A growing trend amongst people lately is to label themselves quite easily and freely as a social media expert. The truth is, nobody is the ultimate guru and expert as the landscape is in constant flux. It is hard to imagine that anyone can be some kind of swami. With technology that grows old within a short time and with platforms that are only relevant for a few years, I think there are some general lessons around audience, content quality/quantity and making effective use of social media that can really help you identify the basics. With that said, if you are savvy enough, you can accomplish amazing things and master the craft of social media.
What does this word mean exactly? It is quite trendy and really does not speak to the notion of building an intimate relationship with your audience. If you want to connect with your audience and foster a community around your brand, it may be the one word that does not encapsulate the notion in a clear and concise way. So how do you effectively engage and develop a relationship with your fans? Try for a minute to suspend your belief in old world ideas like traditional demographics and think about who you are trying to communicate with. Technology has become the great demographic equalizer and anyone between the ages of 6 to 86 may readily have access to the content you are creating. More than that, they way content is accessed has changed dramatically and is disrupting traditional mediums. People are no longer tethered to a desk at the office or their home, but instead are reading, watching or listening to your creations on the go. I insist that in order to build a substantial community you need to know where your audience is, dive in deep, make sure you see them clearly and swim with your fish. It doesn't mean you have to be on every social platform, but it absolutely means that you have to be on the platforms where you think your audience is, in a big way.
Once you've identified who your audience is and what platforms they're on, don't waste the opportunity to actually develop a relationship with them. That means joining their conversation, not controlling it, while promoting your brand or agenda. The best brands weave in and out of the conversation and own it by tactically seeding ideas and prompts without chest pounding and ramming promotions down their audience's throat. Imagine being smart about the conversation and creating thought leadership around it. When you're actually communicating with your audience, keep the conversation flowing with colloquial language and great examples. Promote your evangelists. Be an effective storyteller while painting pictures with words that borrow from pop culture or memorable icons from daily life.
Engagement becomes magic when you take the time and listen to the needs of your audience. Connect with your audience's head and heart and create a fulfilling conversation that enables you to create an open dialogue with your brand, instead of talking to them about what you want them to believe about your brand. Figure out what makes them tick, offer value, keep it interesting and as you begin to understand them better, everyone’s objectives and needs are met. It is a “win, win." There is no secret sauce; only trial and error. Most of us want to accomplish this winning scenario but it is no easy task.
2. Content Quality and Quantity
I'm not going to bore you with clichés around the importance of content. As we are nearing the end of 2015, we know that content comes in all shapes and sizes. Blogs, podcasts, social posts, ebooks, vlogs, etc. Never mind all the platforms readily available to host this content. Resonate with your audience at the right time, with the right medium, in an authentic way. I've touched on some ideas around how creating engaging content, but remember it's worthwhile to consider how much of that content you're creating and making sure it passes the quality test and provides value to the audience. While quality is totally subjective, there are a series of things to do to ensure you are hitting the mark. While it sounds very collegial on the surface, things like spelling and grammar matter. Graphics that aren't pixelated, audio that isn't scratchy or over modulated and photos or video that are in focus will always triumph. Keep your content short and to the point. Length matters, but you’ll never know the right length until you try different things out. Your audience will tell you what is working, not a blog post. I know it sounds obvious when in a rush to crank out the sausage, but don’t sacrifice quality in the name of quantity. I am not a mathematician, but I'd suggest that creating three great pieces of content will triumph over five pieces of shoddily-created ones over the same time period.
The lesson here is take the time to do it right. Your brand is definitely worth it, and your audience will appreciate it. Obviously context matters as well, so consider the subject of content you require to create and craft it with care because quality matters, even if you are in a content crunch.
If you find yourself needing more and you know you're filling the words for the sake of it, there is no harm in augmenting what you are doing with curated content with additional links, photos, videos or an infographic. Remember though, whatever rules you institute around creating original content needs to hold true to the content you curate and re-share.
Questions to ask are:
• Is this a memorable piece that has value? • Does it speak to your audience? • Does it enhance your brand message or does it impede it?
If you're a veteran of content creation, this is surely not news to you, however, gentle reminders around how you contextualize your message never hurt. Even as I write this, I am conscious of my usage of speaking in active voice as my tendency is to move back and forth from passive and active voice. I know that audiences relate better to active voice and understanding how to speak to your audience is helpful and allows your audience to relate to the content more effectively.
3. Effective use of Social Media
While it's been a theme throughout this post, making a strong effort to consider who your audience is, what platforms they use and how they access your content shouldn't be taken lightly. So too should be the notion that you need to provide some utility or value in your messaging to your audience on social and that can't exclusively be about your brand message. Remember, subtlety wins the day. My favorite rule around the balance of posting on social media is the 5-3-2 rule. If you decide to post 10 times a day to any medium make sure 5 are curated posts, 3 are original posts and 2 are wild cards. That leaves plenty of room for you to consider using those wild card slots for brand promotion.
I suggest that every brand and individual needs to develop their own cadence and rhythm to ensure they maximize their own opportunity. Clogging up your channel and indeed your audience's feed with quantity instead of quality won't help your popularity and gain better brand awareness or evangelists. In fact, platforms like Facebook are beginning to penalize you if you fire-hose your audience and their users with too much content. Be smart, create a likeable social channel and add to that consistently.
This now speaks to the importance of making regular audits to your content on social. Each platform has its own built-in set of analytics tools. Use them wisely and steer clear of vanity metrics like followers and likes. The value is with comments, shares, re-tweets and pins. The higher quality comments represent a more passionate fan base. An audience then with sheer volumes of people following or liking your brand, is not as valuable. Once you see the forms or variety of content work for you and your audience, continue to provide that and less of what is not as effective.
These tips have helped me and I am excited to share them with you. I'd love to hear from you about any questions you may have or if you need clarity around anything I've written about. Feel free to reach out on Twitter @irahaberman where I curate great content marketing stories that shape the way I think about audiences, engagement, content and social media.
About Ira Haberman:
I’ve spent my entire career as a storyteller. It has always been for me, less about the platforms (since I’ve worked both in broadcast and digital) and more about providing audiences with relevant, inspired content. Content that I hope creates a connection between brand and consumer or publisher and audience. Aside from immersing myself in all things marketing and media, I’m a huge fan of The Grateful Dead, The Toronto Blue Jays and my two awesome daughters.
I was named to the list of 100 most influential content marketers by Onalytica in 2015.
I am a regular contributor to socialmedia today, social hangout and host my own podcast, aptly named “The Ira Haberman Experience – In Your Ears“