Social media is nothing without the content that makes it interesting for its users. Content truly is the backbone for all of the other activities that make up your social media plan. And having great content can make all the difference when it comes to having the best reach and engagement for your brand, which helps you build more loyalty and drive more sales.
If you’ve been marketing for a while, chances are you have a content strategy in place already that includes things like a email newsletter, blog posts, and information on your website. Social content is different. It usually serves as the vehicle to get people to those longer pieces of content — or, to provide smaller, digestible bits of information that help expose your brand and your values to customers and prospects. The biggest difference between social content and traditional forms of content is that social content can be read and watched in the places and times that people choose. In snippets.
Social media helps people feel informed by helping them learn new things, stay up-to-date on topics that matter to them, and discover new ideas and trends. And although they are concerned about accuracy of news found online, two-thirds of Americans get their news from social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and others.
Social media helps people feel entertained by helping them find and keep up with entertainers, shows, and performances – and share and consume entertaining articles and videos. It’s no wonder there’s such an emphasis on video content on social: entertainment and video are key to keeping users engaged.
Social media helps people feel connected by removing many of typical barriers of communication and allowing people to contact anyone in their personal or professional networks whenever, and from wherever. Social media helps people share, comment, and take part in a global conversation that goes beyond just the people they’re friends with.
It’s up to you to determine which type of interaction your audience is looking for, and how you’ll provide it to them through the content you create.
The basic social media content strategy is simply finding ways to give value to your audience on an ongoing basis through meaningful content. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase that “content is king.” But in the world of social media, there are really two main things that matter: the content, and how individuals on the network interact with that content.
There are a number of different types of content specific to social media, many of which can be used on a variety of channels. Let’s break it all down.
Text used to be the mainstay of social media. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn were pretty text- heavy channels. But in recent years, they’ve shifted to becoming much more visual, especially video.
Visual images include photos, infographics, animated GIFs, and illustrations. These days, you really only need a smartphone camera to take great photos. The possibilities are limitless. Product shots, office and team highlights, conference selfies, customer spotlights, and more. You can share more than a single photo in many cases. For example, on Facebook and Instagram, you can create galleries and use photo carousels. Twitter also allows for multiple photo uploads per post. Pinterest was originally designed for organizing and sharing visual images.
These can take you one step beyond standard images. They can also help you demonstrate complex concepts quickly and easily. You can make animated GIFs in Photoshop or online at a variety sites. Giphy.com is the most popular.
Video is the next big content bucket to consider and all main social media platforms now accept video content. In short, you shouldn’t ignore it. Live video is also becoming more common, and you can broadcast instantly from Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and a variety of channels such as Livestream. Video is not always cheap or easy to create, but you would be surprised at how often it is. Consumers appreciate brands being authentic on video, and sometimes that’s easier with a smartphone camera than it is with an entire studio.
Short form video is popular on TikTok. They allow for very short videos of 6-15 seconds. These videos tend to be entertaining and casual, full of lip sync videos and funny stunts.
Essentially, stories are quick bits of content, both video and photo, often with fun filters and “stickers” that disappear after 24 hours. They’re less posed, more entertaining, more casual, and tend to be more conversational than other types of content found on those channels. And guess what? Viewers love them. 500 million people a day are viewing Stories on Facebook and Messenger, and 500 million more are viewing Stories on Instagram. Plus, Stories are a great way to reach more audience if you don’t have a lot of followers.
Stories give brands the chance to share fast content that is often more economical to produce and delivers incredible brand awareness. When users view your story, they can choose to swipe up or down to “see more,” which can then take them to an offer or your website, so it’s a great way to drive traffic. Polls are also a fantastic way to drive engagement through Instagram Stories.
Quizzes, Surveys, and Polls.
You can engage your audience directly in Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with polls. This helps you build brand awareness and more importantly, affinity. Plus, along the way you’ll receive some valuable insights into your audience that can help you boost other marketing and product efforts.
We love celebrities and give them enormous power to sway our opinions. And when they share content, people listen. Influencers used to be individuals that have huge, highly influential audiences. That’s not the case anymore. Because of the rise in social media content and engagement, there’s a much broader niche influencer market that’s not all about having a huge following.
These influencers may have began as bloggers or content creators in a certain field or on a certain platform and built an audience around their amazing ideas and visual imagery to amass their following. More and more brands are finding that these types of content producers are more advantageous to work with than a celebrity — both from a cost and reach perspective.
User-Generated Content (UGC)
UGC is content such as blog posts, tweets, posts, videos, images, or reviews developed by a fan of your company or your products and shared on a social channel. It could be a video unboxing a product, a photo of a fan interacting with your company swag or designing other kinds of content to show their adoration for your products or the work you do. It could be an image of a foodie fan enjoying a meal at your restaurant. It’s the best kind of social content because consumers trust influencer content over your own organic content when making a buying decision.
You can influence the creation of user-generated content by offering rewards, contests or giveaways, for example a photo or design contest. Or, create a quiz and have people share their results.
It’s always great to include relevant hashtags to help find you that are searching for similar content. They also enable the curation of specific types of content. You can create a branded hashtag to track a company effort or specific campaigns. If you’ve never created a hashtag before, it’s simple, and you don’t need any tools to create one. Simply put the pound sign (#) before the word or phrase. Don’t use any punctuation, including spaces between words. For example, the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism uses the hashtag #VisitPalmSprings.
Adopting every social channel and publishing whatever content you feel like won’t deliver business results. It’s when you approach your social media content strategically that you’ll see the most success.
Your success on social media depends on creating a sensible strategy for your content — one that fits well with your resources and your goals. This is especially important if you don’t have a dedicated social media experts at your disposal, because with fewer resources, you’ll need to be even more strategic with what you publish and on which channels..
Step 1 – Determine What Has Worked Well
Figure out what has worked well for you in the past. Which social media channels has your target audience engaged with the most? What types of content have performed best for views, click throughs, and comments?
Conduct a content audit of your social media channels to understand what your audience responds to best. In your content audit, look at social networks, content types, and which social campaigns are seeing a return on investment.
To do your audit, use a spreadsheet to record how your content has performed so far, with a tab for each individual social media channel. Once you have your spreadsheet set up, go into each channel tab and record things like engagement metrics, publishing metrics, audience demographics, referral traffic, and any metrics that are channel-specific, like “retweets” on Twitter. Make sure you measure not just the raw numbers but also the percentage change from the previous month or year.
To get an even better picture of what types of content performs well, look through and identify the top-performing posts for each channel. You can even take this a step further by categorizing these top posts by post type: educational and informational posts, video posts, image and GIF posts, promotional posts, and entertainment posts. If your video posts got the most shares on Facebook, for example, then you may want to experiment with publishing more video posts.
Step 2 – Set Goals
What do you hope to get out of your social media efforts? Are you trying to grow your audience? Increase traffic to your blog or website? If you find that you don’t have any specific goals yet for social, then the audit you perform will help you establish a benchmark for certain metrics so you that can develop new goals and work toward them.
Step 3 – Define Your Customer
Personas are fictional characters, which you create based upon your research to represent the different user types that might use your service, product, site, or brand in a similar way. They are descriptions of your target customers, and you can have more than one. Creating personas will help you understand your users’ needs, experiences, behaviors and goals. It can help you recognize that different people have different needs and expectations, and accordingly, you customize your content for each persona.
Urban Escapists – Wealthy boomer-aged couples living in cities and closed-in suburbs. Affluent, highly educated, upscale housing, nearing retirement, philanthropic, savvy investors, healthy lifestyles, world travelers. Ages 50 – 65.
Now, who are your buyer personas? How are they using each social network? What are they talking about? What are they interested in learning? Are you already engaging them in ways that resonate with them?
Step 4 – Check Out Your Competitors
Next, do research on how your competitors are using social media. How many followers do they have compared to you on each channel? How is their content performing – from the metrics that you can see, at least? Which types of content are performing best for them? How are they engaging with their followers? By looking at your competition, you can get a sense of how you stack up and where you might have gaps that you’ll need to close in your own strategy.
Building a sensible content strategy takes a lot of research and analysis of not only your social content but also your competitors’ content. Once you’ve done this research and analysis, you can start to piece together a plan.
Step 5 – Determine How To Generate Content
Who’s writing and designing content for your social media right now? Do you have a person dedicated to social media who can create great copy, images, GIFs, and videos? Or are your resources limited, and you’ll have to rely on help from folks within your organization? Who’s going to actually press “publish” on these posts?
For those with larger marketing budgets, hiring an agency may be the way to go. If you are a small business with limited resources, then you might want to prioritize your top social channels over the others. Think back to your content audit and identify which channels have performed best for you in the past – and think about prioritizing those channels. It’s better to do well on one platform the mediocre on many.
Step 6 – Test Your Content
No matter how big or small your team is, testing and playing around with different messaging and content types is the only way to learn what really resonates with your audience. Make sure experimentation is ingrained in your strategic plan.
Step 7 – Build A Content Calendar
Now, once you have a really good idea of which social channels you want to prioritize and which types of content you want to post on each channel, it’s time to build out a content calendar that you can use to prep content for the upcoming weeks and months. And when you actually go to create your content, make sure you’re following your brand guidelines for content creation if you have them.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your social media content. One of the biggest challenges people face in social media today is that they have trouble being heard above all the noise, and creativity can help you stand out.
Here’s the honest truth: Humanizing your brand is no longer just an option; it’s a necessity. Humanizing your brand is a competitive edge in a highly competitive online world. People like to buy from people – they like making connections, and they like to invest their time and money in people they can relate to.
That’s why tone and voice in your messaging are so important: Having a distinct tone and voice that reflects your values can help you connect with your audience in ways that business jargon simply can’t. It also sets you apart from other businesses and gets your content seen, clicked on, and engaged with.
In other words, tone and voice can turn your business into a brand.
Voice means the distinct and steady personality or style of your brand. Think of it as a character’s voice and the way they might express their behavior, thoughts, mannerisms, and dialogue. Elements include rhythm, diction, and punctuation.
To get this voice across on social media, we create content that comes off like we’re a knowledgeable and supportive friend. We use positive and inclusive language that makes our followers feel comfortable and welcome, and we use clear language that reflects how human beings actually talk to one another.
Tone refers to the moods and attitudes of specific content pieces, which can change depending on the channel, the situation, and the audience. It can be be formal or informal.
Figuring out what the right tone is for a given post will vary depending on your audience, your message, and its purpose. A social media post letting your followers know that your website is down will use a different tone than one announcing an exciting new product, for example. But the voice of these posts should remain consistent no matter what.
If your brand doesn’t have an established voice and tone already, how do you develop them? Here are a few tips.
When developing your business’s voice, you’ll want to think about your brand personality. If your business was a person, how would they talk? Would they be open? Witty? Friendly? Authoritative? Passionate? Energetic? Edgy? There are a lot of different descriptions you can choose from such as these examples of voice. Choose a handful of personality words that describe your business best and reflect its values and record them in a place where others writing marketing messaging can find them easily.
When you consider the tone of a social media post, ask yourself these questions:
What is the purpose of this content?
Who am I writing to?
How do they feel?
What do they want to understand?
Therefore, what kind of tone should I use?
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes, and think about what their background, goal, and current mood might be when coming across the post.
By using an established, consistent voice and tone throughout all your communications, including social media, you’ll build trust with your customers because you’ll feel familiar, reliable, and human.
The idea of creating all the content that a social marketer needs can feel overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to feel that way. Let’s break down some of the things that you should consider when developing content for social.
The big thing that you’ll want to do is to think about your overarching content strategy, which should be based on specific social media goals.
Content across the social channels should vary in a few different ways. Ideally, you’ll want to optimize your content for each specific channel. To do that, it’s helpful to think in terms of campaigns. That way, you’re tying every post back to a bigger social goal, with the idea of developing similar, related assets to use on different channels, without posting identical posts on each channel.
Hashtags are used across most platforms but you tend to see them most on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. Hashtags are formed simply by using a word with the # symbol in front of them.
They’re used to help anyone who does a search on that hashtag to easily find related content. They’re sometimes used ironically as well, and as a brand you can play with that.
One thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t use too many hashtags. You can get away with more than two on an Instagram post but on other platforms, try to limit to two or three at best.
Jumping on a hashtag bandwagon is a good thing when it comes to trending topics and holidays, but make sure you have content that is relevant. Hijacking an unrelated hashtag to promote your material is spammy. Instead, tie in a product with an event that makes sense. For example, let’s say your business is a restaurant. If you know that #NationalPieDay day is trending, you can share content with your audience that highlights the type of pie you make at the restaurant. It’s timely, interesting, and makes sense in the context of the hashtag as well as being relevant to your product.
The text you include on your posts is important to consider. Make sure you are considering your brand’s voice. Think about the length of your text specific to the platform. On Twitter, with only 280 characters, so you are forced to be brief. But in general, across all the channels, the shorter your message is the better your chances of that content being seen and shared.
A call-to-action, or CTA, is one of the most important components of any piece of social content. True, there are times when you may not need one, particularly for awareness campaigns or on channels such as Instagram where links aren’t allowed, but in general you should think about how you can make sure a call-to-action is included in your content. This could be a link to click through to a blog post, a coupon or asking your audience to respond in some way. Keep in mind that you need to make the benefit to your followers clear. For example, if you ask them to watch a video, what will they get out of taking that action?
Your CTA should use active language. This includes words like: book, read more, like, buy, make a reservation.
If you can make this CTA time sensitive, that’s even better. We’re all familiar with these types of phrases, because they work. Some examples of time sensitive phrases include: “Today Only,” “Ends at Midnight,” “For the next 24 Hours.”
You’ll also want to find ways to make this CTA stand out, either visually within the graphics you use, or finding ways to highlight the details in your text. Make sure you include a link so you can track the CTA.
Tagging is also important. If you’re sharing content, give credit where it is due and tag the person who originally wrote it or shared it. Tagging your posts can also be beneficial to help you extend your reach if your content is in conjunction with a partner, customer, or another brand. When you are thinking about tagging private individuals, particularly on Facebook, you should do so with their permission.
Additionally, tagging photos on Twitter to merely alert someone about the content is considered spam.
Now let’s talk about developing the content itself. There are a bunch of possibilities for creating content including creating it in-house to using a social content or social media agency.
When it comes to creating content in-house, there are a number of free or low-cost content creation tools available.
Stencil, befunky, Canva, pablo, pitochart, snappa
There are a lot of free photo sites available to content creators.
Pexels, shot stash, unsplash, nappy, pixabay, giphy, CoudApp
There are also the video creation tools that allow you to quickly and easily create video content.
vidyard, soapbox, placeit, loom
If you are ready to take your content development to the next level and have the budget, social media agencies are also an option that you can employ to help you do everything from creating and posting content to optimizing your digital social advertising content.
Content curation means gathering content that’s relevant to a particular topic or area of interest, and then sharing it with your audience. It doesn’t mean passing off someone else’s content as your own, so make sure you’re linking back to the original author’s content and giving them credit for creating something that was so good, you wanted to share with your community.
Building connections through content curation can help you extend your social reach. Let’s say I’m a really big fan of a certain brand. If I find that your brand posts content from the brand I like so much, then I might check out your brand to see what you’re all about. This will lead to increased social influence, too.
Sharing curated content also enables you to post a bigger variety of content. So let’s say your own brand tends to publish and share a lot of blog content but not as many videos. If you can curate and share some really great videos from other brands alongside your own blog posts, you’ll be giving your audience more variety so they aren’t just seeing the same types of stuff from you time and time again.
If you’re sharing content from others, then your social feeds are going to appear more diverse to someone scrolling through. For example, if I know that your brand not only publishes quality content that you create but that you also publish industry news and other quality content in the industry, then I’m going to start looking to you as someone who really knows what they are talking about. That’s right, content curation shows your diverse knowledge as a thought leader. I’ll see you as the kind of brand that posts on social to create value for your audience, not just to promote your own brand.
First of all, make sure you establish a good mix of promotional content and curated content. People get tired of brands endlessly promoting their own products, which is exactly why progressive brands think beyond products of features. The relationship customers have with brands today goes beyond the product itself.
When you’re posting on social media, an 80/20 mix is recommended. Only 20% of your social media content should promote your own brand, and the other 80% should be dedicated to content that really, truly interests your audience and engages them in conversations. For the most part, curated content will belong in that 80%.
Try to be consistent with how many times you publish curated content versus your own content on a day-to-day basis, too.
To figure out what content you should actually curate, keep your buyer persona in mind. Which industry thought leaders do they admire? Which publications do they trust to stay up-to-date on industry news? What other brands that aren’t your direct competitors do they follow and want to hear from?
Use surveys and other methods to understand your customers. Find out from your customers who represent an ideal buyer, and ask them who they follow and who want to hear from on social. Knowing who your audience is interested in learning from will give you some great ideas for whom to keep track of and curate content from. Pulling from a consistent set of sources will also help you save time, but make sure you spread out posts from the same sources.
When should you post on different social media channels? How often should you post? How does timing vary depending on the network?
Unfortunately, there’s just no one right answer to these questions. Good post timing depends on the platform you’re using and how your target audience interacts with that platform. It can also depend on the regions and corresponding time zones you’re targeting, and your marketing goals, like click throughs versus shares.
One thing to note. If you’re posting the same content across different channels, make sure you consciously stagger the times and days so you don’t max out your audience with a single piece of content.
It’s important to test and tweak your content and posting times to figure out the best results for your business. Over time, you’ll learn which social networks your audience favors, which post types that they engage with and respond to the most, which post timing and frequency fits best with their schedule, and how they prefer you engage with them.
As you test and tweak your content strategy on social, always keep your business goals in mind. There are a lot of metrics you could be measuring on social, from follower count and reach to engagement rate to response rate. But remember that at the end of the day, metrics like reach and engagement should be strategic and aimed at helping you hit your business goals. How is your social media presence driving brand awareness? How is it improving traffic to your website? How is it helping move your leads through the buyer’s journey?
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