Content Catering for Social Media
Last summer, in an effort to teach our daughter the wonders of science, my husband and I helped her make her own ice cream.
It was a pretty slick process that involved pouring a bunch of ingredients into a plastic bag, shaking it for about five minutes and, voila – instant dessert.
I was reminded of this experiment last week when I was doing a webinar for Vocus on integrated communications.
During the Q&A portion of the webinar, a few people asked specific questions about content for social media …
- How do you come up with it?
- How do you establish a consistent tone?
- Should it be different in each channel?
Social media content, for me, is like the list of ingredients we placed into that bag when we made ice cream.
Each one was strategically selected for its scientific properties and pleasantness to the palette. But none of them were, in and of themselves, “ice cream.”
I think a lot of companies approach their social content as they would any other web content. They menu out a list of “dishes” that they hope people will consume, cook them up and then parcel them out to audiences in snackable bites.
The fatal flaw of this approach is that it overlooks the first step in engaging in any successful social interaction – listening to your audience.
You can serve me the most beautiful, bamboo-plated array of sushi the world has ever seen, but if you neglected to ask me if I like the stuff first, (I don’t), then you just wasted an enormous amount of your time and annoyed me in the process, (particularly if I had clearly indicated to you multiple times that I was craving something else.)
Like any good cook, before you make your content “menu,” you should think about the people to whom you’ll be serving that content.
- Who is going to eat it?
- What are they hungry for?
- Do they have any special requests or requirements?
- What’s appropriate for the “occasion?”
From this intelligence, you can prepare a “grocery list” of content “ingredients.”
Just as you would with real ingredients, it’s O.K. to make some judgment calls when it comes to actually selecting your ingredients off the shelf. For instance, you can narrow your selection to words that are brand-appropriate, search-friendly and conversation engaging.
Catering, Social-Media Style.
Again, our natural inclination is to then take our ingredients and start cooking.
Try to resist that urge.
Remember, you are a creative content caterer, not a short-order cook.
Like the ice cream experiment; your goal should be to divide the ingredients into collections that will enable your audience to create their own unique dishes.
Whether they ultimately combine their eggs, flour and milk to make a cake or a soufflé is beside the point. Your primary concern is that they, ultimately, end up satiated and happy.
I believe that each social media channel has its own distinct vibe, which necessitates some customization when it comes to content “ingredients.”
By choosing and parceling your ingredients to play to each channel’s strengths, you’ll ensure that your content performs effectively. For instance:
- Twitter: To me, Twitter content seems like the “assemble your own” fast food you’d pick up at a convenience store. (Like a container with yogurt and a pouch of granola to sprinkle on top, if you’re so inclined.) The choices for customization are limited and the whole thing is designed so it can be both prepared and eaten in a few gulps in your car.
- Facebook: Content for Facebook feels more like a picnic basket of morsels that you can leisurely combine when the mood strikes. It’s content that has the potential to be traded, savored and enjoyed with good company. It can’t sit there in the basket all day, but it has a longer shelf life than your Twitter ingredients.
- LinkedIn: To me, LinkedIn content feels like the kind of ingredients you’d find in a corporate cafeteria. Nothing risky or unexpected here … just solid choices you can customize into palatable, made-to-order dishes that stand the test of time and appeal to a wide common-denominator. (In my imagination, there is lots of “chicken” content in LinkedIn-land.)
- Blogs: Blog content feels like the ingredients you’d find in a restaurant kitchen – each one hand-selected, at the peak of freshness and prepared to-order to please the discerning tastes of a diner who intends to linger and savor each bite.
I could go on (and officially beat this metaphor to death), but I think you get the gist here – one “ingredient” can be served in all of these environments, but how you prepare, serve and combine that ingredient with others can (and should) change based on the context and conversation.
Next time you’re producing content for social media, I challenge you to put on your chef’s hat and see how creative you can be with your content catering.
Just don’t forget the second part of that ice cream experiment: no matter what you decide to toss into your Ziploc bag, it’s not going to do you much good unless you hang around and shake things up.
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