Social Media is an ever-changing, overwhelming sea of possibilities. For most people, the biggest challenge is figuring out where to get started with social media.
We all have heard the familiar and sound advice to start by listening. Listen to your customers, listen to the community, listen, listen, listen.
Everyone says to listen! Listen to what?
The reality is that there is so much information or noise being generated every second that you could spend an entire career listening and never do anything else.
The trick is to not just listen but to participate, as well as be able to adapt the voice of authority.
Think back to being a kid on a playground, or go visit a busy playground and observe for a while. What you will notice first is that it is a noisy place. There are little girls having secret conversations in one corner, groups of boys raiding each other on the equipment, and a group of boys and girls building castles at yet another section of the playground. Each of them is living in their own world and are tuned into their own activities, but the call of an authoritative voice raises their attention and will cause all activities to change directions.
How does this relate to developing your own social media listening program? The social media world is very similar to a child’s playground (in oh so many ways!)
When a child arrives at the playground they will first glance around to see what is going on and who they know. I relate this to casting a wide net to gather a high-level insight into conversations that are happening related to:
- Your Brand
- Your Competitors
- Your Services
- Problems you Solve
Once we understand the landscape and ecosystem of all the activities going on, we will begin to focus in on what we know best and where we feel most comfortable. On the playground, this would be equivalent to saying hi to our friends and checking in on what they are doing. In the social media world, it is very much the same thing. We will check in on our customers, prospects, and people who know us that we should get to know.
As we play we begin to learn the rules of the playground. Who is in charge of which activities and which children are committed to those activities as well as which children are just exploring various areas. In social media, we call the leaders of certain circles influencers. Social media influencers, like the children leading various playground activities, were never appointed as leaders and they have no real authority, but they have a personality that entices others to follow along. As we play with them we strengthen existing relationship bonds as well as make new friends.
In business, this would be equivalent to understanding the context of each conversation, the sentiment within each community and the connections among different social ties. Look for who is the center of influence within your market.
The child who wants to lead his own little tribe will be successful only if he or she has tapped into areas of play that children are most drawn to and storylines that they want to act out. Similar to the business person who needs to create messages that resonate with their customer’s needs and desires and to attract an audience who are willing and able to respond to various calls to action.
Once you are not only part of the community, your community also becomes part of the ecosystem and you will be tapped into new opportunities as well as potential threats to your playground enterprise. You will be able to respond to these opportunities and threats to the best of your ability.
However, there is always the inevitable call from the voice of authority that changes the game. On the playground it is the voice of the parent saying it is time for your best friend to leave, thus shaking up the connections within your group. Online it is the voice of a social networking site enticing your community members away from your chosen channels with the promise of better tools, friendly user interfaces, or more efficient ways to track the enormous amount of information we are all keeping track of. The child must be prepared to rebuild or move on, as does any business investing in social media.
However, to keep up with it all, you have to continuously be listening.
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There’s more to content marketing than writing blog posts, creating ebooks and promoting your content through advertisements and social media post.
To be successful, you need to be active and engaging and offer information people are looking for.
One of the biggest mistakes that brands make when they are creating content is to focus on sales and advertising. Their focus is on what they want their audience to know about them.
This was how marketers thought for a long time. However, content marketing is an evolving organism that changes alongside technology and consumer preferences. Not too long ago it was easy to create content or an outbound message and grab the attention of your target audience. Today, however, consumers are confronted by outbound strategies constantly through commercial interruptions, pop-up ads, junk mail, and unsolicited emails. Not only have people become numb to it but they are also using technology to block it.
To be fair, promoting content all about your brand is an honest mistake because the questions you start with when you begin to craft a strategy start with focusing on your business goals. When I sit down with a client I start with the questions what do you want your audience to know? How do you want them to feel? What do you want them to do?
If your content planning stops there your strategy will be very one-sided and one-sided relationships are never very successful.
The next step of developing your content strategy is understanding what your audience wants from you.
Without a holistic plan, your marketing efforts can be a waste of time – or worse a recipe for a failed relationship with your prospects and clients.
If you want to develop quality relationships with your audience, develop a plan to be there when they search for answers, be engaging, and inspire action. Here are a few ways to make that happen.
You Need to Know your Audience
Your goal is to attract the best potential customers, not just anyone with a pulse.
To do this you need to know more than demographic information of the people you are trying to reach, such as income, zip code, age, or gender. If you are looking to develop a content strategy that builds relationships which lead to sales and brand advocacy, you need to know their story.
To develop their story, look beyond the problems you solve for your customers and reflect on who they are. What are their goals? Who would they turn to for advice? What do they value? Who are they trying to impress?
Knowing these answers will help you to create content that is more than information. By knowing their story your content can create a picture of a solution that not only meets a need but aligns with their identity.
You Need to Stand Out
When everybody and their mother is able to create and publish content the Internet becomes a very noisy place.
A 2013 Nielsen survey showed that 27 million pieces of content are shared every day and according to the 2015 Content Marketing Institute survey 86% of B2B marketers and 77% of B2C marketers use content marketing.
So how can your content stand out?
1. Make your titles actionable or tangible. Let people quickly know what they will get when they tune into your content.
2. Be sure that your content is easy to quickly scan. Many people now scan through the content first before deciding to invest the time in reading your content or watching your video in-depth.
3. Make sure you are using the keywords that your audience is using. This not only helps you rank higher in their search results, but it also means you and your audience are aligned with how you speak about and think about the topic.
4. Don’t put obstacles in the way of your content. Don’t litter your content with several call-to-action buttons or advertisements. Your audience is giving you their attention to learning from you, not to be sold to.
5. Take your audience on a journey. Make sure your content is organized with a well-defined beginning, middle, and end that had valuable nuggets of information to discover each step of the way.
Bonus: Let your personality and personal stories shine through.
Right Time Right Place
If you spent your late nights calling on your daytime business prospects and then slept during the day when they returned your calls, your business would definitely suffer.
The same is true online. When you post your content, not just time of day but also the day of the week, time of the month, or season of the year will have an impact.
Knowing who your audience not only helps you write content the feels personalized for them, it also enables you to know how they spend their days, weeks, and months and what content may be relevant to them at a specific point in time.
Getting your content published at the right time is only the beginning. Through targeted advertisements on the various social media sites, you set your content to show up right when your audience is writing about or search for a specific topic.
With each piece of content, you publish and promote you can track various analytics to learn more about your audience so that you can make continuous improvements
The final step of your plan is to make sure you have not lost focus on why you are creating content in the first place. It is about supporting your business goals. Every piece of content you produce should have an actionable and measurable goal attached to it that is tied to moving your prospects through the sales funnel.
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