Developing Social Media Content: New Game. New Rules.
When I ask companies or clients what their content strategy is for their social media engagement, I usually hear one of three responses …
- What’s that?
- No, I don’t have one.
- Yes, I have one (and then they go on to describe the content strategy for their website or brand as a whole).
Each of these answers is perfectly reasonable …
- If you use social media primarily to “talk to people,” you may not consider the words that you and others type during your conversations to be “content.” (But it is.)
- If you believe that social exchanges are comprised of “content,” you may not think that this content could or should have some sort of strategic purpose, since that’s kind of antithetical to the very nature of the medium. (But it can.)
- If you’re using the same content for your social media that you use for your website (which makes sense, since one may likely have been born from the other), then you may think it’s logical to treat them, strategically, the same. (But it’s not.)
Social media content is its own unique beast for one key reason: when you talk in social media, people talk back … and you can never predict what exactly it is that they’ll say.
I think this is fundamentally a “game changer,” that makes social media content worthy of a new set of rules.
It doesn’t walk like a duck. So let’s stop calling it one.
From content to analytics to optimization, as social media matures and grows, we’re learning that it often requires its own unique approaches and processes.
In the case of content, social media is comprised heavily of words, but also just as heavily of communications … the ways in which we exchange that content with other humans in real time.
The intersection of the two is uncharted terrain that is both an art to navigate as well as a science to strategize for.
In this new area, traditional Web rules don’t necessarily apply.
If you take your existing content strategy and apply it to the social web, it may be successful (particularly if you are using social media as a broadcast platform), but it won’t create the kind of rabid brand evangelists that are the holy grail of most marketing plans.
Broadcasting a schedule of brand messages in an engaging or entertaining way can convince someone to “fan” or “follow” your brand, but …
- To get people to fall in love with your brand;
- To get people do your marketing for you;
- To get people to virally shepherd your content on your behalf;
… you need to establish a connection or build a relationship.
And that means using social media SOCIALLY.
Do you have a content strategy for that?
A new approach to content.
Much of what we could call “social media content strategy” is just revisiting the basics of human psychology and communications that are the seeds of most of the marketing and PR practices we employ today.
What makes us successful in our virtual engagements is the same thing that makes us successful in our face-to-face ones – having the ability to explore and improvise within the gray area that occurs between creating words and exchanging them.
Social media has just made that space a little more gray and a lot more lively.
In social media, your “content” won’t always take the shape of a collection of “on brand” phrases, but rather, will consist of the words you develop and use to:
- Engage people in an open and interesting way.
- Actively listen, in addition to sharing.
- Ask compelling questions based on intelligence you’re gathering in real time (i.e. “Tell me more about the trade show you’re producing.”) rather than topics identified in advance (i.e. “Did you know that my company does X?”).
- Present your brand as a solution for a client or customer’s identified problem, rather than a kick off for a marketing or sales qualification process.
- Draw effective conclusions from your interaction that can lead to the next engagement, (i.e. “Are you going to X Conference? I’d love to take you out to lunch and continue this conversation there.)
As a society, we were once great at this navigating this gray area. But after decades of building layers of communication bureaucracy between marketer and consumer, we’ve become pretty rusty at just plain ole talking to each other.
It’s as if we’ve all been using the “communicating with people” script so long that all of our inherent improvisation skills have atrophied.
Get your words back into fighting shape.
I invite you to come explore this topic with me at our Kane Camp event on Thursday, April 15. We’re going to break it down and talk about how to develop a strategy for choosing the words and communication style to use for your social media engagement.
While this is still an evolving concept (I’ve never seen it covered at a conference, webinar, etc.), even if I can’t provide all the answers, I can promise that you’ll leave asking the right questions.
Hope to see you there.
Interesting topic, and isn’t that fundamentally the point of social media? Just like a real life networking event, our goal is not to be the hawker on the boardwalk.. it’s to be a valued participant in the conversation. By the very nature of the medium, our tone and cadence must adjust.
You are so correct, not everyone gets it, but then again, not everyone has followers…
I still believe that a 70-20-10 rule of thumb prevails. And that the messages have to be primarily social, then informative, then brand, where brand is the smallest percentage.
Great insights. Thanks for sharing the 70-20-10 rule and for reading the post.
Do you always post articles like this?
I’ve written a number of blog posts about social media from a variety of angles, but this is the first time I’ve written about this particular topic.
“…when you talk in social media, people talk back … and you can never predict what exactly it is that they’ll say.” YES! You have to be able to address whatever you get, which is why I agree with everything you said here. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
And thanks to you for reading them 🙂
I really appreciate seeing the approach to social media coming from a PR perspective. Many books and bloggers that write about developing social media content talk about the same things that you do in your post. Their vernacular is a bit different, though, making the advice only slightly, yet significantly different. Reading a broad mix of social media tips helps me understand it from multiple perspectives, so thanks for helping develop my own social media content.
Very interesting. If you read something else on this topic that you find enlightening, I’d love it if you could let me know about it too (I’m @JenKaneCo on Twitter). Oddly (I suppose), I approach SM content from marketing and PR perspective, but also coming from a background in theatre. Communicating in the voice of a brand ultimately feels like an acting exercise for me, so I use some of that training to inform the advice I give people. Ultimately, I’m still trying to develop my vernacular for talking about this. Glad people are still finding it helpful as I go through that process.
teivug Wow! Great thiinkng! JK