Social media is one of the most fickle tools at a brand's disposal. On one hand it is an open platform allowing for direct engagement the likes of which we have never seen before it. But on the other it is an over-saturated platform full of constant noise that can be difficult to cleave through. The trick is to build a loyal fan base that are part of a circular community within social media. You want to foster a sense of belonging that brings people back again and again. While direct interaction is one way of doing that, it should be combined with another strategy, namely a content strategy.
The Power Of Content
Whether you like the buzzword or not, content is important. It is what you give your followers in return for their support and interest. It is a way to impart information and entertain. But most of all, it is the most consistent and fail-proof method of building a brand, not only in substance, but in authority. Social media content isn't actually a different animal to what you would find elsewhere. It is just another strain of species, a form of equally valuable content presented for optimized for social sharing. You can build an unstoppable social media content strategy in five basic steps.
Step 1. Establish your audience.
I don't mean you should set about building your audience, that is what a social media content strategy is for in the first place. I am referring to establishing who that audience is, and what they want. How can you create good social content if you don't know your audience? Target audience research is most likely part of your overall digital marketing strategy, so you can get some insights from the website analytics software you are using (Google Analytics is probably the most widespread). Those insights will include basic demographics, acquisition channels, and content preferences. There are also social-media focused tools that will give you more information:
- BirdSong Analytics provides an indepth analysis of your competitor's Facebook page showing which content has been the most successful for them, which days of the week and time of the day trigger most interactions, which words are the most common in their posts and much more.
- BuzzSumo lets you compare Facebook pages and get insights into how their updates are being received by their fans
- Fanpage Karma allows you to identify your competitor's most engaged social media followers
Step 2. Invest in some (social) keyword research.
Keyword research is going to help really hone your content. Social keyword research is a more specified form of research that will give you a good foundation for catching the eye of social followers (or potential followers). I prefer a tool like Hootsuite for this, as it is a quick way to see what is regularly updating, and what is engaging. Of course, you can also just do a search on Twitter, Facebook, or your other chosen network to see which context your core terms usually appear. If you want a cheap alternative that will give you plenty of widgets to play with, including customizable social media features, you can check out Cyfe. They have some great social researching tools to use. For example, you can import, archive and analyze Twitter search results for any keyword or hashtag. Serpstat is another must-use tool here. One of its free features allows you to find all various questions your target users tend to search for when it comes to your core term. This is great information giving you tons of content inspiration to address your audience most specific needs.
Step 3. Begin testing networks to focus.
In the past I would recommend people only focus on one or two social networks when they are building a campaign. That isn't really the rule anymore, as most brands have expanded beyond a single platform. For a smaller brand that doesn't have a team at their disposal, however, it is more likely that they will have multiple pages, but only really use one for major social growth. With that in mind, I would like to amend my past advice. Set up several social media profiles, and put equal effort into each one (in the beginning). See which yield the best results, testing out multiple forms of social content and tactics along the way. This is kind of like an A/B test, but a little less straightforward. You won't necessarily get rid of the under-performing networks, as you would with a design or feature. You will just discover what form of content and use works for each one, and then use the one that works best. So really, you are setting up several social media content campaigns individualized for the followers on each platform. This has the added benefit of allowing you to use each network for something for which it is suited.
Step 4. Develop a content calendar.
Once you know what goes on which platform, and who you are writing for, you should have a good idea of what content to plan for. I am a big believer in having an editorial calendar for every piece of work drafted, or that will be drafted in the future. Incorporating a social element into that calendar is a great idea. It will turn an incomplete strategy into one that is completely integrated. Here are some ideas to include in your social media calendar:
- Monthly holidays (including weird / unofficial holidays)
- Big entertaining or business events (especially those specific to your niche)
- Festivals, upcoming big movie releases and concerts (Find memes to cross-relate to your niche and gain attentions for exploiting long-awaited events)
- Your company plans and events (birthdays, anniversaries, company trips, etc)
Step 5. Double-check your site performance.
There's nothing worse than spending days planning a social media campaign and then watch your users land on a broken or slowly loading page. This is what too many viral content campaigns have ended up looking like. The beauty of having a social media calendar is that you can actually anticipate more traffic coming in, so do your due diligence to let your tech team know your plans and let them get properly prepared. Here are some additional tools and tips:
- Here's uptime stats tool that are being updated monthly to pick the most reliable host and keep an eye on its performance
- Make sure your site is mobile friendly (Here's Google's tool for that) and consider creating a native mobile app to build your content strategy into it. Here's an easy guide on how to make a mobile app.
- Use Monitority to get an email, a text message and a Tweet the moment your site goes down
Having a social media calendar makes sure your content and social strategy mesh and empower one another for better results.