How to maximise content marketing on social media
While content marketing and social media marketing are distinct disciplines, the two have almost become synonymous.
This is partly because content plays such an important role in driving social media. But it is also because social media supports two of the most important processes in content marketing – listening to your audience to understand what content will be most engaging, and the distribution of content (both directly from your brand but also via shares).
“It goes without saying that for most brands, their audiences are on social media,” says Blaise Grimes-Viort, VP social media services for Emoderation. “You can target specific groups on social media (on some channels right down to individuals). It can get you into new areas. For example, if you’re a car manufacturer talking about mobile technology in cars, you can attract not just your traditional audience of car enthusiasts, but also the early adopters of technology, by using smart targeting. And you can get great feedback on your content on social media. But you need to be prepared to listen to it – and where appropriate, act on it.”
Kurve MD Oren Greenberg, adds: “It’s free. It’s technologically superior, allowing for very targeted and specific audiences to consume it. It’s easy to use and has versatile mediums and is multisensory. More importantly, it’s where people are progressively spending more and more time - you need to be in front of real, relevant people and be part of that conversation.
“There is also the additional halo effect perception of trust, referrals and conversations due to its transparent nature. Also it allows for a more personalised approach that benefits brands willing to invest the time in consumer interaction. When combined, these elements form a very significant part of any marketing campaign.”
Content marketing challenges
However, while content marketing and social media can be a dynamic combination, there are challenges and dangers that accompany them.
“The biggest challenge for most brands is lack of control. As soon as your content is out there, you lost control of how it is used and shared. You can’t recall it,” warns Grimes-Viort. “Social media at its most basic is an amplifier. If your content is good, that’s a great thing. But if it’s bad, the same rules apply.”
Katerina Pelanova, social media manager at Kentico Software, notes: “One of the challenges is to use the right type of content, the right way, via the right social network. You can have various different ways of presenting the content, and what might have worked yesterday will not necessarily work tomorrow. Always be ready to react to all of the changes that are occurring in social media – new social media channels are always appearing, and the popularity of social media sites can fluctuate at any given point in time.”
She adds: “All of the networks have their own specific ways in which you can create a successful message, so when you are trying to communicate it on LinkedIn, it may not work on Facebook and vice versa.”
A further issue is being able to accurately measure conversions to prove social generates ROI; especially when comparing it directly to other channels.
As Grimes-Viort acknowledges: “Measurement can be a challenge. Is your content working for you? What action are people taking as a result of seeing it? Is the aim for people to simply view and share it, to increase awareness? Or do you want them to take action – to buy or subscribe?”
With this in mind, MyCustomer explores how to get all the benefits of blending social media and content marketing, with none of the bother. Here are the key tips you need to know:
Do your research
“Companies should consider testing social media with a limited budget, as it may not be the best avenue depending on industry and target audience,” advises Greenberg. “This limited budget can be used to accurately evaluate potential engagement, however companies still need to conduct thorough research into which platform might be best for them. Importantly, spend the time to really research and figure out what content works, and invest the right time and budget to promote and distribute it.”
Know your objectives and purpose
“Know what you want to achieve from your content,” says Grimes-Viort. “You might have the most brilliant, clever, funny video that’s shared millions of times, but if it doesn’t lead to an increase in sales, was it worth it?”
Dan Bosomworth, managing director of First 10 Digital and co-founder of Smart Insights, recommends that brands define their objectives and purpose clearly to ensure they use it the right way. He says: “This can be complex with multiple objectives or it can be as simple as getting readers to visit a web page with a request form on it. Either way, know what you’re aiming for and the related KPI’s and objectives you’re going to use to prove impact.”
Once you are clear on this, you need to design the outcome into the content – for instance, users providing comments, or sharing content, or subscribing to your services, or purchasing. Bosomworth adds: “The story of the content should guide the reader to a conclusion such as more content, or visiting a web page. Without making it painful, you might layer the calls to action to appeal to different personas at different stages in the buy process – broadening the relevance, just keep it all relevant and on-message so that it doesn’t put people off.”
Ensure your communications are relevant
“In order to maximise the effectiveness of content marketing through social media, planning is absolutely essential,” says Greenberg. “Taking the time to map your content to target personas and the buyers cycle will show you exactly where you need to focus your efforts. Even small things like sending a tweet to a customer post-purchase to ask if it meets their expectations can have a big impact. It’s important not to forget to explore and build relationships and think about the social-content marketing relationship as a long term strategy rather than a one off for an individual campaign. Social is about relationships, and relationships (despite Tinder) take time to form.”
As well as using existing customer personas to guide editorial, Bosomworth recommends conducting some basic keyword research within search engines and social, as this will reflect the language that your market is using.
He adds: “With keywords in hand, and an understanding of the audience, you craft the message for the person that’s going to consume it. Remember the Ogilvy advertising mantra with his emphasising the 'big idea', that’s the communications piece that enables the consumer to 'get' it. Why should I look, read, watch or listen to the content, what’s in it for me?”
Focus on your graphic design
The content needs to be professionally packaged, which means it must look great. Even if the content of an ebook is outstanding, if it’s packaged as a Word document, it will probably fail to make an impact.
Bosomworth explains: “Design has never been more important, people expect it and the standards are higher than ever. Just as important is the need to design a great experience for consumers. Readers (as well as search engines) should also be able to tell what the idea is, it should be easy to consume and scan and it should definitely be easy to share, save and post to social news and bookmarking sites.”
Get your distribution right
Publishing the content is a key area, and one that must be conducted correctly to ensure success.
Bosomworth recommends posting on key site pages with traffic. “Think about being findable in the obvious places your market already is,” he says. “If your consumer is on Facebook for example, you might find it makes sense for your Fan page to accept posts from the blog and that the blog also posts to Twitter. Then have Twitter post to LinkedIn.”
He also advises that search engine optimisation becomes a natural part of the publishing process, with content optimised with relevant keywords to ensure that it is findable. He adds: “Monitor and cultivate social networks where conversations are happening relevant to the people and companies you’re trying to reach, you want your content in those networks and also relevant portals to your market all with relevant links back to your site.”
Monitor what’s happening
If you don’t monitor the performance, you can’t measure it. And if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve. Ensure that you have the tools to measure performance, whether these are social media monitoring tools, Google analytics or more sophisticated tools. It is important to know where you have having success and where you aren’t.
“Try to focus more on the real impact than on the pure number of followers and audiences that you’ve created,” recommends Pelanova. “Your number of followers only reflects a small portion of the big picture – so don’t just look at the number of ‘likes’ that your page has – instead, observe the actual impact that your social media campaigns have on brand awareness, lead generation and other KPIs. Use tools that can measure and analyse the data as they will give you a better idea of whether or not you are reaching the goals you are trying to achieve. These tools will help you evaluate all of your social media efforts as well as measure ROI.”
Be prepared for feedback
It is important that you respond to any feedback you receive on social platforms, even if it is just to thank them for interacting. This can often encourage further engagements, so be sure to reply.
Grimes-Viort notes: “Be prepared to respond to feedback. Do you have the resources you need to cope with public responses? Role play how you’ll respond to feedback, both good and bad (for big campaigns, you can use a simulation technology like Polpeo).”
Test and refine
“You should always be able to evaluate, measure, and improve your content – it’s a never-ending story,” says Pelanova. Not everything that is shared on social will be popular – in fact, most may under-perform. But by always experimenting, you can identify what works and when. Think about testing the message, the creative, the time of day, the social platform and anything else that you think could influence reach and engagement.
Pelanova adds: “You must always be thinking of the audience and the content and the structure or manner in which it is presented – for example, the text may be accompanied with a picture; or an A/B test will help verify which produces most results. You must keep these factors in mind in order to be successful.”
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.