By Vincent Dajani
Traditional advertising is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Social media platforms have replaced ads and become the best method for reaching your target clientele. Creating a social media account is a no-brainer for a business, but chances are, business owners aren’t using social media to its full extent — as a place to grow your brand and become a trusted leader in the industry. That’s where content marketing comes in.
Content marketing on social media
The growth of social media has given every company the chance to tell its own story. Businesses can now publish their own content on platforms that have the potential to reach more people than traditional advertising ever could.
“These days, it isn’t enough to just have a website for your business — your digital storefront is equally important. If your company still doesn’t have a strong presence in the social media platform, you risk falling behind your competition,” says Pauline M. Harris, owner and principal of SPIN.
Compare that to the state of traditional advertising: “There’s just so much advertising that’s out there, and people don’t have time for traditional media. Apps now have taken over website browsing. If you think about ways that mobile is going, three fourths of the time, people are on social [platforms],” says Kevin Alansky, chief marketing officer of SocialRadar.
People today want to know what a company can do for them, and why they should trust that brand over another. If your company’s answer to those questions is not out there, customers will turn to their peers’ answers and reviews instead. Clearly, the best way for businesses to engage their audience is to tell their own story through content on social media.
Businesses that answer questions and engage with their customers in this way are sure to reap the benefits. “You get to see your target market up close and personal, you can respond to problems immediately, people are receptive to your messages, you will find clients you didn’t know existed [and] it’s free. How can you argue with that?” says Harris.
So now that you’re ready to build your brand through content marketing, what types of things do you post, and how do you get the audience to engage?
“Branded content is the original ‘storytelling,’” Harris says. “Think of innovative ways in which to tell your unique story. This process should include brainstorming sessions with key stakeholders in your firm and then [developing] ways in which to stand out from all the noise. You will need to develop engaging and inspiring content, the kind that evokes emotion or a call for action.” Such content can position your business as a thought leader and a valuable source of information for your audience.
Sounds easy, right? But staying up to date and providing value in your posts may be more difficult than it seems.
The creation of content
“A big thing about being on social media is that you need to stay active and relevant, so you need the content to support that,” says Jen Bloomer, director of new media and creative services at Maroon PR. “A lot of companies may say that they want to be on social media, but won’t know the amount of content that they need.”
With platforms like Facebook constantly changing the algorithms that make your content visible, getting your message out there is a difficult task. It seems like a good idea to post constantly, but the best business bet may be to trust that the value of your content will be enough to keep people interested and sharing your posts.
“The key to creating great content is to stop selling and start educating,” says Kathleen Booth, owner and CEO of Quintain Marketing Inc. “This can be a really tough shift for companies to make. The tendency is to promote yourself, your services or the products you sell, but most people don’t go online looking for sales literature. They want answers to their questions or solutions to their problems.”
“Do a lot of digging to see the conversations in your industry and how you can be a part of [them],” Bloomer says. “If you can find a way to fit your brand into those conversations, then it’s good. Instead of posting ‘Here’s our product,’ if you make drills, post tips to make a chair with a drill.”
By discussing what your customer base is interested in, you will become a trusted advisor. Next time those potential customers have a question, you’re more likely to be the source they turn to for information or recommend to a friend.
How to start a content marketing campaign on social media
- Determine your audience. Look at your in-store demographic. If you already have a social media following, examine the trends in your audience base and determine your ideal customer. “Get really clear on who that person is,” says Sumi Krishnan, president of K4 Solutions and Success Coach for Entrepreneurs. “Ask yourself 100 questions about [them]: What do
they like to do for fun? What keeps them up at night? It really has to come from knowing who you want to serve and why.”
- Find the appropriate social platform. Each social media platform actually has a different type of user. Determine which platform is right for your audience. “With Facebook, it may be easier to reach moms,” Bloomer says. “If you’re looking at Twitter, B2B companies will have more success; it’s more of the savvy technology- and marketing-minded people. Instagram may be for the younger demographic.”
- Find out what your audience is talking about on social media. Research the issues that they’re having and then really get immersed in the language that they use, Harris says. For example, although real estate companies have been buying, fixing and then selling houses for years, it wasn’t until recently that the term “flipping” was created — and it was created through conversations. You don’t want to post an article on “tips for structural renovation” when your audience is searching for “tips for flipping houses.”
- Create a posting schedule. Treat your social media posts as a type of editorial calendar. Determine when you are going to post, the topic for each post, and how you will monitor those posts from there, says Dan Sondhelm, partner and SVP of Sunstar Strategic.
- Develop relevant and timely content. “If you have a foundational narrative in mind, and you’re always expressing that through social media posts or paid advertising, you can build a brand. You’ve got a brand and what it stands for, and then a deep human need. You’ve got content that makes it relevant in the moment,” says Susan Bean, EVP of the creative catalyst group at Marina Maher Communications LLC.
- Stick to the schedule. It takes a lot of time and dedication to see results from a social media campaign. Dedicate an employee to social media posts and monitoring if you can, or look at outsourcing your social media campaign, says Kathleen McFadden, co-lead of digital strategy practice and account supervisor at Buchanan Public Relations.
- Monitor everything. Most importantly, track your content. Look at how your content is performing on an ongoing basis, says Rebecca Devine, co-founder and principal of Maven Communications. What type of content are audiences naturally engaging with? Is it photos? Then post more of those. Test, evaluate and adjust.
- Maintain presence on the site. It’s not enough to just post and walk away. Get involved. Ask questions of your audience. Answer questions that they may have. Reply to comments and create a two-way dialogue. Try posting questions for your fans and followers to answer. Or invite them to tag friends who would appreciate the content. People respond to incentives, says Rachel Neppes, VP and co-lead of digital strategy practice at Buchanan Public Relations.
- Put quality first, but don’t forget about regularity. Posting the highest-quality and most relevant content is what keeps your audience’s attention. Take time to develop your content and ensure that it is up to date. However, higher-quality content is no excuse to post infrequently. You have a calendar, so stick to it. Just make sure everything you post is useful, says Mindie Barnett, president and CEO of MB and Associates Public Relations.
We asked local business leaders to weigh in on their content marketing strategy on social media, and any results they’ve seen.
“When we first started developing our plan for social media marketing, we thought it was really important to create a platform for people to come ask questions and share experiences, and build our brand through useful content. We didn’t want to just push our product. It’s really important to us that our message is integrated across all digital marketing. It gives us a way for people to share their story with us. It’s a mixture of expert content from licensed dieticians and customer content for people who have been on the program. We also have contests for engagement and bloggers. The consistency has been really helpful. Our results from social media are pretty good. We just hit 100,000 likes on Facebook, and we’ve provided content that gets the most engagement.”
“We’re a fairly recently launched business and have relied on social media as a cornerstone of how to quickly build a brand and presence in the marketplace. Social media, for a startup, is the easiest way to quickly establish a unique voice and articulate your points of differentiation. As opposed to traditional forms of advertising, the conversation is very much reciprocated. We’re receiving real-time feedback on anything ranging from how customers like our product to whether they self-identify with the brand. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the simple fact that it provides a means to create and iterate the best possible product for our customers.”
“Our audience [consists of] the region’s realtors and real estate agents. It’s been about understanding their need and what they’re looking for. We’ve really grown our audience in the past few years. We’re up three to four times as many followers as three years ago. We focused on the content that’s relevant to them. We measure brand [value] in customer satisfaction, which is up significantly. We see it in terms of engagement, for the folks who read it and share our content, and we also see it from the feedback we get from our readers of the content.”
“Our content isn’t simply promotional; it’s of interest to our audiences, whether they are living at Waverly, considering us or just interested in learning more about senior living. We share information from industry outlets and base content on what’s going on around Waverly. We have a solid knowledge of our audience’s wants and needs, which helps us deliver quality information. We also like to share the fun and social aspects of what Waverly has to offer. We start by creating content based on relevant upcoming holidays, events and activities. We want our audience to know htere are people behind the computer screen, always here to help. Relatives of those living at Waverly are beginning to notice our social media sites, and they are also following along to stay up-to-date.” CEO
GET TO KNOW EACH SOCIAL PLATFORM
Each social media platform actually has a different type of user. Determine which platform is right for your audience. Pauline M. Harris, owner and principal of SPIN, has her own rules for each social platform:
FACEBOOK is a low-volume/high-value network. Don’t post too frequently — fans get frustrated with too many posts. Make each post count by offering something valuable or interesting to your audience.
- Minimum: 3x per week
- Maximum: 10x per week
- Aim for quality content over quantity.
TWITTER is a high-volume/low-value network. You can share more here because of Twitter’s fast-paced nature. Share content created by you or curated from other sources — just make sure it’s relevant and interesting
to your followers.
- Minimum: 5x per day
- Maximum: none
- Aim for quantity over quality.
LINKEDIN is a low-volume/high-value network. Make sure your content doesn’t dominate the feed, but that you’re sharing content relevant to your business
- Minimum: 2x per week
- Maximum: 5x per week
- Aim for more formal and technical content around your business and industry.
GOOGLE+ is a low-volume/high-value network. Posting more frequently on Google+ gives Google more content, keywords and expertise to index in its search results pages.
- Minimum: 3x per week
- Maximum: 10x per week
- Use relevant keywords to increase your ranking in a Google search.