Why social media can't exist without content

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InterSystems held its annual Technology Innovation Forum in London this month, featuring talks on creating technology innovation and commercialising technology innovation. I took to the stage to talk about how brands can achieve social success by integrating their social media and content marketing strategies.

 

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My first key point of the day? Your content marketing strategy is the foundation of your social media strategy

What exactly does that mean? It means that, without content, your social media strategy can’t perform effectively. When people think of content, they tend to focus solely on what’s on their website – an interesting blog, the latest industry news, calls to action – and that’s a very big (and important!) part of your strategy. However, social content must move beyond that to include what is most useful to your audience(s) and relevant to your brand and the social networks on which it’s active. Remember, your social content strategy can include images, video, earned media, blog posts, and more. 

Key point #2 - Repeat after me: There is no "one-size-fits-all" solution when it comes to content, or social media

That’s right. Each brand is unique and your social and content marketing strategies must be integrated within the wider marketing strategy. Know what you want to achieve. Understand your key persona(s). Know your strengths and limitations. 

To build on this key point, it’s important to take a good look at your brand and consider the following questions when it comes to strategy: 

1. What are your business objectives?

Yes, it’s great to understand the personas you’re targeting, and it’s excellent to give them what they want... but what about what the brand wants and needs? Giving your audience cute pictures of fluffy animals might generate likes, but what purpose is it serving; are the likes contributing anything worthwhile to the marketing strategy or business overall? 

Before you plan (or continue with) your content and social strategies, stop and think about business objectives and the departments that your social activities can successfully support. Which departments should social media work alongside, you ask? Think about public relations, human resources, research and development and sales and marketing. By being aware of a major objective, such as ‘to decrease negative sentiment about the brand by X% in [time frame]’, you can see that a PR focus for social will be highly beneficial. You can then ask, what does/would the customer want or need from the brand and how can I create the right type of content to share on the most appropriate social networks? 

2. Is your strategy straightforward or complex?

Sometimes, your objectives will allow you to adopt a fairly straightforward approach when it comes to your strategy. Your major objectives – for example, related to sales and marketing and research and development – will be aimed at the same personas. 

However, if the objectives and departments that you’re looking to support demand very different methods of targeting, this will mean that each audience needs:

Specific content shared on only the most appropriate networks
Their own ‘area’ for conversation 

A brand that targets a B2C and a B2B audience is a good example of a business that can benefit from a more complex social and content strategy; the informational needs and requirements of each audience differ greatly and targeting both on the same network could result in confusion. Another situation when a more complex strategy is important occurs when a B2C (or B2B) brand has two very different, but equally as important, business objectives: generating sales/leads and ensuring that the company attracts quality talent to allow for rapid expansion into new markets. To increase the strategy’s effectiveness, each objective requires unique content and tailored social activities. 

Don't know where to get started with personas? Download our Buyer Persona Guide

3. Are we all speaking the same language?

Sometimes it’s okay to create content and social strategies solely in English. Sometimes it’s not. By understanding the needs and beliefs of your key personas, you can ensure that both your content and social media strategies take language, cultural sensitivities and varying demands and expectations into consideration. 

When creating an integrated social and content marketing strategy for a global brand, it’s also important to know which networks are most relevant on a country-by-country basis. For example, do Australians use Facebook differently to Europeans? If you’re aiming to reach your B2B audience in Germany, is Xing more important than LinkedIn? What are the implications of your findings when it comes to content creation and social actions for success on social networks?

4. Where does your brand belong?

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Your social content should be relevant to the social network on which it’s being posted. Before you launch your strategy on a specific network (or networks), it’s important to understand who your key personas are, where they are, why they’re there, how they consume various types of content and what they expect (i.e. video, images, informational blog posts). Once you have answers for those questions, you can then consider whether or not your brand has, and can continue to create, the type of content that will engage your fans and followers.

For example, if you want your brand to be on Pinterest, you need to consider the following: is your target audience active on the network? Do you have enough visual content to post regularly and perform well? Will activities on the network add value for your consumers and the brand? Is this sustainable over the long-term? If you can’t answer yes without hesitation, then you might want to reconsider your options. Always do what’s right for your strategy and don’t look for potential ‘quick fix’ or ‘everyone else is doing it’ solutions when it comes to content and social media. 

5. The brand ambassador vs. the brand

Who’s doing the talking? The brand? Key employees (or thought leaders)? Make sure you’re clear on the answers to these questions before you implement or change your content and social media strategies. The reason behind this is that the required type and frequency of content, as well as the social networks (or social features) that are relevant to the brand and individual may all be different. 

This point can be built upon by looking at a common scenario: a B2B brand wants to be active on LinkedIn to generate leads and build awareness. The managers want to promote the brand itself, but they also want to champion internal thought leaders. This means that two distinct types of content and a variety of targeted social activities will be required. Company page content may focus on generalised company news and individuals will require thought leadership type content to enhance their presence within groups and on their personal profile. Individuals may also benefit from the integration of Slideshare files featuring offline presentations and work portfolios to further optimise their presence. From this example alone, we can see how content requirements and social actions are impacted by the introduction of multiple brand voices. 

Final note for key point #2:

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For most businesses, resources play a large role in determining what you can and can’t do when it comes to social media and content marketing strategies. When thinking about available time and budget and what you can achieve, be realistic. No one can be ‘everything to everyone’. Focus on the objectives/social networks/type of content that will provide you and the consumer with the most benefit and return. Worry about doing more later, when you can do it properly. 

Keep an eye out for part 2, where I discuss my third key point: How the consumer buying decision process can (and should) impact your social media and content marketing strategies.

Ready for Part Two?