. Ho hum, right? On the contrary.

Going completely against type, Agilent resisted the typical dry technicalities in favor of the truly unexpected: a video puppet show. The highly engaging Agilent Puppet Chemistry is so far removed from the company’s brand image, it immediately disarms, intrigues and captures the audience.

And that audience consists of scientists and chemists who work in research and forensic labs – an audience that is relying more heavily on the internet to research instruments and platforms. This technique proved to be highly successful for Agilent, increasing traffic to their website and encouraging more prospects to click through in search of more information.

Want to go against the grain?

Brainstorm a list of adjectives that describe your healthcare brand and then research their opposites. For example if your organization has a serious, demanding and dull environment, you could research ideas that are entertaining, relaxing and fresh. Then create a mix of content that matches those ideas and presents your company in a totally unexpected way.

#4. Play to your strengths

A lot of people equate content with writing. But writing (blogs, e-books, white papers, books, etc.) is just one way to create content – and it’s not for everyone.

No one knows this better than Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of Wine Library TV. Gary, by his own admission, couldn’t write to save his life. So he doesn’t. He video blogs…and he does it extremely well.

His very informal yet highly energetic style, frequently described as an unpretentious, gonzo approach to wine appreciation, offers a stark contrast to everyone else’s dry, conservative approach to wine culture. Most wine bloggers simply publish a written article and then wait for visitors to subscribe. Gary, on the other hand, loves the camera, is passionate about wine and comes across like a familiar dinner guest, relaxing in your living room.

To play to your own strengths, ask yourself:

  • How do you prefer to express yourself? If you enjoy being in front of the camera, try video blogging and inject your own personality into the content.  If you prefer to look people in the eye and feed off of their energy, speaking engagements or training opportunities might be your vehicle.
  • Do people easily recognize your gifts or talents? Perhaps you’ve been told that you have a ‘golden voice’ or a ‘way with words.’  Maybe they’re onto something. Explore your talents and find a complementary outlet to express them.

#5. Encourage people to talk…about anything

Josh Bernoff, Forrester Research Analyst and co-author of Groundswell, recommends that boring brands encourage people to talk–even if it isn’t about the brand itself. By borrowing a relevant topic and encouraging conversations about it, boring brands become part of the conversation.

Social media presents the perfect opportunity to apply this “borrowed relevance,” as Bernoff calls it, because conversations are already taking place there that are not product-centric, pushy or self-promotional.

A good example is Liberty Tax, a tax service franchise (yawn)…with a Facebook audience of over 6,000 people!  A quick look at their Wall reveals how they use a variety of tactics to engage their customers and create a lively atmosphere. They discuss Groupon deals, hold photo contests, show appreciation to different members of the community (teachers, policemen and firefighters, etc.), and so on. They also make taxes fun (no, really!) by giving away free tax apps, and offering advice and tips on little-known tax credits, refunds, etc.

Without a doubt, stories are the key to a boring brand’s problems. After all, if you don’t have a remarkable product, you might as well have remarkable content. Don’t you agree?

Your Turn:

Is your healthcare business fighting against being boring? What strategies have you employed?

How to build a Content Strategy for Online Healthcare Communities

Did you know that health-related research is among the top three online activities worldwide?

In the United States alone, more than 100 million Americans per year will visit health-related sites such asWebMDFamilydoctor.orgHealthfinder.gov, and CNN Health, among thousands of others.

Within the massive ecosystem of health-related content websites, community-based sites are critical sources of trusted information for patients and caregivers. They offer a single spot for multiple stakeholders — including marketers — to interact with and contribute content to the community. And that’s where marketers need to get smart.

So how should marketers approach a content strategy for an online health care community and ensure that content is credible, relevant, and supportive of the organization’s objectives?

Andy McCartney offers a couple of ideas over at the Content Marketing Institute blog. Go here to read the full story.

3 Steps to a Social Media Content Strategy for Healthcare

Does your healthcare organization (HCO) have a social media content strategy?

Are you wondering what that involves?

I find that there is often a disconnect between social media execution and content strategy in healthcare marketing. In other words healthcare marketers understand the value of social media but they don’t always relate it to content marketing.

Social media is only a vehicle for delivering compelling stories (content) across the social web. Your audience then shares and discusses what is relevant and interesting to them.

It’s not just about having a Facebook page or Twitter profile. It’s about using those platforms to attract and persuade patients and consumers who can then make decisions that are profitable for your business.

Here’s how to develop a social media content strategy for your HCO:

#1. Content and consumers

The first step is to evaluate your content from a patient or consumer’s perspective. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I want my HCO to be known for? E.g. Chiropratic services
  • What are my patients’ challenges or needs? E.g. Back-pain or back injuries
  • What kind of content format do they typically consume? E.g. blog articles and podcasts
  • How can I create interesting content that will attract them to my website? E.g. Start a blog and a weekly podcast that provides answers and solutions for back injuries; publish twice a week; and share on social media platforms where my target audience hangs out.
  • How will I know that my plan is working? By evaluating or measuring how many new patients I have gained since launching my content strategy

#2.  Patient needs and online behavior

The next step is to understand consumer online behavior and particularly what kind of experiences potential patients are looking for:

  • They hang out on different social media platforms i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Googlecommunities, Pinterest etc.
  • They consume and share content that is interesting to them e.g. content about lifestyle, healthcare, work etc.
  • They evaluate brands based on content i.e. As Clayton Christensen author of ‘It’s the Purpose Brand, Stupid’ once said, “People buy products to accomplish something”. A brand’s content needs to explain what that ‘something’ is e.g. comfort, security, self-esteem, self-confidence (remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs)
  • Consumers and patients are connected on social media (where they discuss brands such as yours). Hence they are able to influence one another’s perceptions and buying decisions.

#3. The conversation opportunity

Healthcare organizations that understand consumer social media behavior are able to communicate successfully on social media platforms and thus shape consumer perception of their brands. Here’s how a conversation opportunity might present itself:

  • Research where patients are hanging out online (e.g. Google+ healthcare hangouts or Twitter communities based on conversation hashtags) and join those communities.
  • Establish a listening campaign to figure out who’s doing the talking (influencers) and what’s being said.
  • Consider how you will connect with those influencers. Will you share your own original content with them, retweet their articles, or simply reach out and say hi or ask them questions. Maybe all the above?
  • Remember to share whatever is going on in your offline world with your online community (post pictures and videos).
  • Reach out to other bloggers (guest blogging).
  • Respond quickly to feedback and comments on your blog.

 Quick wrap up

Social media is about giving consumers something interesting to talk about, not just for the sake of conversation but for the sake of growing your business. As a healthcare marketer you have to ask yourself, “What makes my brand so interesting that people will want to talk about it?” Having a content strategy means preparing a compelling message which you can then distribute through various social media channels.

Your turn: Do you have a social media content strategy for your HCO? Which of these tips do you find most or least insightful?

4 Reasons Why Being Narrow-Minded is a Great Content Strategy

Do you wonder why many blogs fail to attract desirable audiences? It could be that they are not narrow-minded enough…

A narrowly defined blog attracts the right kind of audience

What I mean by that is that most unsuccessful blogs do not focus their content on a specific topic or niche market. Narrowing down your blog to concentrate on a singular path helps you to focus your attention and efforts on attracting the right audience.

For sure when you first start blogging you may not know right away what you want to talk about (although that’s a big mistake in itself here are some helpful tips) or what kind of target audience you want to attract. In that case there’s no harm in ‘sowing fields’ and spreading your message far and wide.

But ideally as you continue to blog consistently and your vision becomes more defined and you can start to create content that serves a more narrowly defined audience.

Here are four reasons why narrowing down your blog is a great content strategy:

#1. Maximize content marketing budget

A narrowly focused (niche) blog is easier on your wallet. When you have a specific audience that you’re serving, you know exactly what their challenges are and can create free content that meets their needs – that way it’s easier to grab their attention without having to spend a lot of money on advertising! Another thing is that it is easier to find keywords that fit your niche blog since the competition is less and you’re not struggling as much to stand out in an overcrowded space.

#2. More profitable to market to small group

The whole idea of blogging is to create a platform for marketing your products or services to a defined audience. It’s easier to develop an offer for a small interest group that is sure to buy rather than a large vague audience that is not sold-out on your brand. There are also more ways to make a passive income with a niche blog e.g. advertising (although this doesn’t always work well for all bloggers), selling e-books, webinars, courses and even membership forums. A mix of these offers is likely to result in a more profitable blog.

#3. Easier to develop a reputation

Focusing your blog on a defined topic or audience helps them to associate you and your brand with that niche. That association makes it easier for you to position yourself as an authority in that category and to build a strong reputation. Keep in mind that when you have a strong reputation in a defined space, people are more likely to buy from you and to open doors of opportunity for your brand.

#4. Loyal following and word-of-mouth referrals

Niche blogging makes your website very attractive to visitors who have an interest in your field. For example  blogs about animal-care are growing in popularity in the U.S. as more American households become pet owners. So if your blog focuses on providing interesting content for pets-owners you are almost guaranteed to have loyal, regular visitors to your site who in turn will share your content with their friends and family.

Key Takeaway

When it comes to attracting desirable audiences for your blog the idea of being ‘all things to all men’ simply doesn’t work. Study your community to find out what needs they have and then develop content and money-making offers that appeal to them. You may have to think outside the box when you create an offer but once your blog starts to get traction, there’s no telling what kind of success you will experience.

Over to you: Do you have a narrowly-defined blog? What content tips can you share about your niche blog?

Smashing Social Media Strategy at UAB Medicine

From what I’ve seen in the past, medical facilities aren’t known for their social media prowess. In fact healthcare organizations are lagging behind when it comes to adaptation of social media content.

So when you come across a facility such as UAB Medicine (Birmingham, Alabama) that has not only fully embraced social media, but is actually a stellar example of social media done right, it’s time to take a closer look and investigate how they have become so successful!

The fact that they also have a social media commenting policy (below the fold) in which the rules of engagement are clearly stated is awesome because it supports, protects and enhances high-quality engagement.

UAB Website

Generally speaking, website content should do two things – engage visitors and/or convert them into customers! I love that the question, ‘What would you like to do today?’ is the first thing you see above the fold on their home page.

This does a couple of things: It pulls the visitor into the website encouraging them to answer the question (and thereby digging deeper into the website), and it keeps things relevant because a visitor will proceed to the exact page that he or she is searching for and that means little chance of bouncing around from page to page.

[Caution: UAB should be careful to ensure that there are no broken links on their site as this could easily undermine their credibility with Internet savvy patients].

UAB Blog

UAB Medicine has a blog called ‘Your Fight Cancer Blog‘ which resides in a different domain from the main site. We’ve seen that having a blog residing within the organization’s website is good for SEO since search engines tend to favor web pages that are frequently updated.

However UAB has a very dynamic blog that contains interesting articles, videos, recipes for cancer patients and other compelling content. The blog is updated about twice a week, receives occassional comments, and  is integrated to their social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter and Google+). The articles on the blog are extremely valuable and usually end with a strong call to action that should steer readers back to the original website.

UAB Facebook

UAB has an engaged community of over 5,500 Facebook fans. A quick look at their Wall shows that they post mostly educational content, some pictures, and stories about how they’ve been able to help patients at their hospital.

Most of their content is ‘Liked’ but lively discussions happen when they post something about the UAB Women and Infants Services. It’s not a surprise that this topic generates more engagement since Facebook is known to be a mostly female environment.

UAB Twitter

On Twitter where they have over 2,200 followers UAB is focused on educational content, webinars and video. Their Twitter page doesn’t show a lot of engagement with followers but it does indicate that they update their page often with useful information that is being re-tweeted by their followers.

UAB YouTube

UAB’s YouTube channel is perhaps their most impressive social network as far as engagement and appeal. They have 248 subscribers and some of their videos have been viewed thousands of times! The video quality is stunning, the stories are compelling and subscribers are responding with positive comments and discussions.

Well done UAB!

UAB’s social media content is really a breath of fresh air. They appear to have a solid social media content strategy that demonstrates thought leadership, relevance, clarity, and engagement particularly in their YouTube and Blog channels. Their Twitter and Facebook networks could benefit from more conversational discussions and there shouldn’t be broken links on their website at any time. It might be helpful if UAB performed a content analysis of their site from time to time especially since they update their content regularly.

Over to you: What do you think of UAB’s social media strategy based on this brief evaluation? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Content Mapping: How Buying Cycles Inform Your Content Strategy

Most B2B marketers recognize that great content has the ability to influence potential customers.

What is not so clear is when to share content and how much to share.

It’s a bit like explaining sex to your kids – When they’re really young they don’t need too much information. But as they grow older, their curiosity intensifies and their questions become more sophisticated. At that point you will need to give them more (age-appropriate) information. If you don’t, they’ll get it one way or the other (yikes!)

What do they need to know

It’s the same thing with your prospects when they’re at different stages of the buying cycle.

You should always ask yourself what their needs are at each stage and what kind of content they require to address those needs. Too much too soon will scare them off and too little too late will send them to the competition.

Image credit: this image was taken from the leadformix.com/blog

Stages of your prospect’s buying cycle

Very early stage – the prospect is probably unaware of their problem. At this point good content could go a long way in making a difference. You want to talk less about your product and more about the challenges they are facing. Best content types at this stage are white papers, ‘lunch and learn’ sessions and interactive webinars.

Early stage – the prospect has identified the problem but doesn’t know what he needs to do about it. At this stage you want to talk about the benefits that your solution provides (not about the product itself). Best content type at this stage is a case study, a benefits-oriented podcast or checklist.

Early Mid stage – the prospect is clear about his needs and has started to consider potential solutions. He wants to know how your product will help him. At this stage it’s time to talk about your product and to demonstrate how it can help him. Best content type at this stage includes a technical brief, a video demo or a webcast.

Mid stage – the prospect needs a clear demonstration of your expertise. Allow him a free trial of your product to confirm whether it suits his needs. Make it easy for him to compare your product to others. Your content will demonstrate the features of your product and how it compares against others in the market. You could also offer him a Q&A interview so that he may ask questions and resolve any concerns.

Late stage – You’re almost there – if you can cross this last hurdle! At this stage the prospect needs a lot of reassurance. Third party validation is required to seal the deal. Your content type should include client testimonials and success stories, special discounts and so on.

Understanding your prospect’s persona and knowing where they’re at in the buying cycle will help you to map content that will capture their attention and influence their decisions. Remember – this might be a time-consuming effort but the benefits far outweigh the inconveniences.

Are you using content mapping as a strategy to influence your prospects’ buying decisions?

**This is the last article in a series that explains the role of content mapping in your organization and how to create content that overcomes resistance/influences buyers’ decisions throughout the buying process.

Content Mapping: How Buyer Personas Drive Your Content Strategy

The chorus about content marketing and how it influences buyer behavior is getting louder.

No-one in Corporate America will argue that content has not emerged as a powerful tool to address buyer concerns, shape brand perceptions and ultimately influence purchasing decisions.

The problem however is that marketers aren’t necessarily creating the kind of content that persuades prospects to buy their products.

Pushy Messaging

Many brands are still investing heavily in content that gives off heavy marketing vibes – product information, self-centered messaging and other irrelevant information that turns off prospects and generates buyer resistance.

In order to create content that resonates with buyers and actually influences their purchasing decisions it is necessary to develop detailed buyer insights that tell why prospects behave the way they do.

This is the reason we develop buyer personas – a research-based effort that allows you to create a detailed profile of the buyer that your company hopes to persuade.

Developing buyer personas

As you develop buyer personas that inform your organization’s content strategy think about the following:

  • Start with your target audience – it helps to think of your existing real life customers as the primary consumers of your content.
  • What is their job title and their key responsibilities? You want to gain a deep understanding about the role they fulfill in their own organizations. List all the duties that they are responsible for.
  • Where do they fit in the buying decision? Are they the initial researcher of the product, an executive decision-maker, or perhaps a key influencer in the organization?
  • What are their pain points? What frustrates them about their job or their work processes. Do they have resource or technical challenges that need to be addressed? What do they need to help them do their job better?
  • What motivates them to buy? Is it a desire to gain, or a desire to avoid loss? What exactly are they hoping to gain or lose?
  • What drives their purchasing decision? Is it cost, efficiency,  good service, competitiveness, business benefits?
  • What are their media habits? In other words what are their content or informational needs? Do they prefer case studies, white papers, trade journals, business blogs, podcasts, instructional videos etc.?
  • How can you craft a message that appeals to your specific buyer? Consider the tone (formal or casual). Is it an instructional article or a research-based special report? Is it text-only or a combination of text and visual enhancements?

The ultimate goal

Keep in mind how all this fits into your content strategy.

Remember that the ultimate goal is to give your prospects the kind of information that will persuade them to buy your product. It involves a detailed understanding of the potential buyer’s behavior.

Developing buyer personas is part of the larger content mapping process that enables you to understand and identify the type of content that will appeal to your specific audience (buyer persona) based on their unique needs throughout the buying process.

In the next article we’ll talk about how different buyer personas behave throughout the buying cycle. Stay tuned.

**This is a series of articles that explains the role of content mapping in your organization and how to create content that overcomes resistance throughout the buying process.

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.

4 Reasons Why No-one is Reading Your Company Blog (And How to Fix It)

No-one has a perfect blog.

Certainly not corporate blogs. They have their own unique set of problems that render their content somewhat ‘unappetizing’.

But the good thing about knowing what’s wrong with your company blog is that you can work on it and figure out ways to improve it.

Here are 4 reasons why company blogs are unreadable:

No value

A blog is not a self-promotional platform. It is an opportunity to share valuable information that solves problems and improves people’s lives.

Company blogs fail to attract readership (and business leads for that matter) because they do not provide value in terms of solving problems or enhancing people’s lives. Instead, they talk about themselves – their products, their services, their events, their CEO.

Who cares?

Ask yourself this question: “What benefit are readers getting from our company blog?” Are we teaching them something they don’t already know? Are we discussing an issue that no-one else has the audacity to tackle? If not then the reader won’t care – there’s nothing in it for them.

No relevance

A blog serves to provide valuable information that solves problems.

But not just any problem.

Your blog has to be relevant in solving one specific problem for which your brand has the solution to.

Unfortunately it is very common to see company blogs that talk about everything from marketing, motivation,  and social media to the stock market, crisis management and health!

A blog must be relevant to the specific audience that your company wants to reach.

If you’re in real estate it makes no sense to talk about finance or politics unless they are somehow related to real estate.

In order to be relevant to your audience be sure to create content that addresses the particular issues that your readers face. The presumption is that you have a target audience that you’re trying to reach – an audience whose challenges and issues you have taken the time to research and understand.

No consistency

Is your company blog updated once in a while when someone gets round to it?

Most company blogs suffer from inconsistency. They post an article here and there and then forget about it until the summer when things slow down a bit.

An inconsistent blog is as bad as a non-existent blog. It takes months of consistent blogging for readers to find your articles through organic search.  So if you’re not blogging consistently, you’re actually making it difficult for people to find your blog in the first place.

Blogging is a huge time commitment and one that might appear daunting. But don’t feel as though you have to do all the work yourself. A successful company blog is a team effort.

Identify a few people within your organization who have a passion for creating content and who are reliable evangelists for your brand. Establish some blogging guidelines, an editorial calendar and give them permission to blog freely.

Having several people write your company blog guarantees consistent content and alleviates the pressure for one person to perform.

Nothing interesting to say

The idea behind a blog (corporate or personal) is to share interesting or compelling information. This is the heart of the matter. Without an interesting story no-one is going to read your blog.

Do you think you have nothing interesting to say? Don’t be discouraged, you’re not the only one. There are creative ways to produce interesting content even if you think your brand is somewhat ‘boring’ or uninteresting. Here are some ideas.

In addition, having more people contribute to your company blog provides more diverse perspectives and experiences that make for interesting stories.  Multiple ‘voices’ also encourage conversation and lend some personality to the company’s communication culture.

A successful blog doesn’t happen over-night. It’s a lot of work and there’s always room for improvement. But the benefits of a well-executed company blog are real and extremely rewarding.

So what are you going to do to improve your company blog’s readership?