7 Things I Learned About Social Media Content The Hard Way


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What will we write about?

This is a critical choice for your Social Media Marketing efforts. You need to find something that fits several criteria: It can’t be a sales pitch. If you come on too hard, you will be ignored by your target audience. On the other hand, it still has to be closely associated with what you do, otherwise your target audience won’t make the association between the content and your product or service when the time comes to buy. And your content must have value to your audience. The best definition I have seen for this is: your content has to help them solve a problem they have. This also brings up the subject of how often you should publish your content: err on the side of caution, then ramp up as your resources permit. But keep it realistic, too. Once a quarter may be a little too cautious.

And one more thing: it has to be great. Great content makes your audience want more. If your content isn't great, no one is going to come back for more and you've failed. You want to stand out from the crowd. You want an almost visceral "Hey, these guys are sharp" reaction from your readers.

Writing style

Social Media content is shorter and less formal than people are used to in business. It tends to be more personable and conversational, too. I always suggest that people write like they were talking to someone across the table. Less formal, more conversational. This took me a while to figure out. I started out being very formal, and then I started writing more in line with my personality--less formal and more humorous. This made writing my content more fun.

Have an editorial calendar

This is advice that I foolishly ignored when I started in Social Media. I blasted away for the first couple of weeks; but then, trying to keep up with a blog post a week, a weekly column, tutorials, newsletters, oh yeah, that E-book I wanted to write, all while talking to prospective customers, and working with current customers, and participating in online forums... the lack of organization almost fried me. Now, I have an editorial calendar, and my workload is quite manageable now. 

Many people roll their eyes at the idea of having an editorial calendar, but all it boils down to: get organized. If you have multiple contributors, it lets everyone know what their responsibilities are well ahead of time, and will go a long way towards keeping stress levels down as deadlines approach.

Have a place to keep your ideas and rough notes

I have a couple of cloud docs called "fragments and ideas". They are a huge part of my success in publishing two or more times a week. Every time I get an idea for a blog post, a report or white paper or a column, it goes in the fragments file. And I often find that when I open the fragments file and see something I have written down, I will get an idea and jot down additional notes. What I end up with is a document full of ideas that wind up as dead ends, ideas that will grow into columns, blog posts or other content in other formats, and partially written ideas. This column is actually based on part of a proposed tutorial on content management I wrote in the fall of 2014.

SEO is important

Very important. As the number of places where your audience goes multiplies, they have more and more options to choose from. They will turn to search to find them. And you want to be found. There are a million minor points that you could cover, but three general themes that will help with your SEO are: use keywords, use links, and keep that content coming. A search engine may "see" your website has lots of keywords, but it also wants to see your website linked to other sites. And it wants to see recent new content on the website. Search engines want to return relevant results to their users, and seeing links and seeing lots of recently added contents makes a search engine think a website is more relevant.

If you are unfamiliar with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), do some reading. It's that important. Great content that doesn't get found doesn't do you any good.

Encourage engagement

Once someone arrives at your content, encourage a conversation. Get them talking, get them involved. Encourage your readers to comment on your content, prompt them to ask questions, share ideas, and promote sharing your content with others in their network. In doing this, you will accomplish two things: your readers will feel like they have a relationship with you, especially as you are showing you care about their opinion. And anytime they share your content, it is reaching people you may not have otherwise reached, and it’s arriving with your reader’s implicit stamp of approval.

The call to action, the offer and the opt in

This is for companies interested in generating sales leads (which had better be all of you). Pay a lot of attention to these. The call to action tells your readers you want them to do something, typically to opt in for further engagement with your company. The reader will trade you his or her email address for more in-depth information that you are offering. This can be in the form of an email newsletter, a white paper, a podcast, a webinar, and E-book or some other special offer. The key to making the offer work is to have appreciably more depth in the content you are offering.

Getting not just one or two, but all of these right--have great content, well written, released at regular intervals, with great calls to action--will result in achieving success with social media: more visibility, more credibility, and more sales leads. 


Bruce Johnston is a sales consultant specializing in Social Media and especially LinkedIn. He has 30 years experience in high tech sales and management. He can be reached at brucej@practicalsmm.com or through his profile on LinkedIn.

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