This is the first part of our three part investigation into content marketing for large brands.

The advantages of a strong content strategy are numerous: You can form a direct relationship with your consumers, build trust, engage with your target market and leverage these growing relationships to further the brand and customer advocacy. However, it’s more than just a few tweets or a Facebook update. Great content needs to be:

  • Relevant
  • Adaptable
  • Re-usable
  • Valuable
  • Focused

According to Social Media Around the World 2012, by InSites Consulting, the average number of brands that each person follows and interacts with is five.

You need to make sure that your business is one of the five that your target consumer chooses to interact with in a sea of brands all desperate to achieve the same goal. And brands like Coca Cola and Google  have already taken two spots. That leaves you three. What are you doing to get your market’s attention?

“For many businesses, particularly those offering a customer-facing service, the implementation of a social media strategy is integral to success,” says Roland van Breukelen, solution advisor, SAP Cloud EMEA, “It’s not just about having one department sat at the end of a computer or mobile device pushing out content.”

 

Content creation

Social communication comes with its own set of risks and issues that are avoided at your peril. Poor content management, a failure to understand your market, a lack of a coherent strategy – these factors will likely do as much damage as a stagnant policy that refuses to move with the times.

“We use a phrase all the time, and it’s a bit of a cliché, but the key to successful content is serving the right content, at the right time, to the right person,” says Jeremy Waite, head of social consulting at Adobe, “Identify the content your business should produce for its social media channels the same way you would find out what to sell to your customers. Either you ask them, or you learn to understand them well enough to know what they want.”

So relevance is key. And relevance needs to be married to quality. Danny Cox, head of advice, Hargreaves Lansdown, says, “Quality content works over quantity every time. In all our online and print presence we aim to produce high quality content to draw readers in and give them reasons to keep coming back.”

Adobe’s Jeremy Waite, however, believes that: “Relevance is more important than either quality or quantity. Given the two, you’d have to vote for quality, however, audiences on social media respond best to regular content.”

Paddy Power recently won the title of Most Social Brand of 2012 at the Drum’s social media Buzz awards because they understand their audience so well that the content they create is highly engaging and drives sales.

“Love them or hate them, it’s not hard to see why Paddy Power are one of the best content brands in the UK at the moment,” adds Jeremy Waite, “Paddy Power post on Facebook up to seven times per day, and they have huge engagement rates. This all comes back to understanding your audience, what they want to receive from you, and how often they want to receive it.”

 

Developing strategies

Ask questions. What are your objectives? Who are you trying to connect with? What do your competitors do? What are your internal assets and do you already have existing communities? Kayleigh Stoneage, community manager at The Social Partners, says, “Social media should be about dialogue and how your business takes part. Ideally content should inspire people to talk about it and the business should be prepared to be in that conversation.”

Hargreaves Lansdown’s Danny Cox adds, “Content needs to be interesting and relevant and written for the reader, not the writer. The language must be straightforward with no jargon. If content is engaging, then the audience will read to the end, regardless of length.”

Plan it carefully and maximise its efficiency, give your content a shelf life and allow others to engage with your business. Afford readers the opportunity to comment, to share and create content that elicits an emotional response.

Compelling content is hard to make. “Just over five percent of tweets are original content,” says Jeremy Waite, “There is very little interesting, original content. There is often a misunderstanding among senior executives that social media is cheap and easy. It’s not. It’s incredibly hard and can be very expensive.”

You may have a phenomenal understanding of how your market works, the language you need to communicate with your customers, the goals you want to achieve and a superb team ready to take the content to social media channels, but what is your content strategy?

“I am constantly astounded at senior marketers who still don’t understand what strategy is,” continued Jeremy Waite. “Recently I had people come to me and say things like ‘Our strategy is to reach one million fans’ or ‘ we will become the biggest fashion brand in the UK by having the best content on highly engaged social media channels’. Those are not strategies. Those are goals, or targets.”

“It’s quite alarming to see brands using social media channels without any kind of strategy,” adds The Social Partners’ Kayleigh Stoneage. “A lot of brands turn to social media just because everyone else is there, and you can tell from the types of content they upload.”

 

First steps

Waite advises you to take your strategy and break it into three parts:

  1. Diagnosis
  2. Definition
  3. Action

Diagnose the problem and ask yourself why you are entering the social media sphere. Define how you are going to solve this problem and what your basic approach is going to be. Act by planning what you are going to do about this in order to reach your goals and objectives.

Content must be relevant, users must want to share it, re-use it, learn from it, engage with it. Content must be part of a defined strategy so that it communicates the message clearly and always, always drives the brand. Don’t be daunted by the learning curve, remember, all content strategies start with a simple question – what should we share on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn?

Avoid tackling a social media strategy at your peril. A stagnant content pool with no active strategy or audience focus will not drive your business forward. Interestingly a recent report ‘Social in the City’ highlighted which organisations on the FTSE 100 were actively using social media and which were not, and how their social media activity affected share prices.

The higher the social media performance scores, the more positive the changes in share prices. Now that should inspire you to create great, relevant content within a well defined content strategy.

 

Coming in Part 2

In the next part of this thee-part feature we will be looking at how to develop a content strategy for all of the content that a business will release onto its social channels. How to use brand advocates to create and disseminate content for your brand, and how to segment an audience to tailor fit content. Plus how to measure the effectiveness of one kind of content when compared to another for social channels.