Content Is King, But How Do Brands Get the Social Media “Royal Flush?”
I'm a bit concerned that many brand social media marketers have come to equate their social media strategy with the content they put on their branded channels, such as their Facebook Page, Twitter account or Instagram account. There's nothing wrong with that content, but social media marketing does not equal content marketing, and it's incorrect to think that a pure content strategy is a complete marketing strategy, social or otherwise.
Craft the "Royal Flush" of Social Media
I was going to fight the "content is king" premise until I realized that a better analogy is that content can be an important part of a winning hand. What would that winning hand be? Read on.
The Ace: Content (Long-Form)
I give the Ace to long-form content in part because many marketers are dismissing this form. "Blogging is dead," and all that. It takes a lot of effort to produce long-form content and, done well, much of the best content contains genuine insights and analysis. That's much harder than the latest glamour shot of your product on Facebook, so for many busy marketers, it's been bumped down the priority list.
But here's the crazy thing: The most shared articles online are the longest articles. This chart below shows the correlation between increased length and increased number of shares. It's impressive.
We need to remember that long-form content is not only the most shared, but it's also the most likely to show up in search results, thereby paying long-term dividends in terms of web traffic. In addition, not all long-form content is written. Think about video as well. It tends to do extraordinarily well in search as well. Sort of an ace up your sleeve.
The King: Content (Short-Form)
As I agreed earlier, we can call short-form content the king. It certainly gets the most attention these days, particularly real-time brand tweets and images during live events. Just last week, there were fawning news articles that a mouthwash brand was going to do real-time tweets in response to the World Cup. (This is news?)
There's nothing wrong, of course, with updating your social channels, as consistent exposure to branded content is a good thing. It's important to remember, however, that likes / shares / retweets / etc. are not the best and final way to activate your fans. If you never ask your fans to do anything for you (visit your website, recommend you to a friend, give you their email address, etc.), you're missing out on opportunities to deepen the relationship.
The Queen: Social Promotions
Social Promotions, such as Dodge Defiance and Club Carlson's Hashtag Hotel, are the way brands can begin to activate their followers. Many of our programs encourage people to register for a prize and many of these registrations (sometimes north of 50%) choose to opt-in for email communications. As social channels tinker with the rules of the game (I'm looking at you, Facebook!), having multiple ways to talk to your prospects and customers is a wise strategy.
They are also a great way to increase a brand's share of voice and/or drive traffic to a website. For one promotion, we drove 500,000 people to a branded microsite. That's great. But far more important were the over 30,000 people who chose to click product related links on that site, to explore where to buy. That promotion was an excellent way for people to discover a product that could help them, without forcing anyone to do so.
The Jack: Influencer Programs
People trust content from other human beings more than they trust content from brands. It has always been and will always be so. So brands that aren't considering how influencers can help them tell their story are not going to get that royal flush.
This might be as simple as treating a social influencer well, such as Hilton giving free WiFi to Ted Rubin after they saw him tweet about his current stay. Ted posted the note below and got over 100 likes and 50 comments very quickly. That's great marketing, and for what cost? $14.95?
But there are also more formal influencer programs to consider. We had influencers make videos for Samsung Televisions. We've had them give away rooms to show the updated design of Radisson hotels. We've had them host parties to share interesting dessert recipes you can make with Snack Pack pudding. There are many opportunities.
The nice part of these programs, assuming they're done well, is that you get the long-term search benefits of the content these folks produce. You also get the social exposure in the short-term as their content is shared. Showing your product in use by a third party (with all the appropriate disclosures) is a great way to go.
The 10: Customer Service
We spend a lot of time trying to "humanize" our brands on social media. Sure, that deepens the connection with our customers. But if a customer asks a legitimate question and gets silence as an answer, that human factor is destroyed. Humans answer other humans.
This has become an expectation. In fact, a recent survey found that 42% of people who complain on social media expect a response within the hour. While brands are getting better about responding (and not every post deserves a response), 70% of questions remain unanswered.
We typically work with our clients to set up escalation paths to existing customer service channels, rather than try to duplicate customer service efforts in social. Duplication can lead to confusion and brands sending mixed messages that unintentionally encourage people to complain more on social. So, by all means, deal with your customers. But be thoughtful as to how you're doing so.
The Winning Hand: Your Social Media Strategy
Relying solely on clever tweets and artful Instagram updates as a social media strategy is flawed. As marketers, we have to drive business results. The best way to do that in social media, the best way to draw the winning hand that gets your budget renewed for 2015, is to have a complete strategy. Go for the "royal flush" to get there.
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