The Role of Social Media in a Rocking Content Marketing Strategy

social media rocks content marketing
social media rocks content marketing

I’m a big believer in making the content you publish the hub around which your content marketing strategy revolves. However, to rock content marketing in today’s omni-channel world, social media plays a key supporting role.

For that reason, it pays to learn how to leverage social media to draw your target audience into your content hub. Here are several ways to make your social strategy put in an Oscar-winning performance.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Your content marketing strategy needs more than a perfectly optimized website.
  • Complement your strategy with aligned social media posts to capture more qualified prospects.
  • Use customer research and employee-created content to move those prospects further along the sales funnel.

You know that movie that people always misquote – Field of Dreams? “If you build it, he will come” is the actual quote.

But everyone I know cites it as, “If you build it, they will come.” As if to say, “If you build an SEO-optimized, user-friendly, intuitive website with killer content, audiences will simply float in.

As if some mysterious siren song will draw them like a moth to light.

But they won’t just float in. Nor will the mysterious “he,” for that matter.

Even if you’ve optimized like crazy to attract Mr. Top Customer Persona.

But if you create the right role for social media in your content marketing strategy, you’re on your way to marketing stardom. Here’s how:

Align Your Social and Content Strategies with Your Brand

As NewsCred’s Gaby Tama rightly points out, you need to create a “documented, full-funnel [social media] strategy that’s fully integrated with your content marketing program.” The best way to do that, we’ve discovered, is to align both with your brand.

Look at Disney, for instance. By staying true to their brand, all their messaging aligns with one distinctive brand voice – feel-good heroes’ journeys. All with storybook endings.

Although they have expanded their channels from cartoons to live-action films and even live entertainment, all their content stays true to their brand.

That’s what you need to do with your content. Find your (brand) voice, and then align all your content – whatever the channels you publish it on – with one voice.

Find Your Tribe(s)

Social media works best when you’re, um, social. Finding your tribe – those people who will be likely to benefit from your expertise and your products, in that order – is an essential ingredient in social media success.

Start by creating customer personas. Look at your existing social media audience, your blog subscribers, and your actual paid customers.

Identify groups that share specific characteristics that make them likely customers. These characteristics might be demographic ones, online behavior, interests, social media likes, and other commonalities.

For example, let’s say that you manufacture nail polish. You might have one group of likely customers who are tween girls, love all things glitter, subscribe to your teen-and-tween-themed YouTube nail makeover videos, and like the latest boy bands. They often sport Gen Z names like Zoey and Addison.

Don’t stop there. Give this group a name – a persona to make its members come alive to your content teams. Let’s call this one “Zoey Gen-Zer.”

Another group you see a lot of engagement out of are middle-aged sophisticates who buy your high-end line in upscale department stores. They make plenty of money, usually head departments, or are headed in that direction, trend liberal, and favor designer and rescue doggos (yes, they call them that).

LinkedIn might be their business favorite, while they probably frequent dog owner groups. A lot of them are your tween customers’ moms.

As you can see, this group would consume way different content than your “Zoey” persona would. Quite probably, their favorite social hangouts differ, too. We’ll call this audience segment “High-End Heather.”

You get the picture. No matter how boring you think your product is, your likely customers are anything but. Make your personas memorable, and you’ll have better luck creating content those in each group will devour – and share with their friends and colleagues.

Once you’ve created these personas, start posting links to content that will appeal to each segment. Informative content that helps them solve problems (even if it’s how to flash your fingers at that cute boy two seats behind you in school) builds trust in your brand, and ultimately, loyalty.

Most social media channels allow you to choose the audience who will see your posts. Use that capability to drive them to your owned media.

Use each customer segment’s preferred social media channels, posting at the ideal times to reach them. Again, analytics can help. See when they’re on – and post your content then.

That’s just one part of building a tribe. Encourage each customer segment to interact with each other and with your brand.

You can encourage these connections by interacting with your followers by asking questions, responding to comments, and encouraging them to connect with each other and your team.

Encourage them to share with their friends and colleagues. Expanding your online tribes will allow you to expand your reach into new markets. As you identify new customer segments, create customer personas for those as well.

The goal, of course, is to draw them into your subscribers’ list and for them to become loyal content consumers on your owned channels as well. As they connect on deeper and deeper levels, you want to encourage them to consume more detailed content, building your authority in your field.

For instance, for our fictional nail polish company, the tween customers might start with short YouTube makeover videos. As they interact more with your content, offer them the opportunity to subscribe for more detailed videos and how-tos.

On the other hand, if your company sells to other businesses (B2B), you might start with thought-provoking short pieces on LinkedIn. Eventually, you’ll want to encourage them to come on over to your company blog for “the rest of the story.”

As your B2B customer segments move along the road toward trust and loyalty, offer white papers or ebooks that help them save money, solve problems, and increase efficiency. Building your reputation as a thought leader in your niche, starting with social media, is a sure way to make your content strategy not only rock – but even better – soar with the eagles.

Empower Your Other Teams to Engage

If you’re a regular reader of our blog posts, you know we’re big on leveling the silos that divide up your teams into “departments.” Departmental silos that delegate all the content production to the marketing team waste a huge amount of talent – and potential revenue.

Not only is activating your employees marketing magic, but even more importantly, it builds your other teams’ passion for their work. You can only imagine how that pays off in productivity.

That’s not all. Your employees are likely to have ten times more followers on their personal social channels than your *official* branded channels.

If even half of these followers have similar interests to your employees, that’s a lot of potential customers that could come your way. Seventy-six percent of those potential customers, as Everyone Social points out, are more likely to trust your employee-shared content than your content teams’ social media posts.

The results that come out of that trust are stunning. Your brand messages are likely to reach 561 percent more likely customers when your employees share them.

Employee-shared content will receive, on average, eight times the engagement of your official social posts. The kind of engagement that converts tire-kickers into qualified leads is more likely to come when you empower your employees to post on social media.

And, here’s the best news of all. Those leads are seven times more likely to convert than leads your official teams bring in.

You can turbocharge your social media’s role in your content strategy if you bring your employees in on the act.

Social media is also the easiest way to bring your other teams on to the content stage. Short posts – even those that link to your marketing team-produced content – are effective and easy to create.

“But my head engineer can’t spell to save her life,” you protest. “Why should I let her post content?”

You do have editors, don’t you?

Let your employees create posts, and then have your editorial team (or even your copywriters) check for grammatical or spelling errors. But don’t clean them up so well that your employees’ authentic voices don’t show through.

Your engineer might just provide the technical nudge that convinces your prospect to buy your widget. Yeah. That differential equation she posted and then explained in laypersons’ terms might be the one piece of information your prospect needs to drive his decision.

Provide brand guidelines, teach your teams how to optimize their posts, and then turn your teams loose to spread the word.

Like the ingenue that steals the show in a hit movie, your employees’ social media posts can make your marketing strategy sizzle.

To get them involved, you’ll need a little incentive. Whether it’s financial bonuses, career-boosting courses, or even just recognition for their efforts, find out what would motivate them to walk onto the social media stage.

One thing I’ve observed, both here in my own company and in my clients’ firms, is that participation in social media posting helps employees advance within their companies. It builds confidence and their visibility as thought leaders, making them more valuable to the business.

It’s a win-win proposition.

Well-thought social posts from both your content team and other employees will bring more qualified traffic to your online assets.

Bake Your Social Media & Content Marketing Strategy Cake

Think of your content as delicious cake and your social media channels as the in which you deliver it to your customers. How are you serving up your messaging to your clients? If your content marketing strategy is like baking a cake, then are your customers coming back for seconds?

We’ve all seen it.  The lines of customers – on Sunday mornings –  lining up at our favorite bakery, donut or pastry shop. What is it that keeps customers coming back for more cake? Well, it’s a fully baked strategy!

There are three questions every brand, entrepreneur, or socially aware thought leader should ask themselves:

  1. Am I thinking through my social media and content marketing strategy like it’s a recipe?
  2. Will my readers and my network come back for more after I serve my first slice of insights, ideas and subject matter expertise? Or will they look at the presentation and say “Ugh, I think I will try something else”?
  3. Is your brand prepared to bake this cake in the first place?

To answer the last question, you must know:

  • Today’s Top Social Media & Content Marketing Challenges. Hootsuite indicates the top three challenges organizations face are creating a strategy, reporting on its performance and optimizing the results – suggesting many need a better plan to bake their strategy!
  • Many Brands Do Not Have The Right Cooks In The Kitchen. Hootsuite reports 59% of organizations have the challenge of improving the social media skills of their coworkers – indicating there are bakers in the bakery that might not be creating tasty cakes!
  • B2B Customers Consume Many Pieces Of Content. Google’s Zero Moment of Truth’s research reports the average customer checks 10.4 pieces of content before buying. And, Forrester reports B2B buyers find three pieces of content about your brand for each piece of content you’ve created – indicating your audience finds your content via social media sources, influencers and general audience sharing – so make it great!

Unlike the insightful idiom, ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it, too’, with good planning you can have your cake and eat it, too, when it comes to social media and content marketing strategy. You can serve up slices of virtual cake – or cupcakes – that keep on getting consumed and passed along to others! Here’s the recipe from @GerryMoran of MarketingThink.com:

1. Ensure social media and content marketing strategy is added at the right time in the planning process – and that’s not at the end.  You have to add sugar to your cake at the right time to make your cake taste great – otherwise it just won’t work. Just like sprinkling sugar on your cake at the end of the baking process, you cannot add social media at the end of your marketing planning process.

2. Let internal stakeholders customize and adapt the foundational social media and content strategy – and don’t let them create it from scratch. Bake the cake for everyone – then give them the option to ice it … or put whatever else on it to make it theirs. In some organizations, it is best to create the foundational social and content strategy and let other very competent team member adjust it for their geography or industry. This way your core plan will be executed.

3. Use only the best ingredients for your content – video, graphics, and storytelling copy.  The best baking ingredients make the best results – so, make sure to use only the best content elements – factual text, videos, factoids, infographics, etc. to cook your communication.

4. Create content that ‘tastes good’ for your variety of customers. Some people like chocolate cake instead of vanilla – so you have to figure how to bake cakes for all dessert lovers. Your job as a content and social media marketer is to develop the solution for each audience or persona to drive your business results. You have to be able to deliver the right message to the right audience on the right channel at the right time, right?

5. Create content in smaller and snackableformats, so your prospects can sample – and then commit. Sometimes you can only get people to eat your cake after they sample your cupcakes. So plan to use a portion of your batter before you use it all to bake your cake. You may think handing out slices of cake for samples might be a solution, but all of the sudden they are not so convenient when you take your cake outside the store. The convenience, snackability and ease of consumption applies to content as much as cakes – Vine videos, Instagram post, factoid graphics … and cupcakes.

6. Think of your social media & content strategy as a baking production line – everyone has a role. Many great bakers and pastry chefs do not create cakes by themselves from start to finish. Instead, they treat their cake baking like a supply chain – with every point in the process assigned to a different person. When mixing your social media strategy, think of the discrete steps needed – from writing to scheduling – to ensure things get done the right way.

7. Make sure to have the right resources to create your social strategy, measure it and optimize your operation. I’ve often tried to bake a cake from great-great grandmother’s Michaelena’s recipe and it never quite tastes the same. And, most cannot bake a cake the same way Buddy Valastro (a.k.a. The Cake Boss) does from the same recipe. Having the recipe is one thing … being able to execute instructions and handle the bumps in the road – like having margarine vs. butter – is another. Just because a millennial is a digital native, does not mean they can pull off creating and executing a plan – so make sure you hire the right type of person to bake your strategy.

8. Sometimes when you want to make your point. It’s all about the presentation. You may have the most delicious cake in the world, but if icing is uneven, and the sprinkles are falling off, then many might move on to the next cake. The same goes with planning content and social media amplification. Make sure your profiles are professional, and your blog posts are built format to engage further your audience.

9. Make it easy for audiences to find you – and deepen their relationship with you. If people like your cake, then they will want more – so make it easy to find your kitchen, store or bakery to you become their go-to cakery. Make sure your content is linked to the right blog post, white paper, video, etc. – so it’s a natural progression in the relationship.

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

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