By Jodi Harris published February 23, 2016 Est Read Time: 13 min

The Best Advice to Follow for Social Media Content Success


One of our favorite topics to tackle during our weekly Twitter chats is social media. Not only does this tactic play an important role in many aspects of content marketing, it’s also a subject that sparks a lot of passion – and brings out a lot of opinions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in an industry as rich and diverse as ours; but it can make it more challenging for content marketers to find the best advice to follow.

If you are struggling to figure out how to socialize your content efficiently and effectively, take a look at some of the compelling advice we’ve gathered from our chats on the subject.

Do content marketers need to follow special rules when engaging on social media?

The issue: One of the best things about social media is that it fosters a culture of self-expression and an eager exchange of ideas from which both consumers and businesses can benefit. But as a brand, you can’t just waltz into a conversation, make a demand, collect comments and collateral materials, and walk away. If you don’t respect your fellow community members and follow the proper engagement etiquette, you’ll never gain their trust – or their willing participation in your marketing efforts.

Advice you can trust: Being a good social brand means being an overall good social citizen, as these participants in our Twitter chat on community building point out.

Brands don’t create communities, they join them. This simple flip dooms most brands’ attempts at being authentic.Steve Klinetobe

Genuinely care about what they want – ask what that is, and LISTEN to the answers.Linda Dessau

If you enlist the help of members of your community in your marketing efforts, you need to be authentic and honest, and provide them with something of value in return – information, entertainment, or assistance with their problems.

If you inform people of great products/services/etc., you’re not selling, you’re helping. Only market what you truly believe in.Josh St. Aubin

What I love about community (+ what marketers love): Give people something to love you for; they’ll give their word of mouth.Kelly Hungerford

Community for marketing for me equals education. Providing value, helping people succeedwhich will ultimately build trust.Maureen Jann

What should be our top priority – social media or content marketing?

The issue: This is a chicken-and-egg conundrum. While social media success often depends on the thoughtful creation of content that can spark the right conversations, if you haven’t spent time strategically building and strengthening your social communities, even your best content might struggle to reach the right audience to engage with it.

Advice you can trust: It’s no surprise that Twitter chat host Joe Chernov and fellow experts Joe Pulizzi and Ardath Albee consider content creation to be the first step in the process:

Not only does content come 1st, but without it, the only real use case for social is customer support.Joe Chernov

Is this a trick question? If you don’t have anything interesting to say, what’s the point of leveraging social media?Joe Pulizzi

Without content what would you say in social that’s useful? Content strategy comes first!Ardath Albee

But, as some chat participants point out, content needs to be informed by the needs of your audience – something that your social media communities can be instrumental in helping you assess.

Of course, neither technique should be a priority for your business if you haven’t developed a compelling business case and a sound strategic plan for leveraging them, as Jay Baer points out in his social media chat:

It goes business strategy > marketing strategy > social media strategy (because of reactive) > content strategy.Jay Baer

How can we use social media content in our marketing efforts?

The issue: Though it’s important to play by the social rules of your community, don’t forget that you aren’t just there to hang out. Your interactions on social media need to be driven by a business purpose and must contribute to your content marketing in a meaningful way – such as helping you come up with ideas, informing your efforts with consumer data, or increasing brand awareness, interest, or loyalty.

Advice you can trust: One way to benefit from your social conversations is to turn those interactions into user-generated content (UGC). Asking your brand fans to share their ideas, information, and examples can make them feel special, valued, and more personally connected to your business.

UGC is more than the content, it’s about the ideas and the relationships to the community. Photos are a proxy for people.Gregarious Narain

It shows the human side of the brand that is a “consumer”, just like the audience. “Oh, we at OrgX love that too!”Magnani Continuum Marketing

Ready to activate your community members as content creators? Participants in Kelly Hungerford’s chat offer a few ideas for incentivizing their involvement:

One way to create #ambassadors is to create a special program or special access that good customers appreciate (and others covet).Mike Myers

Offer a cup of coffee for the first 50 shared opinions. A great way to poll and give back.Maureen Jann

Freebies and contests are a great participation tool.Aisha Khalid

But leveraging user-generated content isn’t just about offering rewards or building special campaigns around their contributions. If you can simply demonstrate to community members that you value and respect their opinions, you’ll likely find that they will be more interested in taking part in your efforts.

At @paper_li we have users who volunteer to test and validate new features & they help spread the word when we launch.Kelly Hungerford

A brand community will often provide the best beta testers/opportunities for feedback. They know you/your product, eager to helpEvan LePage

Your content efforts can even benefit from relevant comments posted in your community. Jay Baer and his fellow social media chat participants offer these ideas for leveraging feedback – both positive and negative.

Identify common threads in your social media and write content to post based on those.Sue Brady

I used to take negative people and intro them to the dev teamtheir ideas matter more than just a %.Amy Higgins

How can we strike the right balance between selling and socializing?

The issue: Social media has become a thriving resource for people who are looking to gain new perspectives, explore new information and ideas, and resolve the challenges they encounter, making it an ideal forum for marketers to find and communicate with their target consumers.

But for every truly useful tweet, post, or photo, you’ll find dozens from businesses that are just there to shout about their products or services, post robotic automated messages, or make elaborate, empty gestures to get attention.

Advice you can trust: There’s a time and place for the hard sell in your marketing process; but you’ll get more value from your social media channels if you focus on creating authentic, two-way conversations rather than high-pressure pitches.

For example, in our chat about Instagram, host Josh Brown and participant Andrea Fryrear both stress that marketers need to learn how to participate, rather than dictate:

Use #’s to create a community around your posts & encourage fan participation for photos you can aggregate, curate, and display #cmworldJosh Brown

Be a good community member: Ask not what the channel can do for you, but what you can do for the channel.Andrea Fryrear

Hashtags can help you reach the consumers who are most likely to be interested in what you have to say. But make sure to use them strategically and sparingly instead of just jumping on the latest trendy tag.

Once you have their attention, you can genuinely interest your audience by giving them a behind-the-scenes look at your business or finding an unexpected way to present your products. Ideally, the audience will see your social media content as an extension of their interests – not an interruption to them. Here are a few ideas:

Put art into your product shots. Just about anything can be sexy. I worked on a product campaign for fire-hose nozzles. Beautiful. —The Cartoon Agency

Sell without selling by showing your audience the life they want, and can have.Cathy Reisenwitz

Post photos of the emotion behind your product or service.Lindsey Wigfield

Lastly, remember that no social media platform is an island. Associate with groups, causes, or even other companies that your audience is likely to be interested in.

Also partner w/social influencers that align with your brand to create excitement for your products.Josh Brown

How do we know if it’s the right time for our brand to join a new social media platform?

The issue: It seems like a new social media platform pops up every day – bringing with it the potential to engage with new consumers or, perhaps, to take your content efforts in a different creative direction. But while content marketers often get excited at the prospect of exploring new territory, there’s a difference between wanting your brand to be seen on a trendy new channel and having a compelling business reason to be there.

Advice you can trust: Setting enthusiasm aside, remember that it takes a lot of work to add a new channel to your content distribution plan. First, consider whether your brand has achieved sustainable success on the content channels it already owns and operates on. As Joe Pulizzi asserts in Content Inc., content marketers need to build a strong home base for their content before expanding their influence to other platforms.

Once you think you are ready to extend your content conversation beyond its base, weigh the benefits of each potential channel against your marketing and communication goals, as these participants in our social media Twitter chat with Jay Baer describe:

I have to admit this is often defined by budget. Since I’m agency, it takes quite a lot of evidence to convince clients to adopt.Emma Cunningham

Introduce a new #SM platform if it is filling a void in your vertical or if you know enough to properly manage them.Nikolaus

Focus on #measuring correlation. Then set goals, track campaigns, report findings & review results. Then reset goals!Anametrix

You also want to make sure the channel you select is a place where your target audience is likely to hang out when looking to engage with content.

Must first know if your audience is there and how can your narrative fit into the platform.Colin Haas

Another option is to start small and test the waters before going all-in.

 I first reserve our company name on the platform, make an account for myself & test it out before publicly using it. Jessica Paola

And don’t forget: If your results on the new channel don’t end up reaching your expectations, you might want to pull back on your efforts so you can concentrate on more successful platforms.

We follow a “if it doesn’t make you money stop doing it” approach. You always have to research & test the waters first.Wrights Media

How can we tell if our social media efforts are effective?

The issue: It’s easy to see a bunch of “likes,” shares, comments, and compliments on your posts and think you’ve got this whole social media thing under control. But while signs and sentiments like these may be encouraging, they won’t help you understand what’s working and what isn’t, let alone satisfy your CMO and stakeholders that your social efforts are paying off.

Advice you can trust: Like everything in marketing, true social media success needs to be evaluated in terms of the tangible value it provides for your business – something the participants in our first Twitter chat on social media ROI remind us:

[We] have to prioritize what we can measure and map to our business objectives.Scott Lum

I’m being told lately “If we can’t measure it, we’re not doing it.” So, #measureeverything.Heather Vaughn

However, because of marketing’s focus on branding and building long-term relationships instead of generating a direct response, it can be notoriously difficult to measure the value of social media in a one-size-fits-all way:

The “funnel” in the traditional sense doesn’t exist. Social isn’t a straight line, usually. Harder to quantify value.Christin Kardos

It’s often hard to attribute a conversion to a single social media channel or interaction.Katrina Douglas

Social media is an upstream conversation and the revenue impact isn’t always apparent (without good attribution).Kim McCumber

Fortunately, there are some key performance indicators that marketers can track, based on their specific marketing goals. For example, chat host Scott Lum suggests tracking two types of metrics:

Nurturing KPIs are long-term engagement with customers at a human levellistening, engaging, respondingScott Lum

Sales KPIs are short term, driving specific goalslead generation, demand gen, sending people through gates.Scott Lum

Others are even finding creative ways to define and calculate the value of their efforts, both quantitatively and qualitatively:

I like incremental social media KPIs. Starting out? OK, # of influencers reached per month. More mature? How much traffic is it sending?Patrick Hayslett

If a social #custserv rep reduces call volume by 10%, that’s money, even if not direct revenue.Kim McCumber

One way is bringing social users back to websites, making tracking ROI easier (more traditional).Kim McCumber

These are just some of the ideas that have been shared in our Twitter chats. You can check out our archive page for even more insights on social media, as well as a wide range of other topics. You can also join us on Twitter every Tuesday at noon (U.S. Eastern) to share your own content marketing insights with the #CMWorld community.

Plan your Tuesdays so you can engage in #CMWorld Twitter chats at noon (U.S. Eastern), check out the upcoming schedule (or catch up on the ones you missed).

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Jodi Harris

Jodi Harris is director of content strategy at CMI. She describes her role as a combination of strategic alchemist, process architect, and creative explorer. Prior to this role, Jodi spent over a decade developing and managing content initiatives for brand clients in the entertainment, CPG, health care, technology, and biotech industries, as well as for agencies and media brands. Follow her on Twitter at @Joderama.

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