We’ve all heard the usual digital conference declarations: “Content is king”; “It’s the year of mobile”; “Mobile is social.” For all you jargon lovers, you’re in luck. There were a few nods to your favorite clichés at the Social Media Strategies Summit in Chicago. Jargon offenses aside, I was happy to walk away with some concrete lessons learned.
Here are my top six social strategy takeaways from the Social Media Strategies Summit:
1. Follow a recipe. To kick it off, we went back to the basics. Most marketers overthink social media and content marketing, trying to reach viral status instead of providing value to their current and loyal followers. While thinking big can reap great rewards, focusing on the basics can help to avoid overlooking the most fundamental pieces of a content marketing strategy – your brand, your audience and the value you add. It’s really not that difficult when all is said and done. If you’re having trouble, use this “recipe” as a guide:
[Our company] is where [our audience] gets [what information do you provide] that offers [what benefit].
2. Start with a persona. But first, make sure you understand the difference between an audience and a persona. An audience is a generally defined group, usually based on one or two specific demographics, such as females, ages 25-34. A persona, on the other hand, is a well-developed identity that describes a specific current or future target audience. A strong persona should describe the demographics, behaviors, working environment, challenges, goals, desires, attitudes, media consumption trends and more, of any given segment. By identifying all of your brands current and target personas, you will be able to define exactly who your brand is speaking to, resulting in a stronger content and targeting strategy. Based on one speaker’s suggestion, a strong brand should focus on no more than 5-7 well-defined personas at any given time.
3. Know what motivates your audience. Once your brand’s personas are identified, what’s next? If you want to win the moment in social media, you need to better understand what motivates your audience. According to Gina Ballenger at Twitter, users are often looking for the following:
- A human connection: Some users just want to connect with friends, while others are seeking more influential friends, like Kim Kardashian per se.
- Discovery and curiosity: Twitter has basically replaced the RSS feed for users looking for the latest breaking news. Now, they turn to trending content for in-the-moment updates.
- Self-expression: Selfies… need I say more?
Start by identifying what your audience is motivated by and it will be easier for you to identify how your brand can cater to their content needs moving forward. From influencer marketing to user-generated content contests, there is a solution to meet every motivation.
4. Create repeatable brilliant content. With your audiences defined, everything else is dependent on one thing – creating remarkable content. Social media no longer consists of one standalone post. To be truly effective, you must start planning your brand’s content strategy before your social media strategy. Social is the distribution channel, or the mode of transportation. Content is the fuel. And, content has never been more important.
So, how do you build your content strategy?
- Who are you as a brand? Determine how people perceive you, and also how you want to be perceived. Then, develop messaging that answers these questions and build it into your content to move the needle on your brand’s perception.
- What is your voice and tone? Determine what your brand sounds like. Are you fun and witty, or intelligent and caring? Find what aligns best with your brand and stay true to who you are.
- Listen first. Brands must always listen first to determine what customers are looking for from them. The most visited pages on a website often align with the most asked questions from customers on social. Figure out how you can fulfill a need for your customers and you will strike gold.
- Once you strike gold, repeat it. Social media is a storytelling platform. As you begin to invest in creating social specific content, start to move from standalone content to content series.
5. Be authentic. When in doubt, stay true to who you are. Identify why your brand is different, and play to your strengths. Make sure you are able to talk the talk, and don’t pretend your brand is something it’s not. Take Clorox, a brand that stays true to their voice and tone, even when talking to millennials. Instead of trying to speak like a millennial and failing, they choose to be authentic so they don’t wind up sounding stupid. It’s especially important not to imitate your competition. That gets to the core of being inauthentic. If you’re copying another brand’s content or ideas, that content likely aligns with their brand, not yours. And, as a result, you may be stripping your brand of its own identity.
6. If content is king, distribution is queen and she wears the pants. Distribution is the process of delivering your branded content to existing audiences and targeting new audience groups for growth. The goal of distribution is to make your brand’s content easy to consume. For the most effective distribution, find out which platforms your target personas already use, and deliver your content using those channels.
Targeting is at the core of distribution. The whole point of identifying your brand’s personas is to find out how you can reach them with the content that they want or need. Paid social ads open up the door for more niche targeting. While organic social media is changing, social as we know it is not dead, rather it’s just maturing. Paid social takes many shapes, from leveraging social stars to promoting content on your own channels. The continuous convergence of advertising, social and CRM makes it ever more important to develop an integrated organic and paid digital marketing strategy to best hit your audiences at all the right touch points.