Creating amazing content is just the first half of the digital marketing battle. You can have the best team around working on blog posts, informative videos, multimedia presentations and infographics, but they aren’t worth much to your company if that material can’t make it in front of your desired audience. You can adopt some common policies, such as cross-promoting an item on different networks, but it’s not enough to just publish the story and move on.
We spoke with three experts to get their input on how to make sure that your approach to sharing and distributing content is just as effective as your strategy for creating it. Carisa Miklusak is CEO of tMedia, a firm focused on working new technologies into brand strategy. Sarah Johnson is chief growth strategist and founder of Inovautus Consulting in Chicago. Rebecca Otis is the content and social media manager at Digital Third Coast Internet Marketing. Here’s what they had to say.
Understand Your Audience
With any social media strategy, a grounding in who your audience is and where they are online is the most important first step. “You need to consider the subgroups of your audience and what tools they’re using,” Otis said. She gave the example of teachers, whose schedules wouldn’t allow them to be online enough to use Twitter, but who might have the time to check out Facebook between their classes.
“Think about how the users are consuming information,” she added, comparing the different social networks to different types of media outlets. Many people like to get specific types of information from specific sources, such as celebrity news from a gossip magazine or business news from The Economist. She emphasized understanding that a company’s specific fans and followers might want different information on each platform.
Johnson had useful insights into reading your audience, especially since Inovautus Consulting specializes in working with CPAs and accounting firms. Having a focused audience means that her team was quickly able to observe trends in how content performed on different networks. “We use Facebook to really promote the softer side of that business,” she explained, noting that the network was an excellent place for highlighting speaking engagements, promotions, or other personal wins for the employees at those firms.
If you don’t know yet where your different audiences spend their time, Otis suggested looking at your analytics. “We looked at response mostly, and we could tell because there were big spikes with certain types of content,” she said, noting that watching the engagement on different networks with different types of material would yield a trove of useful information. “I wouldn’t say trial and error, but I think just trial and observation,” she said.
Know the Strengths of Each Network
It’s obviously important for a brand’s strategists to know the distinctions between each social network, but make sure to educate your content marketing staff as well. “As the norms and styles differ from platform to platform, adopting the ‘culture’ of the network on which they’re sharing can help to propel the content they are working to distribute,” said Miklusak. She noted that copy on Twitter is more likely to be informal compared with the professional tone of LinkedIn, while Facebook members most often expect multi-faceted content with links, text, and photos. “Learning how users behave on each network gives content marketers excellent insight as to how to position content.”
Johnson suggested not creating more work for your company in your content marketing. She noted that her clients rarely needed to create brand new hashtags to accompany their promotions. “Most of the hashtags that we need to use are already created,” she said. “Use what’s already out there because it already has a following.” While this might vary for different campaigns, she said it made sense to join existing conversations when appropriate. “I think sometimes we try and reinvent the wheel too many times when all we really need to do is just roll it down a path,” Johnson said.
How (and When) to Schedule
“We don’t try to make a judgment call and say ‘I’m only going to push this through this or this channel’,” Johnson said. “What we try to do though is make sure that it’s timed appropriately.” Timing is an often-overlooked component to content marketing, but all three of our experts encouraged brands to both create a schedule for content and be willing to change it at a moment’s notice.
Otis concurred, and suggested maintaining flexibility within a schedule. She said it wouldn’t help your brand to schedule a social media push for an item that loses relevance before the planned publish time. “Check your stream and make sure that what you scheduled weeks ago or even last week is still relevant for the date you’re planning to post.”
“It is critical to think in terms of the story line you want to present in the social sphere,” Miklusak said. “If you look at your current goals and initiatives, what types of messages do you need to send out in the next two weeks or month?” Establishing a company’s reputation and voice on any platform doesn’t happen overnight, and your team still needs to maintain and refine them over time. Thinking long-term about your narrative can help drive the creation of better content that more specifically matches your needs.
Share Outside the Brand
Official company profiles are usually the first source of sharing content marketing, but having employees promote from their personal or professional accounts can expand your audience. “It is ideal to allow employees to share content on multiple platforms because in the emerging media sphere, there is a high degree of trust that exists between social media users,” explained Miklusak. “This trust is much higher than the degree of trust that exists between brand and user.” She said that in cases where company culture allows it, putting the content in the hands of individuals can both reach more people and be taken more seriously by those people.
Otis offered technical tips for effectively sharing through employees. “Having a processes on how to share is important first, and then let the team know and share it with them,” she said. For example, one company might request that any links be shared from the buttons on the website, while another might use a program to shorten links and ask employees to use that URL when sharing. Whatever method your brand chooses, Otis emphasized that the most important factor is to “share the information in a way that is trackable.”
One common trap with social media campaigns is to always focus on what’s new rather than working to keep important older content in circulation. “A piece of content that garners extreme engagement from its target audience can have a much longer shelf life, often perpetuated by the audience itself,” Miklusak said. While she said an average content item usually had a lifespan of 15 to 30 days, she added that encouraging and responding to engagement could extend that time frame. “Watch the performance of the content and as engagement begins to slow, either send out your next piece of content in the marketing series or repurpose the content to extend the life span.”
Johnson agreed, stating her number one tip for brands in content marketing is, “Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose.” Among her Inovautus clients, she said many businesses found themselves overwhelmed with the task of constantly creating new material. She recommended getting creative about how to keep older material in circulation. “Even the timely stuff can be updated or adjusted in such a way that you can probably use it again,” she said.
Otis also took a relaxed view of content shelf life. “I wouldn’t be too concerned about sharing it and reminding your audience about it,” she said of older content. “There may be new followers who didn’t see it the first time around — or even the second time around.” She said that presenting evergreen information in a different light or a different context would help keep it fresh over time.