When marketers approach Content Marketing and Social Media as a symbiotic relationship, there’s no limit to the business goals you can achieve.
To make that happen, marketers really need to start raising the bar on their approach.
It’s far too easy to get caught up in the distractions of the latest social media and content marketing tactics. Unlocking success with social media and content marketing means developing a solid strategy: A thoughtful, data-informed approach with goals, defined target audience and measurable outcomes that you monitor and optimize for.
This post outlines 3 simple ideas that can help you break free of the crowded marketplace of content and social media du jour to stand out with those that matter most to your business.
Understand the Buyer’s Information Journey
Where content is involved, marketing goals that are accountable to Attract, Engage and Convert objectives amongst a target segment of customers can be achieved by understanding the relationship between buyers and information used during the sales cycle.
These goals answer key questions about how the content program will attract the right audience, engage them in a meaningful way and ultimately convert them from one stage to the next, resulting in a lead and sale.
Discover, Consume, Act: The Three Soldiers of Content Marketing
It’s essential to understand (or at least hypothesize) how your target customer Discovers information when seeking solutions everywhere from first Awareness to Consideration to Purchase. What language do they use to describe their pain? Their perceived objective? What do they search for and talk about on the social web that leads them to discovery of solutions information?
Additionally, it means understanding your target audience preferences for Consuming information, whether it’s video, long form text, tips or case studies. Information consumption preferences matter with devices too – desktop, tablet, mobile or internet “things” like Google Glass. From first discovery to the nurturing phase to transaction, knowing your target audience information consumption preferences will help you optimize their experience.
Lastly, the information journey should lead the target customer through the sales cycle by taking Action. From a Facebook follower to an email subscriber to a demo webinar attendee to an initial sales conversation – each of these types of experiences with your target audience along the buying cycle can be forecast and planned to help prospects lead themselves to the next logical step in their journey.
Build Social Media Amplification Into Your Content Plan
The time to decide where to promote your awesome content through social channels is not the day it publishes. Many companies simply reply on paid social advertising as a sequential step in their content marketing programs vs. building social into the content planning process itself.
How can you build social into content planning? It depends on your community and objectives, but here are 3 ways:
- Participation – Involve members of your community in the content creation process. Whether it’s current customers or industry thought leaders, co-created content means an investment by participants into something that, collectively, is much bigger and full of awesome than what they would normally create on their own. To be a part of that brings clout and it inspires social sharing.
- Anticipation – In your content plan, develop sequential content assets that build upon each other to form a whole. Whether it’s a series of videos that come together like pieces of a puzzle or a list that recognizes people in the industry, great content can create anticipation to see what comes next. That anticipation is like a powder keg of social sharing – but only if your content delivers on the promise of awesome.
- Coordination – The point of growing social networks isn’t just social proof with high fan, friend and follower counts. It’s to engage that community to your mutual benefit. Content plans that coordinate amplification in advance with employees, customers, industry thought leaders, bloggers and members of the media can provide amazing exposure. This kind of planned outreach to help you promote your content needs to happen in advance in a relevant, personalized way with proper context for best results.
Help Buyers Understand and Feel
Content competition is tough and it’s only going to get tougher as more brands become publishers and more consumers are also empowered to publish. It’s simply not enough to deliver the right information at the right time during the buying cycle.
Informing and helping buyers learn about the right solutions for them along with an experience that connects on an emotional level is very powerful. It’s not easy, but it’s a big part of standing out and creating an experience that richly engages your buyer and differentiates your brand.
There’s a saying that “People buy based on emotion and justify with logic”. Whether it’s a universal truth or not, the fact is, emotion can play a huge part in creating a more meaningful experience for buyers as they decide which information sources to rely on during their buying journey.
Content plans that anticipate the questions buyers have at each stage of the buying cycle will use the answers to form their content planning. Brands that stand out with their content will take the extra step to understand the emotional motivations for those questions and create stories, visual media and otherwise engaging experiences to connect with buyers on both an intellectual level (facts, features and benefits) as well as an emotional level (empathy with the pain/trouble, feeling when problem is solved, humor, joy, trust, surprise).
Ethos, Pathos, and Logos - There’s a great article in the New Yorker that talks about modes of persuasion referenced in Aristotle’s “On Rhetoric”: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. So much of B2B marketing is focused on the credibility of the brand and the logic of things, the “information”. Beyond the facts, visual experiences are pretty powerful for connecting with B2B “humans”. Creating an experience buyers can feel and connect to at some emotional level “ethos” is what smarties like MarketingProfs, Marketo and LinkedIn are doing with their visually focused content.
Along with a unified strategy, common goals and aligned resources, some of the digital marketing skills necessary to implement these key principles include:
- Customer Segmentation
- Creating Buy Cycle Stories
- Developing Social Content
- Portioning the Right Mix of Content Creation and Curation
- High Impact Social Amplification
- Community Growth and Engagement
- Nurturing and Marketing Automation
- Monitoring, Performance Optimization
- Program Measurement Across Channels
The challenge is for you to decide which of these skills you’re going to master and which will be distributed amongst your internal team and outside resources.
How are you using these principles in your content marketing and social media integration? What new skills are you developing personally or as an organization to raise the bar on your content marketing performance?