There was a time when social media was, you know, social. When Facebook would ask, “What’s on your mind?” and meant it. Since those days, social media has become a relentless machine. It constantly churns, chewing up weak family photos (vertical group picture, really?) and spitting them out the other side.
In this social media arena, you’re only as hot as your latest post, and engagement is the newest form of currency. These are facts of life for joes like you and me. But for brands, forced to swim upstream and compete with algorithms created to limit their reach, this is a bit of a problem.
Social media professionals have a habit of competing in staring contests with blank content calendars, thinking first, “This. Must. Get. Filled.” but leaving what to fill it with as an afterthought.
Literally anything can technically be considered content, which is to say anything can fill a blank space in a content calendar. But in a social landscape that is increasingly cluttered, and with organic reach on the decline, it takes more than just any content to move the needle.
It takes a lot of work to transform your “content” into Content. All it takes is knowing your audience, understanding value, and a little experimentation.
I Want You to Want Me
The most important ingredient in breaking through social noise is to make sure your content provides value to your target audience. Users follow brands because they expect the brand to improve their social experience in some way. To provide value to users is to make good on this promise. We want users to want our content, and by extension, our brand.
Value, like the term content itself, is a bit nebulous. But for content to provide value, you first need to think about who you are talking to and what they want to hear from your brand.
Who Are You
Building valuable content requires knowing who your social audience is and what makes them tick. Do they like the outdoors? Do they have kids or pets? Are they more likely to drive a pickup truck or a sports car? Relevant questions like these can help you understand your audience more as humans and less as social users, which in turn helps you build content that is valuable to them.
Start by asking yourself, “Why did these people follow me in the first place?”
If they use your products, they may be in search of tips or updates. Maybe they just like the aesthetics of your feed. Who knows! You must have done something right to attract fans in the first place. Take a step back and nail down what people expect from your brand, and build your content around these expectations.
Just What I Needed
One of the great powers of social media is that each platform (for better or worse) collects a bunch of data about users that is valuable to content purveyors. You can know the age, location, and even general interests of your social following, which equips you with even more information to create content tailored to your audience.
It’s possible to make some assumptions based on simple demographic characteristics. But as with any form of targeting, the more granular your understanding, the more tailored your content can be. This usually means digging into some numbers to learn more about your audience.
All social platforms have some sort of native analytics feature that provides audience information with varying degrees of usefulness. These free tools are great places to start understanding your audience, but be careful not to mistake all information with good information.
For example, audience analytics for the Happy Medium Twitter account tell us that 99% of our audience likes dogs, 60% are interested in the weather, and 54% of the audience uses Verizon for their wireless coverage. Not the most useful, is it?
Instead, determine beforehand what information will be most valuable to you or your client. Then seek that out, rather than trying to make use of whatever metrics you can find.
Break on Through
Understanding the expectations and interests of your social audience is the first step to creating valuable content for them. Now it’s time to sharpen your pencils and start putting your findings to work, writing content that breaks through the clutter.
Once again, you are met with a blank content calendar and a deadline, but now that you know your audience inside and out, you can be more strategic and intentional with the content you write, which will help evaluate success later down the road.
I Walk The Line
Marketing of any discipline requires you to step into the shoes of the audience and walk around. For successful social content, think about the space your brand occupies in the mind of your audience and make sure the posts fit what the audience expects.
A clothing brand posting about classical literature or auto racing is not creating content with audience expectations in mind, which could result in losing a follower (or a few). Find a balance between what your brand wants to say and what the audience wants to hear, then post about it in a way that is enjoyable to consume.
Perfect content will be relevant to the audience, relevant to the brand, and relevant to the platform.
Creating on-brand content that doesn’t actively annoy your audience will keep your brand on news feeds, but a little more work is necessary to get the engagement that marketers crave. Now is the time to start building some themes or content types that will appeal to your audience.
Suppose you run social media for a bakery. A few possible content types could be customer testimonials, posts about new products or specials, or employee spotlight posts. The key is coming up with content types that achieve specific goals, like raising awareness of product offerings or attracting new employees. Of course, these content types are informed both by your understanding of the audience and their expectations.
I recommend coming up with 4–5 unique content types to start. You will find that some content will perform worse than the rest, and once those are eliminated from the calendar, you will have a few winners to keep and leave some space to experiment a little more.
All Killer No Filler
While marketers have a strong desire to always be in front of consumers, sometimes value means knowing when to back off. To evoke a cliche, always choose quality over quantity.
While you may decrease the number of touchpoints you have with the audience, prioritizing quality ensures that each interaction will be a valuable one.
What’s Going On
Set regular intervals to evaluate content performance as a whole and look into the health of each content type you create. At Happy Medium, we report monthly on social performance for our clients. Evaluate too often and you can lose the forest from the trees, but too much time between reports might allow underperforming content to overstay its welcome.
I always say that evaluating social performance is like evaluating your stock portfolio. You wouldn’t sell off all your stocks after one down month, and you shouldn’t completely overhaul your social strategy after one down month either. Keep an eye out for trends, and if any start to form, that’s when you need to take notice.
After the leg work is done, all you have to do is look at the performance of each content type on its own. Ditch the laggards, build off the successes, and before you know it, you’ll have a well-oiled content machine.
Call Me Maybe
As you can tell by now, a lot goes into a robust and valuable social media presence. It can be difficult to know where to start or find the time to analyze and evaluate your content properly. If you or your company need some help getting your plan off the ground, give us a call.