In a crowded online marketplace where smaller retailers are forced to vie against large ones, creating useful content is one way to garner consumer attention and trust. This is especially true when it comes to attracting prospects in social media.
At the recent Dreamforce 2012 conference, sponsored by Salesforce, Scott Monty, head of social media at Ford Motor Company, said, “Content is the currency of social.” What Monty was saying is that successful social media marketing involves creating content that engages consumers, stimulates dialogue, and evokes a response.
In this article I outline four steps to create an effective social media content marketing strategy.
- Content Focus
- Content Type
- Posting Frequency
- Content Calendar
1. Determine Content Focus
Content needs to have a focus in terms of the topics you plan to cover and the tone it will take. Here are some pointers for determining that focus.
- Stimulate engagement. It could be educational, entertaining, inspirational, or promotional. Likely it should contain elements of all four.
- Demonstrate knowledge and thought leadership. One way to garner trust is by establishing yourself or your company as an expert.
- Consistent with the mission and culture of your business. You don’t want content that is out of step with your company’s character, image, and personality — it would come across as not authentic.
A commonly accepted practice is to use the 70/20/10 rule.
- 70 percent of content should focus on your customers’ interests and needs. This can be accomplished through how-to tips, answers to frequently asked questions, and links to helpful resources. Ask yourself, “Would I find this content helpful?” If the answer is yes, then it’s probable others will too.
- 20 percent of content should be “OPC” — other people’s content. That mandates a willingness to allow user-generated content on social channels you manage, such as a Facebook page. This gives your customers a sense of ownership in the conversation and serves to foster trust.
- 10 percent of content should be promotional. If you are willing to focus 90 percent of your content on others, then, hopefully, no one will complain when 1/10th of it calls attention to your products and services.
2. Determine Content Type
Depending on the channel, social media content can take many forms: blog posts, tweets, status updates, contests, quizzes, poll questions, infographics, videos, and photos.
Due Pinterest and Instagram, social media has become increasingly visual. So the use of video and photo images should be a major consideration. Not only does it appeal to different learning styles, but photos and video make it easier for customers and prospects to get a feel for who you are and what you do.
3. Determine Posting Frequency
After you have decided on the content’s focus and type, determine how often you can post updates. Here are a couple of tips.
- Post at the optimal time. By this I mean post on the days and times when you are most likely to receive responses in the form of Likes, comments and shares. Many retailers find that posting between 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. works best. Edge Rank Checker is a tool that can help you determine the best times to post on Facebook. Also, use Facebook Insights and Google Analytics to determine optimum posting times.
- Put important points first. Express your core message within the first 90 characters, as longer messages might be truncated.
4. Create a Content Calendar
Once you know the focus and types of content you want to produce, and determine the posting frequency, the next step is to develop a calendar to schedule your posts. Calendars can be created on a weekly or monthly basis.
Content calendars can be developed using a spreadsheet. But I prefer a social media management application, for three reasons.
- Such applications serve as the single source for content creation and scheduling.
- They automate the process of content distribution and syndication to social networks.
- They make it easier to administer and manage social media channels and engagement activities, such as responding to comments, identifying new fans and followers, and monitoring conversations about your business and its products.
I recommend the following social media management applications.
- Sprout Social
- Vertical Response
Content is Still King
Engaging content can serve your business in a variety of ways. It can:
- Set you apart from your competition;
- Help establish you as an expert, and a thought leader;
- Keep your business top of mind with consumers;
- Provide the leverage needed to keep your customers coming back time after time.
Think of yourself not only as an ecommerce merchant, but a “media mogul,” as well. Make content the focus of your social media marketing activity. It will likely translate into increased profits.