2014 was barely underway before Mark Schaefer’s Content Shock article put a bit of a hitch into our year’s content marketing plans. Those who have been content marketing for a while were all gung-ho for the new year, and reading Schaefer’s theory definitely caused myself and many of my peers pause.
In light of the article, a few of us were scrambling for the most straightforward, teachable strategies for combating this wave of content. This article is what we came up with.
Here, I’ll dive into optimizing your social media content, and will discuss why I believe doing this better than your competitors will be the most reliable way to stave off both audiences’ potential content fatigue and any resulting decreases in content marketing ROI.
What is content shock?
The idea of content shock was first theorized by Mark Schaefer on Jan. 6, 2014 (so, in online marketing terms, about a year and a half ago).
He defines content shock as, “The emerging marketing epoch defined when exponentially increasing volumes of content intersect our limited human capacity to consume it.”
Basically, the idea is that content marketing is, increasingly, becoming standard practice. It delivers, per dollar, three times the leads as traditional marketing avenues, costs 62 percent less, and has been ranked as the single most effective strategy for SEO. As a result, we’re all doing it.
Because of its success, content marketers are creating an ever-increasing amount of content (27,000,000 pieces per day), doubling (depending on who you talk to) the entire amount of available web-based information every 9–24 months.
And our readers are only human. They can only absorb so much information. The battle to be first, to be more comprehensive, to be read more, seen more, respected more, is becoming quite a significant war.
Every article you write has either been written before or will be published 5 minutes before you do.So what do you do? How can you hold back the tide and keep your content marketing ROI floating?
An introduction to SMO
Social media optimization is an idea that’s been around for a while, but has really come into popularity since Google’s Hummingbird Algorithm was integrated into search in late August.
For me, the most important factor of that algorithm change was a new focus on social activity for SEO. Traditional SEO, as you likely know, focuses on link building (links to your content are seen as, essentially, votes in that content’s favor). The more links you have to and within your content, the higher it’ll appear in a search.
Now, however, the all-important link has been replaced with the Google +1. If anybody is surprised that Google has made its own social network’s endorsement the most important factor for SEO, you really shouldn’t be…
Google has also hugely increased the value of social endorsements of all kinds. Yes, links are still incredibly important (please do not take away from this section that you can stop link-building), but important also is the Facebook “like,” Twitter’s tweets, LinkedIn’s shares and Pinterest’s pins.
What this means for content marketers and content shock: In the coming years, content marketers will need to fight tooth-and-nail to make our content more shareable, endorse-able, tweet-able, pin-able and more “like”-able than anyone else’s.
5 Strategies for combating content shock with SMO
1. Make your content shareable and engageable
Create awesome visuals: You’ve probably read a few 2014 prediction articles that have argued that 2014 will be the year for visual content. Visual content gets better engagement on social platforms than text-based content. It performs better in your newsletter and marketing emails, and it communicates information faster.
My recommendation for developing visual content is to collate the most appealing statistics from your blog research and create an infographic or SlideShare presentation. Put time and effort into these (yes, you may have to learn InDesign). This strategy, of reusing statistics from your blog for an infographic, is the best for a solid ROI. Your time is valuable. Use it intelligently (more on this later).
Make it bite-sized: While the long-form blog isn’t going anywhere, bite-sized content is becoming more valuable. Because of the deluge of content we’re immersed in, you need to offer easy-to-read snippets (witty, anecdotal, fun) as well as comprehensive articles.
My favorite form of “palatable” content is the SlideShare presentation. If you’re unfamiliar, SlideShare is a free presentation-sharing site that puts your content in front of millions of viewers. Upload your presentations and SlideShare generates an embeddable code for your blog site and has its own social-share toolbar. Slideshare also gives you extremely competitive lead generation options (no, I don’t work for them).
Encourage social shares: You absolutely have to be promoting your content on social platforms — you know this. Even more important is to encourage people to share your content themselves:
- A social share toolbar within your blog site can increase virality by up to 700 percent. This simple step can have a huge influence on your blog’s performance, and if you’re not doing it already, get on it.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a share or “like.” As long as you do it gently (don’t push a “Like this Post!” banner down your reader’s throat, please), there’s nothing wrong with a request to share.
- The same goes for asking for comments. Do this subtly with a question at the end of your articles and then say, “Start the conversation below!” or “Have you experienced ___? What’s your story?“
- Each of your pieces of content should have a call to action (CTA), whether that’s to download an eBook, sign up for your RSS feed, share — or all four — is up to you.
2. Focus on being social
Putting the individual into your content: This is, for me, the most important factor for making your content pop. As social media has worked its way into every nook and cranny of our society, internet users have become increasingly attracted to brands, bloggers and personalities who have, well, personality.
Put more of yourself, or your brand personality, into your writing. Those articles that read like you and I are having an informed chat about content marketing best practices do far better than those articles where I stand at the front of the classroom (metaphorically, of course) and read from a textbook.
How to encourage content engagement on social media:
- Make your blog header images appealing and eye-grabbing.
- Make your infographics engaging and your eBooks more visually exciting than traditional (especially if you’re going to advertise them on social).
- Write in a conversational tone that connects with your demographic.
- Use personal pronouns to increase the sense of the individual in your writing.
Making your header images eye-catching (something like the above, which was for an article focused on which social media platform is right for your business) is essential. This is because when you tweet or post a link to your article on Facebook, you should be using an image. Images get far more engagement than straight links on social media. They attract the eye better and get your message across faster.
Tip: I recommend you come up with two blog titles — one optimized for search and one for social media:
- Use the first title for your article and the second for posting the article’s link on social platforms.
- Test social media titles on Twitter (posting one phrasing around 9 a.m. and another around 11 a.m.) and use the one that received the most engagement on Facebook, Google+ etc.
- Remember that shorter posts, with verbs, adverbs and the words “you” and “please” have better engagement.
Why this is important: An emphasis on long-tail search was also one of the changes made by Google with the Hummingbird algorithm update — but they don’t generate as much engagement as a shorter, catchier title on social platforms.
Checklist for social media engagement:
3. Engage with influencers
Influence marketing is awesome. Creating a relationship with thought leaders in your sector not only opens doors you never thought would open, it also increases your brand profile.
You can’t really understand the influence that some of these awesome individuals have until Mari Smith tweets a link to one of your articles to her 263,000 Twitter followers and your readership goes up 1,000 percent in a day.
Influencers aren’t scary. Most of them got to the position they’re in through networking and being genuinely intelligent, personable individuals. They don’t bite.
Here’s how to find them and start a conversation:
- Check out the top three social influence metric sites: Klout, Kred, and PeerIndex for those individuals in your sector with the greatest online reputation and influence.
- Before engaging, make sure they’re engage-able: Are they active? Do they share other content, or only their own? Do you share followers? Are your competitors following them?
Once you’ve found a few influencers in your sector, try these tactics:
- Follow your influencer’s blog articles through an RSS feed and comment on them.
- Create a “best-of” post with an influencer’s article included.
- Compile a list of best resources for your sector with them included.
- Make a blog post summarizing an influencer’s comprehensive article, and give a shout-out to the experts who wrote it.
- If their business (or they themselves) has a blog, offer to contribute a guest article.
- Once you’ve had a few exchanges on Twitter or blog commenting, make an overture for an interview or Q&A.
4. Reuse content to combat a decreasing ROI
Content SMO is also about being smart with your social media content marketing. One of Mark Schaefer’s main points in his article on content shock is that the influx of content means that we have to spend more and more and more time making our content amazing. Only with “amazing” content (he argues) can we earn the same content ROI we would have earned from “good” content a year ago.
Rather than devote your entire life to making a single blog article that shines like the sun, my recommendation is to reuse your content intelligently. Work smart, not hard! (Though you’ll still have to work hard…)
Consider your well-researched, long-form blog article as a glacier. From that glacier you derive any number of rivers and streams: SlideShare presentations, infographics, blog commenting (on Influencers, if you’re smart), social media post ammunition and, once you have four or five articles on the same subject, an awesome eBook.
5. Make your content unique, engaging and different
I recognize this is quite a straightforward way of saying something that is a daily struggle and takes up the vast majority of a content marketer’s time.
So here are three concrete strategies I use (I’d love for you to add your own strategies in the comment section below):
- Use Evernote: Evernote is an organizational app. It works on tablets, computers, and your mobile devices (and you can share content among all of them). It makes sharing with colleagues, peers, or influencers simple. You can tag and organize your thoughts, content ideas, news stories, etc., and once you’re done, you can file those tidbits into an archive for later perusal (but also so you don’t have to scroll through old stuff to find something you need now).
There are also (of course) a bunch of awesome plug-ins for Evernote, my favorite of which is the LiveScribe smartpen, which allows you to take notes (on your pant-leg if necessary), record audio, and transmit information easily to your Evernote app the next time you connect to Wi-Fi. The pen remembers what you write or hear and transmits it to your device for later.
- Read everything: Subscribe to Feedly, ensure you have the Flipboard app on your phone. Read everywhere, all the time. Content marketing is not (at least for me) a 9 to 5 job. I am a content marketer everywhere, all the time. I read articles on transit on the way to work and bookmark quotes, news items, and random facts to use later.
Here’s why this is essential: With content shock coming for us like a fast-moving train, we need to keep ridiculously up-to-date on the developments in our field. Is there a case study coming out on Pinterest ROI for B2B? Shelve the article you had planned and write on that the moment it comes out.
- Do Q&A’s and interviews: You’re trying to be unique right? You’re trying to get exclusive information? Are you doing interviews or Q&As with thought leaders in your field (or even one of your peers who has interesting insights into… whatever!)?
Not only is this content exclusively yours, but if you’re interviewing an influencer, you’ll increase your brand profile as they’re guaranteed to promote it as well.
Of course there are more strategies for writing awesome content that is unique, engaging and gets read. What are some of yours?
Looking for more inspiration on delivering compelling, optimized social media content? Read CMI’s Content Marketing Playbook: 24 Epic Ideas for Connecting with Your Customers.