I found it humorous the other day when my brother-in-law was reminiscing about the early days of the Internet. He was just 12 years old when, “Welcome, you’ve got mail,” introduced itself to American culture. His point, however, was how everything has changed because of the Internet, most notably the way we do business.
Fast forward to 2006 when blogging was all the rage and Twitter was a newborn in diapers. A few people like Brian Solis were rightly prognosticating the future of social media and its impact on business, but it has really only been in the past three years that businesses are catching up. Unbelievably, some businesses haven’t yet left the social media marketing station while others simply don’t know there is a train to board.
I was talking with friend and content strategist Ben Stroup about how many businesses believe they’ve engaged social media when they launch a Twitter account or a Facebook fan page. They don’t understand why social media isn’t working for them. They are missing the point. It isn’t the tool, it’s the content strategy. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and all the rest are simply empty delivery vehicles if they don’t carry any content. Even then, not all content is created equal. The question is: Do you have the right content?
Here are five “right” ways to know if you’re using the tools to carry the content strategy.
1. Do you say the right thing…
The point of content marketing, also called brand journalism, is to offer something of substance to existing or potential customers or stake holders. This is across the board for both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Information shared should actually add value to those engaging with it. This is content people find useful even if they never buy anything from you. It is useful enough that they are willing to come back and read more. It is sharing what you know with the intent to help people. Don’t be afraid you are giving away the crown jewels here. If you can explain everything you know in a blog post and a few Tweets, you’ve got bigger issues threatening your business.
2. …To the right people…
Do you know who you are talking to or trying to talk with? If you sell laundry detergent, chances are you’re talking to moms who spend a lot of time trying to get grass stains out of ball uniforms. Does your content match their needs? The greatest good of social media is engaging people in conversations. Have you ever politely gotten out of a conversation because you had no connection to what is being said? Same with social media, except people aren’t so polite to your company when they walk away. You need to know your audience.
3. …In the right place…
Social media that drives content marketing has a rhythm. If you are saying the same thing across all your social media platforms, to me it is like a drum corp beating the heck out of its drums. It sounds cool at first but soon enough it all sounds the same. Think of a good social media strategy as the entire band; each instrument doing something different, but together all creating a unified piece of music. To do that you have to know what content to funnel through which instrument, landing each in the right place for a unified content strategy that supports your organizational objectives.
4. …At the right time…
There is an ebb and flow to the daily grind. Delivering content at the right time means paying attention to what is going on in culture and producing timely content that connects your organization’s purpose with what people are reading and talking about…right now. Content producers should see themselves as corporate journalists looking to deliver substance on deadline. No one cares if you produce a great product story on last week’s news. Timing is everything.
5. …And in the right way?
Brand journalists walk a fine line: come across as too corporate and risk getting thrashed by your audience as being cheesy infomercial people, and not being corporate enough and risk your audience totally missing the connection between your content and your organization. The balance of course is found in a tone that communicates useful information. Listen, people know it is marketing, but they are willing to overlook that if they are getting value. Packaging that in the right way is critical.
The key to all of this of course is to first recognize that you are creating expectations when your organization launches into social media in the first place. People assume you want a conversation. Get beyond having social media accounts and take time to develop a content strategy that supports your organizational objectives and delivers valuable content in the right way to the right people at the right time.