It was Bill Gates, who in 1996 wrote an article entitled Content is King. It was true then and it is true today. Within sales and marketing, people have realised that without good content, you can not market your company or organisation in social networks. Without a good story and relevant communication you can not sell products or messages. Journalists and communication professionals have always believed that good content wins in the long run. We see more and more agencies offer content marketing for social media, and it has been predicted a great future. But luckily there is not much new under the sun. It only means that without good content, there is no presence in social networks. People do not want empty sales messages. They want to be informed, entertained and enriched. They want something they can really use, something to tell their friends about, and something to enrich their online conversations.
The five steps of a content strategy for social media
A content strategy for social media is a strategy that focuses on the content you post on social networks. It is based on an overall purpose that serves as a guideline throughout the process. A content strategy should result in a concrete plan regarding which activities you will need in order to achieve your goal.
This model shows the five steps that content strategy contains. There is obviously not a linear or final process, but an attempt to create a framework regarding how to get started with content on social media. If you follow the model, you avoid the typical procedure, where you start out choosing the networks without having a clear idea about your purpose, relevance, content, plan and goals as well as the organisational implications.
The five steps of a social media content strategy
1. Find your purpose
The purpose should guide you through the entire process. So do not skip this step. It gives greater personal satisfaction and better business results if you have a defined purpose to base your content strategy on. A good vision can be compared with the good story: It is easy to remember, and you can tell it to others. It can also be interesting, eye-opening or life-affirming. But for God’s sake not incomprehensible, unnecessarily long or bland.
In order to find the purpose you can use the traditional SWOT to set the scene. Then use Simon Sineks Golden Circle to find your purpose.
Then you can use the five Value Levels in this model to find the right framework for your communication on social media. Too many companies focus their content on social media around steps 1 to 3, and they miss out on the users’ perspective. How can you take your social media content a step higher?
Which value levels do your communication on social media activate, and how could you go higher?
2. Find your relevance
The users will tell you what they want, if you listen to them. Set up a system for how you can listen in on the many conversations on social networks. Find out where you have something relevant to offer your users. Find out within which subjects you can contribute with relevant content, and where you have a niche.
How do you become relevant for the users on social media?
3. Create great content
This is where the fun part really begins. Now, the initial exercises will be put to the test, because when you start to work with the content, you will get a true sense about what your strategy is capable of. Start out with the content you already have inhouse today. Is it suited for social networking? Is it relevant and does it engage users? Then take a look at the content of others, whether it is bloggers, media, organisations or companies. How can you curate content within your niche? Then you can sum up whether you need to initiate new content formats, for example visuals like photos, videos or infographics.
How is your balance between existing content, content of others and new content formats?
4. Plan and measure
You can have a bunch of great plans, but if they are not carried into effect, they are worthless. With an overall framework for your content you can make a realistic plan for how to prioritize and deploy resources. With a content plan and an annual content cycle you are two steps closer to a successful execution of your content strategy.
A simple content plan or conversation calendar makes a huge difference
A lot of people skip the step that tells you to measure your efforts. It is troublesome and takes time. That’s a shame. How else would you know whether your efforts a bringing your closer to your business goals? Start with one or a few KPI’s, and then you can always build a more advanced system of measuring.
5. Get the organization involved
You could make a lot of bling on social networks without involving the organization, but if you want the content strategy to create a lasting value for the company, it must be part of the organization’s daily work routines. Find out who you need to involve, and what motivates them.
As a manager, you lead and motivate employees, and as an employee you can build bridges between departments. The most powerful resource when it comes to collecting and disseminating content, is right next to the open office. They are your colleagues and employees.
Who do you need on board and how do you motivate them?
Here is why you need a content strategy for social media
A content strategy is the answer to the challenge that many businesses and organisations face on social media. They might have a presence on one or more social networks, but after a while they post updates increasingly infrequently and they lose the users’ commitment. A typical scenario for a small business often looks like this: The company has been on Facebook for six months. They have 815 likes, 200 of whom are friends, co-workers and family. The frequence of updates and the engagement has dropped.
Usually, this is a result of a social media strategy that is more or less non-existant. First they choose some platforms, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and then they leave the platforms alone, because they have never given proper thought to what kind of content they need in order to keep their social media accounts going. Not just for today or the next week, but month after month, year after year. How do you make yourself relevant to the potential customers? And what should the content do for your business? Usually there is not allocated a budget to produce the appropriate content. So you take what you can find here and there – and end up wondering why there is no effect of using social media. One can also ask what it is people should share, link to and comment, if there is no relevant content? What should you advertise with or search engine optimize, if you don’t have content?
The good news is that if you find the formula to create content that engages the users, then you have the answer to how social media create business value.
A content strategy is developed on the basis of the users’ everyday practices and intends to provide them with relevant knowledge and content. It can be anything from a short text update to an update with graphics, pictures and links. It may be links to blog posts, articles, reports, infographics, image galleries or video. With a content strategy you avoid shooting with buckshot in social networks, as it enables you to focus your effort and thus achieve better results with the resources that are available. Whether you need a content strategy for your business is of course up to you.
Here is how you can benefit from a content strategy:
- You want to work strategically with social networks, that is if you want to make results that benefit your business in the long run.
- Your efforts on social networks today are not working. The typical mistake is a lack of relevant content.
- You believe it can benefit your business to communicate, share knowledge and gather information about the needs of your customers.
- You want to set an agenda and bring out your message.
- You have a goal for your communication that goes beyond selling the product.
- You would like to have a framework for your efforts on social networks, which are independent of each network – if Facebook closes tomorrow, you will still have a plan for your use of social network.
- You are tired of contests and promotions, which creates a yo-yo diet for the user engagement in social networks. With a content strategy you can create a better flow in the updates.
- You would like to achieve a better link between social networks and your other communication platforms. Your purpose and the framework for your content transcends social media.
This blogpost is a summary of my Danish book Let’s Give Them Something To Talk About – Content Strategy for Social Media (original title: Sig du kan li’ mig – indholddstrategi for sociale medier). It was published Oct 2014. Learn more about the book (in Danish) or read about the author.