How To Fix Your Social Woes With A Content Strategy

by Laura Creekmore on Sep 20, 2011

I unfollowed someone on Twitter the other day for one tweet.

It was from someone I like, but the post was from one of those automated daily link summary websites — you know, the ones that send out a link to a page of top stories shared by you and your friends.

My problem was how this person is using that service to auto-post a link to their site each day on Twitter. That kind of automated programming — no context, little content, no inspiration — just drives me nuts.

I see many people making that kind of mistake out of desperation. No one sets out to alienate their audience on purpose, or to provide useless information, or to share content that their customers don’t actually want.

But often, if we don’t have a real strategy, we can make exactly those kinds of mistakes.

Organizations just starting out with social often suffer from one of two problems:

  • Saying a lot with little value
  • Having no idea what to say

You can prevent both of these problems by borrowing some techniques from the content strategy field.

Using the content strategy framework can give you a mindset to approach your social media opportunities, and it walks you back to identifying your business goal, making it easier to define valuable content for your audience.

Content strategy for social is a step-by-step process

  • Start from your business goal
  • Identify your audience
  • Plan for and create the right content
  • Measure the results

Let’s analyze those steps a bit:

1. Start From Your Business Goal

Having a Twitter account isn’t a business goal. Providing another avenue for customer service via Twitter is decent. Even better is: We will reduce the time-to-answer our customer service queries from 8 hours to <1 hour by offering customer service on Twitter in addition to email.

Before you can use social media effectively, you have to clearly know what you’d like to achieve. This may take some work and coordination across your organization, too. We’ve all met the boss who likes to issue directives like — We need a Facebook page! Let’s advertise on LinkedIn! — with no goals or strategy. Don’t let yourself get caught in this trap.

2. Identify Your Audience

The first step in making sure your content is appropriate: Know who it’s for, and know their needs. If you’re planning to use your Twitter account for customer service, but your customers don’t actually use Twitter, your results will show it. If you offer a much-beloved children’s product but you’re not engaging with parents on Facebook, you’re probably missing out.

But here’s a jolt for many marketers: If you start from the perspective that your organization has a message to share, you also are going to be disappointed in the results.

Far better is: Our customers and prospects need information, and we can meet that need.

3. Plan For And Create The Right Content

It almost sounds silly on the face of it to say you need to plan for Twitter, doesn’t it? You get 140 characters at a pop, the message flashes by in an instant amongst millions of others, and it’s gone just as quickly.

But when you’re tempted to rush in to a new social platform, remember this: Everything you say represents your brand. Sometimes, what you don’t say represents it as well. If you begin using Twitter to engage regularly with your customers, and you have a major product failure, and you don’t address it right away on Twitter, you’ve failed.

It’s often wise to start small. Perhaps you offer a tip of the day, based on customer service questions you’ve received in the past couple of days. See what you already have in-house that you can adapt. Your new-user training course might offer lots of content that would be helpful, if you share it well. Maybe other people are writing about how they’ve used your product, and their case studies will make other customers’ lives easier.

Just make sure that the content you share isn’t simply self-serving — make sure it’s meeting that audience need you defined before. Your customers have great bullshit detectors. They’ll know immediately if you’re helping them or just pushing product.

When you’re starting out, plan for how often you’d like to post on a network, and get several days or weeks of content lined up, depending on your planned frequency. Then, see how your customers begin to respond. Often, they’ll give you all the cues you need to plan for future content.

Stay ahead of the game, so you don’t get behind or stop communicating, but be responsive to your customers’ needs.

4. Measure The Results

Remember that business goal? If you created the right kind of goal, you’ll be able to measure the results. Maybe you measure it in time-to-resolution on customer service queries. If you want to increase brand awareness, figure out how you’re going to take a baseline and how you’ll judge success. Maybe it really is about sales — so figure out how you’ll want to separate social-driven sales from other channels.

More tools from content strategy

This planning technique just scratches the surface. You can use many other content strategy tools to guide and develop your marketing work. Content inventories and audits are great tools to analyze your existing messaging and content, for instance. And if you work with a team to produce content, you will want to think about your governance and approval process, too.

But start with this simple strategy, and you’ll find that your social content is easier to plan, and it’s easier to meet your business goals.

How do you plan for your social content? Less us know in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Image credit: Jez Nicholson

 

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Post Author

Laura is president of Creek Content, a consultancy that focuses on content strategy in highly regulated industries like health care, insurance and financial services. Creek Content helps our clients find, create, organize and manage their content to meet their business...

  • http://twitter.com/DiscordianKitty Laura

    You unfollowed someone you like for making one mistake? I don’t get that. 

  • http://lauracreekmore.com Laura Creekmore

    You must be more careful with who you follow/less overwhelmed by information than I am. :) I’ve had several times I’ve been struck by bad tweeting policy in particular and I tend to go through and unfollow several people at once when that happens. 

    The last time I did, this particular account hit me — I like the person, respect their work, and I’m not getting anything useful from their tweets. They aren’t putting enough time/effort into that to make it a good way to get information from them. And they are essentially spamming me with their automated stuff to boot.

    So yeah, one tweet sent me over the edge, but it hit a pattern I’d seen for a while.

  • http://investinsocial.com Jason Keath

    I do this a lot too Laura. I go through a clean up the accounts I am following. And often there is one annoying or irrelevant tweet that sends me over the edge. It is usually just the last in a string that are not relevant to me and my interests. Or they might also be tweets like the one you mentioned that just offer zero value. Either way, I agree, it is usually a trend, not a one time offense.

  • http://twitter.com/jameswight James Wight

    Interesting insights Laura, thanks. I also recently brushed on similar themes to the above here: http://www.jameswight.com/marketing/eventcontentmarketing - hope you like it.