By Jonathan Crossfield published December 5, 2014

Group Think: How to Improve Your Social Content Results


About once a week, my letter box contains a real estate flier. “We recently sold a house in your area for a record amount,” declares the smiling, yellow-jacketed headshot. “Have you considered selling your home?”

Not really. We’re renting, so I’m pretty sure our landlord would have something to say about it. We hope to buy in the area next year, but with this sort of messaging we’re not exactly optimistic we’ll get a fair price.

It’s the wrong message to the wrong audience. For every homeowner motivated to sell at those booming house prices, there’s probably a potential buyer scared into putting property plans on hold.

Unfortunately, marketers often treat social media in a similar way, broadcasting the same content to the widest possible audience regardless of the different needs, wants, and expectations of their followers.

Sure, you may have worked hard to attract relevant followers who have at least expressed a general interest in your brand. But if your product or service attracts more than one distinct customer profile, you may risk falling into the same trap as the real-estate flier.

Get to the right people

Of course, we already know this. Email marketers can get quite fanatical about segmenting their lists into smaller and smaller, highly targeted groups. The entire SEO industry is about presenting the right content to the right person at the right time with the right keyword. And social media advertising is sold on the promise of being able to reach highly specific demographics.

But while we can be more targeted with promoted tweets, Facebook ads, and LinkedIn campaigns, we usually save those tactics for our key content – the new quarterly eBook or webinar announcement. It’s not always practical to use paid social to promote today’s blog post or the latest service update.

So, if we want to craft specific, day-to-day social media content for different profiles – and we should – we’re still left with the problem of getting it to the right people. Your social media followers aren’t necessarily organized into nicely segmented lists. Yes, Google Plus tried to make it easier with “circles”, but … well, I’m sure you can finish that sentence.

Thankfully, there is a better way. Instead of spraying your content across large numbers of generic followers in the hope of hitting the right target, you may find a ready-made community eagerly consuming the content you want to share.

I’m talking about social media groups, of course. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ each has different types of groups-, community- and/or fan-page functionalities. And, these groups allow you to target some incredibly specific niches. (Networks such as Twitter and Instagram still rely on hashtags to group conversations together, which isn’t quite the same thing.)

The smaller scale of these groups means your content stays visible in the group feed for longer instead of disappearing into obscurity after a few seconds. And group members are more likely to trawl back through previous conversations because, by definition, they are all relevant (or should be) to their interests and reasons for joining. Plus, by targeting an actively interested audience, your content may receive more retweets, comments, and “likes,” sharing the content further within their own networks of like-minded people.

Segment your social content

Groups can allow you to get extremely granular with your content, developing a number of smaller, but more active and useful conversations.

Here’s a fictional “for instance,” starring the entirely made-up artist, Dustin Bueller. A pinup heartthrob to many young girls, Dustin is about as popular with everyone else as a cat in a blender.

Dustin’s record label attracts a wide variety of music lovers to its social media profiles – not just “Buelliebers.” If the label frequently uses its main Twitter account to announce Dustin news, excitable Bueller fans may see it as intended. But it will also be seen by everyone else, not all of whom will be that excited. At best, they’ll view it as irrelevant. But some may turn away from the label’s social media accounts entirely … or retaliate by creating new memes, reusing that recent police photo of Dustin in increasingly imaginative ways.

Why should the record label risk losing control of the content and the story, when there are already Facebook groups and Google+ communities devoted to analyzing the deeper meanings of Dustin’s lyrics or sharing yet more photos of the singer with his shirt off?

By joining and participating in these groups, the record label may receive much greater and more positive attention with the same content from the very people it was designed to reach, without aggravating everyone else. Repeat this idea across each musical niche and the record label could find the right audience for its content every time.

Earn their interest

Caution: Don’t assume that just because you’re a big brand you can demand attention and respect. It doesn’t matter that you have hundreds of thousands of followers elsewhere. In each new group, you’re starting from scratch.

In most (if not all) cases, you can’t join a group as the brand. You have to be a person with your own profile, so be careful to make it clear whom you represent. Each member of your team who joins a group will be judged depending on his or her actions and treated accordingly. (Side note: Group functionality for Facebook brand pages is in evaluation.)

If you join a group only to push an agenda and spam your special offers, you may find yourself cast into the wilderness very quickly. Instead, spend time joining conversations and building relationships before you start to share your content. (In short, your first post shouldn’t be your latest press release.)

Genuinely listening and participating in these groups could also be a massive opportunity to find out what your different customers care most about – valuable insights for your marketing strategy.

Never view groups simply as another distribution channel. You’re either one of the gang or you’re not. But if the gang accepts you, your content may find a far more loyal and enthusiastic audience.

This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Chief Content Officer. Sign up to receive your free subscription to our bi-monthly magazine.

Image courtesy of CCO magazine

Author: Jonathan Crossfield

If it involves putting words in a row with the occasional punctuation, then Jonathan has most likely given it a bash; from copy writing to screenwriting, blogging to journalism. He has won awards for his articles on digital marketing and his over-opinionated blog, Atomik Soapbox. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @Kimota.

Other posts by Jonathan Crossfield

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  • Robert Gibb

    Thank you for directing this:

    “If you join a group only to push an agenda and spam your special offers, you may find yourself cast into the wilderness very quickly.”

    I’m always tempted to do this, but I don’t. Your press or company update is useless if you don’t have the trust of group members already. Sharing promotional content after just joining a group doesn’t speak well for your company either.

    Group members may think: “If he isn’t offering value to the group, does his company really offer value to customers?”

    Bottom line: find a badass group with a strong following and take the time to build up trust.

    • Kimota

      Absolutely, and probably one of the most important points in all social media marketing. You gotta give before you can receive. So start participating and building relationships BEFORE you need them to get your next message out. If you only start talking to them when you need them, it’s too late.

  • Shai Geoola

    Excellent article Jonathan, Cheers!

  • Natalie Gorlenko

    I will, definitely, apply what you recommend to my marketing strategy. Thank you for valuable insights.

  • Michael Smith

    Segment your content for right set of audience is the key to get viral your social content.

  • Josh Tong

    Great advice! I’ve had success with this approach, and you can also apply it to the
    original social media groups—discussion lists, discussion boards, blogs,
    newsletters—if that’s where your audiences have most of their online
    conversations. I wrote a response here: