By Cathy McPhillips
Until now, the terms “social media” and “content marketing” may have seemed interchangeable, but, they are actually quite different. Though there can be quite a bit of overlap, the easiest way to think about their relationship is that content is needed to drive social media, while social media is most essential during two key content marketing processes:
- Listening to your audience to understand what they care about, so you can create content that they will find engaging and relevant
- Distributing content (from your business, as well as from others)
In short, you really can’t have one without the other.
While any organization can use social media to listen - and there is no downside to that - before you actively set up your social media presence, you need to have the following in place:
A content hub. Your blog or website should be a key component of your strategy, as this is where you would direct followers to forge a deeper relationship on a media platform that you own.
Adequate resources to keep up a consistent presence. Having an outdated presence on a social platform looks far worse than not having a presence at all. Before committing to a platform, make sure you have the resources you need to consistently update your content.
A content plan. You need to understand why you are communicating on a given platform, and what you will deliver there.
Social media content plan
You need to have a dedicated plan for every channel on which you intend to distribute social media content. Just because you can share something on every channel doesn’t mean that you should.
To create a basic social media plan, answer these questions for every channel you are considering:
What is the goal of this channel?
You need to have a reason to be on every channel on which you decide to publish content. “To gain followers” is not a viable reason, in and of itself, but “to gain followers on Facebook to drive brand awareness and traffic back to our website” can be. The important part is that your content on the channel will serve as a means to convert the viewer into taking the next step in your desired purchase process - i.e. move them from Facebook follower to website viewer, email subscriber, event attendee, or whatever conversion goal you choose.
What is the desired action?
You need to figure out what you want someone to do in each channel. Share? Comment? Visit your website?
What is the specific type of content the audience wants from this channel?
Customize the content you distribute on each channel. Consider what messages are appropriate for each channel and create a message you think will resonate with that audience. Think about the informational needs people in this channel have and how you can help. Will you primarily publish text, images, or video? What is the right tone for this channel?
As you consider topics and content formats in each channel, it’s critical to determine what the overall tone for the channel should be. Friendly? Fun? Conversational? Professional?
What is the ideal velocity?
It’s smart to understand how often you want to publish content in each channel. How many posts do you want to publish per day or week? What time of day is best? You’ll have different cadences depending on if you are sending or responding to tweets, updating your Facebook status, or publishing a new SlideShare, for example. Our team has found that posting on Facebook once or twice a day, monitoring Twitter all day, and spending time each day on LinkedIn works best for CMI. But every company is different, so you will want to spend some time determining the schedule that’s likely to work best for you and your customers.
Be goal driven. Let your goals dictate the decisions you make in regard to social media content. For example, if the goal is to increase email subscribers, would it really make sense to broadcast all your blog posts on Facebook and Twitter? What reason would readers have to subscribe to your email program if they can get the same information on the social channels they already visit regularly? Think about how you can tweak and repurpose the content you share on your social networks, both as it applies to your goals for the channel and to your overarching business objectives.
Start small. If you are new to aligning your content marketing and social media efforts, it’s best to start small. Consider the top social platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube), and see where the largest concentration of your target audience members are congregating.
Following are popular social media platforms to start building into your marketing plan and tips for making the most impact:
- Being interesting is just the start. Spend time posting well-edited photos and well-written copy. Consistent quality is more important than volume.
- Short messages stand out. Communicate your message succinctly.
- Page Post Targeting allows you to handpick your audience, enabling delivery of a clear message to a smaller group.
- Finding your Facebook impact means measuring how fans interact with your content. That way, you can figure out which messages inspire action - and create more like them.
- Tell a story through your tweets.
- Present a consistent voice to tell the story of your industry and your brand.
- Include one to three relevant hashtags with your tweet to make it simple for people to find your content.
- Tweet your original content and keep tabs on which pieces get more shares. Use the information to direct your future content efforts.
- To offer real-time insights, live tweet coverage of events significant to your audience.
- Create a company page, which offers a platform to share diverse types of content.
- Rope your page in, update the cover photo, add boiler-plate information, and start sharing
- Encourage staff members (especially executives) to connect their personal profiles to your brand.
- LinkedIn users tend to be overwhelmed when brands and individuals over-share. Make sure you only share the highest quality content you create.
- Participating in LinkedIn group discussion demonstrates thought leadership and strikes up conversations that could lead to new business. Share your content and interact with each other.
- Bring in a steady stream of recommendations from clients or customers to provide a renewable source of user-generated content.
YouTube and Vimeo
- Enable video embedding, allowing others to post your videos to their websites.
- Showcase professional videos alongside homegrown ones to help humanize your brand.
- Demonstrating your products or services in action is much more effective than talking about what you do.
- Your audience’s attention span can be measured in seconds. Keep content short - less than a minute long if possible - to deliver a succinct message.
- If you create long-form video, give your audience snippets of content that piece together a coherent narrative.
- Source: Content Marketing Institute
Cathy McPhillips is Marketing Director of the Content Marketing Institute and has directed national marketing and strategy efforts in the service/hospitality industry and nonprofit sector. Follow her on Twitter at @cmcphillips. The Content Marketing Institute has a wealth of free resources for businesses. Learn more at www.contentmarketinginstitute.com.