We often think of content marketing as:
- And more…
We often think of social media, from the point of view of a company, as a way to promote content. Maybe as part of a content marketing campaign or strategy.
And that can certainly be the case.
But if we look at content marketing as simply a way to educate a target audience then the content published on social media is another form of content marketing.
In this post I won’t get into the discussion about what content marketing channel is best or better. We’ll simply get into the steps you can take to create effective content marketing on social media.
Step 1. Target Audience
Content Marketing begins with knowing your target audience.
You can begin without really having an idea of your audience. You can just create something and figure out your audience as you go.
But if you have an established business or if you want to figure out things quicker then knowing your target audience is the better way to go.
One trap that’s easy to fall into is creating content that is interesting and amusing to you. The reason this is a trap is that we’re not often our own customers. It may be true in some cases, but in most cases we’re not our own customer.
Even if we are our own customer it can still be tricky. We’re close to our business and industry. We’re industry insiders. We’re going to have different questions about our industry than our target customers.
One example I see sometimes is a graphic designer. They might share insight on social media that is interesting to them. But their customers are small business owners or marketers. Do those folks want to see Vibrant Illustrations To Let Your Mind Wander?
Maybe, but probably not.
Or let’s say you sell shoes. You’re probably your own customer, but you’re on a different level of the shoe industry than your customers. You might find a chart of the top shoe sellers in the world interesting, but your customers probably don’t care.
Step 2. Company Values & Mission
You’ll often see companies discussing their rules and guidelines for the social media manager. Those things are fine, but the process of creating content starts before rules and guidelines.
It all begins with an understanding of your company’s values and mission. Then you can bring people on board that share those values and that mission.
If you hire the right people that match your company then you can worry less about what they might do on social media. And you can feel confident that they’ll know the right kind of content to share.
Values and mission are rules in themselves. They make it easier for people to make decisions.
If your company’s core value is to treat others how you want to be treated and you hire someone that shares that value then you probably don’t have to worry too much about that person getting into arguments on social media on your company’s behalf.
The same with the mission. If your company’s mission is to provide help and assistance to the elderly then whenever your social media person is faced with a decision they can ask themselves, “Which choice helps the elderly?”
Step 3. Setting Expectations
Content Marketing is a long-term strategy. You can have short-term successes, but mostly it’s about building a collection of valuable content for your target audience.
Great content marketing is about the small and the large.
With each piece of content you provide value by answering a question or entertaining. That’s the small. Each piece on its own has the potential to change someone’s life in a small way.
But it’s also about the big picture. It’s about a collection of valuable content. Reaching a critical mass with your efforts takes time.
Consider your favorite social media accounts. Look at how long they have been on that social media platform. Probably several years. You may have just discovered them recently, but they had been creating content consistently for years in some form.
Keep this in mind when setting your expectations for success with social media content marketing. It’s going to take time. If you don’t have that patience then you’re setting your effort up for disappointment.
Step 4. Resource Allotment
The next step is making sure you have the resources to handle publishing content on social media.
Like blogging or creating videos or podcasts, content takes time. It often takes research. It takes time to learn the craft.
Creating content for social media is not really a part-time job. You won’t find much success if you have your office manager work on Facebook a few minutes out of the day.
If you’re serious about building content marketing with social media then it’s going to take at least one full time person working on it all the time.
Step 5. Identifying Questions, Frustrations, etc.
So the easiest way to approach any content marketing including on social media is to provide answers to the questions your target audience is asking or thinking about.
Social media is great because it’s a place where a lot of conversations are happening. And if you see your audience asking questions you can step in to provide answers.
I’m not really talking about sales-related questions.
Let’s say you sell high heels and you see someone asking where to buy high heels and you respond with a link to your website.
You can do that, but it won’t happen often.
More often you’ll see someone asking things like:
What is the best color for shoes with this outfit?
How do I avoid blisters on my feet?
Why do my ankles hurt when I walk?
There are lots of questions people ask that relate directly to your products, but also to your industry and corollary industries.
When starting out you’ll have to search for questions.
Look at competitor’s feeds. See what people are asking.
Look at industry profiles. See what topics are being discussed. See how people are commenting and replying to the posts.
Follow popular industry hashtags that your audience would use and follow.
Over time you can build your own channels to get questions coming to you. Polling. Asking. Etc.
Step 6. Providing Answers (Without Selling)
This builds on the last one.
Content marketing works best if you focus on the early stages of the relationship between you and your customer.
It’s easy to jump the gun and ask for the sale.
Compare it to meeting someone and going on a first date. Would you ask them to marry you right away?
It might work one out of a few thousand times, but mostly you’re going to fail and turn away potential mates.
It takes more time to build a relationship.
It’s true with love and it’s true in business.
Provide answers with the goal of helping your audience. Earn their trust. Over time they’ll come to you because they know you, trust you and people usually want to do business with people they know and trust.
And they also like referring people they know to the companies they know and trust.
Step 7. Selective Engagement
Over time if your social media content is connecting with people you’ll build a following and you’ll probably get negative comments.
The key to dealing with negative comments is to determine if the comment is a real concern or just inflammatory.
You can treat social media like your house. You wouldn’t allow an inflammatory person into your house. There is no law saying you need to deal with them.
On social media you can choose to use selective engagement. You can reply and respond to the people you care about most and the ones that fit your values and that fit your mission.
The rest you can ignore.
Engagement is an important aspect of social media. If someone is asking an important question and you can provide an answer it’s good to engage with them.
Step 8. Consistency
A big point of emphasis with content is consistency.
Go back to those accounts you admire on social media…
Chances are they not only have been using the profile for several years, but they’ve probably been consistent with how frequent they publish content.
It’s not something you can do once in awhile. It’s good to have a schedule.
You could set rules like answering 10 questions a day or replying to 10 comments a day and things like that.
Some days it’ll be difficult and others it’ll be easy. Either way, stick to the daily goals. Finding routine in your content creation will set you up for long-term success.
Step 9. Storytelling
Let’s go back to the question someone asks about high heel colors.
Providing a straight ahead answer is a great way to use content marketing on social media.
But you can take things to new levels with storytelling.
You could tell a story about the time you wanted to test high heel colors for yourself. For two events you wore the same dress. For each event, though, you wore different colored high heels. You paid attention to the responses you got.
Telling that story allows people to take in all kinds of helpful information.
Telling them: “Red.” is a good answer. Telling them the story of the time you wore red and the time you wore black gives them even more great information so they can make the best choice.
Step 10. Steady Increases
One final note here is that over time you should have success with the steps here. And if you do you want to look for steady increases in your effort.
You don’t want to necessarily jump from 5 new pieces of content per day to 20. But you could increase your frequency a little bit every few months.
Over time you’ll reach a great peak, but don’t do too much too soon.
Social media is a great medium for content marketing. You can share insight. You can share answers. You can share videos, photos, images and plain text. All kinds of things can be shared.
Keep the focus on your target customers. Answer the questions they have relating to their lives and your industry and you’ll be in a great place to build a solid content marketing effort with social media.