Content marketing is the future of social media (for now)

Anyone who was playing Social Media Bingo at Social Media Marketing 2013 and expecting all the usual buzzwords to come up would have been in for a shock.

Engagement, the word on everyone’s lips in recent years, was nowhere to be seen. Hang on, where are all the people banging on about how it's all about the conversation?

And viral? No mentions. Absolutamente nada. Unless you count Barney Worfolk-Smith right at the end of the day, who explained that viral is a dirty word: ‘We don’t use it; it suggests something random rather than something we’ve planned.’

Content marketing is the key 

The thread throughout the day, and particularly in Doug Kessler’s excellent talk which kicked off proceedings, was content marketing and aiming to produce highly shareable content that offers real value to people.

I loved his suggestion about feeling the fear when dreaming up content ideas and going for it anyway. He described those meetings – we’ve all been in these – where someone comes up with a wild and crazy idea, and everyone says ‘ oooh, that would be amazing’…then you all turn away and go for the safer option. Well, what if we did try idea A? What’s the worst that can happen?

Katy Howell stressed the importance of planning this content. There are three elements to this:

  • Make it targeted – don’t even start before you’ve defined who the people are you’re trying to reach
  • Give it purpose – what exactly are you trying to achieve here?!
  • Sharpen the content – spend time making it better, more attractive to your chosen audience and optimised for search.

She focused on the commercial realities of all this, putting the big question out there: who’s going to produce all this stuff?

Where is the average company going to find the people who suddenly have the copywriting skills, the Photoshop skills, the development skills needed to suddenly whip up the infographics, slideshows and video content which is going to be so valuable and shareable?

It’s easy to forget this stuff when you’re immersed in the social media world and see what you do as vital to the growth of any business, but to many clients this is a vital consideration. Do I need this, can I pay for this, what return will I get?

A lot of the answers here are in the measurement. And you should plan how you’re going to measure results from the outset…not just giggle with delight when a bit of content becomes popular and then work backwards trying to work out why it was a success.

Photo credit: Host Justin Kirby

Photo credit: Host Justin Kirby

Tips on creating successful content from Social Media Marketing 2013

And what is the content which is really going to fly? Here are some tips gleaned from the conference.

From Barney Worfolk-Smith on Social Video and the Science of Social Sharing

  • Make it emotional
  • Make it positive
  • Don’t over invest in content and under invest in the distribution

From Doug Kessler on avoiding Crap: Five(ish) ways to Succeed at Content Marketing. (He used a lot of baseball analogies!)

  • Swing for the fences. Aim high!
  • Home runs happen in the brief. If you don’t ask for something brilliant it won’t be delivered
  • Steal shamelessly. But steal from far away
  • Start strong. I couldn’t agree more, and loved his example of the opening lines of 100 Years of Solitude as a reference point:
    Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. 
  • As mentioned above – follow the fear when dreaming up ideas
  • The sweet spot is where timing + empathy + confidence meet
  • Think: what can we rant about?

Dave Chaffey spoke about integrated social media campaigns, which should be:

Richard Jones, with What’s Really Behind Facebook’s Competition Changes, stressed the importance of hashtags

  • Think how they allow people to group social communication across different platforms
  • Use your website as a social hub
  • Make sure all your content is tagged!

Katy Howell, on Precision B2B lead generation from social, as well as the points mentioned above, also explained where to put all this content you’re creating:

  • Social channels: Bitesize bits of awesome content to lure people in
  • Landing pages: Really valuable content
  • For download: really, really valuable content

She also stressed the importance of a killer call to action to make sure people actually downloaded the content – which, after all, is what’s going to give you that valuable email address or hot lead!

So don’t say ‘Download it here’, say ‘Download the white paper on content marketing now’. Tell people what they’re going to get. It makes all the difference.

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Find out more at Social Media Marketing 2013, organised by our friends at Our Social Times.

Read our other post on the conference: David Schneider on the importance of tending Your Twitter garden