Social Marketing Is Powered By Content

by Holland-Mark | September 25, 2009

We talk about our approach to social marketing being “rooted in brand, and powered by content.” We’ll cover the front half in an upcoming post. The back half is our take on The Great Truism of social marketing… that today, you are what you publish.

Content Strategy

We believe success in social marketing starts with a content strategy, which boils down to a clear-eyed definition of exactly what kind of content is at the intersection of:

  • what your target audience is looking for online, and
  • what you are uniquely willing and/or able to provide.

What does that mean? It means if you’re a magic marker brand, don’t blog about the 10 Reasons Your Marker Is Better than Brand X. Create a showcase for people who use your product to make cool things. If you make plastic stuff in every conceivable configuration, don’t tweet your press releases. Create a blog about how people can take control of household chaos and get organized. If you’re a late-night taco truck, don’t do a YouTube series on Korean cooking. Tell hungry, drunk people where you’re at through a medium they can access easily.

It ain’t rocket surgery, people.

Feeding The Beast

The real challenge with this approach is that when you commit to a content strategy like the above, you actually need to produce content aligned with that strategy. Knowing that once you start, you have to “feed the beast” — day-in-and-day-out — actually keeps some smart marketing folks out of social media altogether.

That’s a shame, because once you get into the rhythm of it, contributing something worthwhile to the conversation about a problem your product solves (which in the vast majority of cases is ground zero of the intersection defined above) rarely turns out to be anywhere near as hard as you think it’s going to be.

Three simple strategies can ease the burden dramatically…

1. Balance Your Content Portfolio

“Content” means more than white papers and blog posts. Long-form content like that is important and great, but no sane person with a day job would sign up to produce enough of it to sustain a consistent social marketing effort over time. Content can also be links to on-topic information you come across in your travels online. It can be cameraphone shots of your white board doodles, posted into a Flickr account. If you’re a restaurant, it can be a cheap-and-dirty video of your best waiter explaining today’s specials. It can even be “rapport” content, the stuff that gets produced automatically in the ongoing give-and-take among people who share a common interest on the web. All those things are like Hamburger Helper for the long-form stuff. And if you haven’t had it in a while, Hamburger Helper is pretty good. People like it.

2. Integrate Your Content Capture

The fact is most businesses throw off 80% of the content they need just by being. The problem is they don’t know how to easily capture it — in meatspace or on the web — and make sure it finds its way into the proper social media pipe. Getting people across the organization to spot, capture, and deliver on-strategy content into a centrally managed social program is hard, simply because it’s a change in behavior. But you can make it easier by being smart about what you ask of people. Have a contest to get the ball rolling. Use the inbound e-mail interfaces most posting sites make available now, or even a one-stop-shop posting system like Posterous. Teach people about RSS, and get them onto a reader that makes it easy for them to build a feed of relevant links (in Google Reader, for example, just clicking the “share” button creates this.) And stay on them… it’s going to take time, but with a steady stream of reminders and some recognition for the folks who deliver the goods, it will happen.

3. Maximize Your Content Distribution

Finally, get the most out of every piece of content you publish. The key to this is setting up a system that links your social networks together in the right way, what I think of as getting the “Plumbing” right.

That’s a biggie, and the subject of my next post. Why not subscribe now, so you don’t miss it?