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Why #content is integral to #socialmedia

We all know that social media has evolved and is continuing to do so at an incredible rate.   Marketers have long declared that “content is king”, and this is where we see the biggest shift in social media in 2014.

Content is now firmly establishing itself as the axis around which all marketing, PR and advertising campaigns revolves.  And content marketing is increasingly at the heart of social media.

We’re now seeing a plethora of different types of content, including blog posts, images, videos, infographics, presentations, gifs, memes and more!  That’s not to mention the influx of content creation tools now available to marketers.

Content marcoms currencyThe actual content within these different types is changing too.  I remember when I first started blogging back in 2007, blog posts were around 300 words, short and snappy, and more like a journal or snippet of news.   Fast-forward to today and our blog posts are considerably longer in length – by providing genuine insight and valuable takeaways, we found that people were bookmarking our posts to revisit at a later date.  This allowed us to write more and successfully experiment with topics and reviews of 101 tools, for example.  Similarly we are seeing infographics developing, many of them becoming interactive and less static.  We are also experiencing a rise in video marketing with animated videos becoming more popular.

Content is everywhere by everyone!

At the same time, there is no doubt that we are seeing more and more content online.  With Google changing their algorithms and bringing in panda, penguin and hummingbird updates (how does Google come up with these names?!), content has become an essential part of SEO.   Companies are fighting to be on the first page of Google and using content as their weapon to help them achieve high rankings.   Whilst it’s tempting to write for Google and include as many keywords as possible, we would always advocate writing for your reader, an article full of key words that provides little value won’t do you any favours and could be damaging to your brand.  And it’s not like the crude old days of simply using keywords all over the place to boost your search engine rankings; it’s about how much that content is shared, is viewed on your site, is linked back to from third party sites, and so on.

Unfortunately we are still seeing many businesses missing a trick by not having a content marketing plan as part of their overall social media marketing strategy.  The truth is that social media no longer works without content, (and I would question if it ever did work without it!) not effectively anyway.  Without content your social media could easily become a case of just selling you and your brand.  Dan Purvis wrote an excellent post here on Social Selling and how you shouldn’t believe the sales hype.

Social media is fundamentally about building relationships, trust and loyalty.  And this is where content comes to life.  It’s the easiest way to tell your story, and social media is the perfect platform to get your story and message across.

According to research conducted by Kapost they found that

…per dollar, content marketing contributes to three times more leads than traditional online advertising.

These stats are not surprising and we envisage the number to grow as more brands start to wake up and realise the advantages of integrating content with social media.

Your content should be the hub for your social media marketing.   It’s where you draw in and capture your audience.   It’s how you engage with them.  Focus on delivering quality and value within your content to ensure success.

Horses for courses

Facebook 2 quoteIt’s important to not only mix up the different types of content you are using but also to consider which types of content work better on which particular social network.  For example, using a quote is good, but putting it in a distinctive design to make it more visual will draw in engagement, likes and shares on Facebook.  And therefore extend your reach and the number of eyeballs you can get on it!

The value of a headline comes into play more than ever too.  Each social network will have different limited character spaces so ensure you maximise them, not just in terms of using all the spaces but by writing an update that will entice the reader to actually take action.   For example, although Twitter allows 140 character spaces, it’s useful not to use them all…you want to encourage people to retweet but if you use all of your Twitter2characters then the end of your tweet will be chopped off.  Not ideal if you do the common practice of putting links at the end!  Aim for a maximum of 120 characters.

Similarly just because a social network allows for more character spaces, don’t feel you have to use them all.  If you’re trying to get traffic back to your website, a short enticing intro will give you better results.

Google + example

 It’s not all about you

Although you may be tempted to only use your own branded images and link back to your website, it’s valuable to also share third party content.  After all, you can’t possibly create everything yourself!  But more importantly think about the end user, your target audience and customers – aim to always be providing them with value through a variety of content from a variety of sources.  Your results will be more successful in the long term.   Moreover, the ethos of social media is sharing and that means sharing other people’s content and, of course, you need to ensure it is relevant to your customer and engages them.

Below is an example of a fun article by The Huffington Post that we shared just yesterday on Facebook.  When sharing third party content it’s worthwhile linking back to the author as well.  Each social network will have different ways to do this, either by using the @theirname (on Twitter) or +theirname (on Google+) will help get on their radars too and also allows the reader to link easily to their appropriate social network.

Huffington Post

Having a clear strategy with goals in place will help you maximise your results.   I created a series of 101 blog posts last year and our strategy behind it was to leverage the combined power of content and social media.   The plan was three-fold, create an epic piece of content that provides huge value to our readers, drive traffic back to our website and get on the radars of certain companies.  The results, as you can see below, were hugely successful and generated more than 71,000 shares just for one blog post (with no advertising spend).

Twitter example 2013

And when something works well it’s important to “rinse, and repeat”!  Last week I updated this 101 Tweet-tastic tools, which you can read here.    In a very short period of time, it’s already generated over 500 shares and has enabled us to get introductions to some of our favourite Twitter tools.  Therefore content is being implicitly used for business development as well.

At Comms Axis, content is an integral part of our social media marketing and we passionately believe that multi-media content should lie at the heart of all your marketing strategies, whether it’s offline or online. We always recommend this as the bedrock upon which to establish your digital marketing and social media activities.

Our final word on this is to remember that content isn’t just about messaging…it’s about tonality and personality, and it’s about getting your story out there and converting your target audience into customers. It’s about driving traffic to your site and / or blog…and keeping them there.  It’s about making your readers come back for more and sharing your content.  It’s about sparking brand advocacy and encouraging digital word-of-mouth.  It’s about driving interest and trust in your brand.

It’s about changing behaviours across your target audience so they shift from “targets”, to customers, and then on to become advocates.

How are you using content as part of your social media marketing?  What successes have you had?  We would love to hear from you so please do share and leave a comment.

Dan Purvis
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Dan Purvis

Head of Integrated Marketing Communications at Fintrax Group Holdings
Dan Purvis is Head of Integrated Marketing Communications at Fintrax Group Holdings, and is also a Media Champion for the Alzheimer's Society, helping spread awareness and understanding of this cruel disease.

Previously, he was Director at Comms Axis, a full service marketing agency specialising in content, social media & website services for businesses of all sizes.

Dan Purvis writes for a number of leading business, social media and marketing sites, including Smart Insights, MarketingProfs, Marketo, MarTech Advisor, Marketing Tech News, MarTech Today, MarTech Exec, and more.

Dan was also ranked by Brand Republic as one of the Top 50 UK Marketing & Social Media influencers.
Dan Purvis
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