One of the most prominent trends in our industry over the past few years is the rise of content marketing. The idea is quite simple: provide value to potential customers so that they trust you as an expert and reliable source.
The recession has caused consumers to be more cautious with how they spend money. Firms trying to convince budget-conscious consumers can't simply shout their brand's name and a catchy slogan over and over again. Companies now spend a great deal of time and money to author and disseminate resources at no cost to their customers in the hope of forging a relationship.
Similarly, to be listened to on social media today you must add value to your friends' online experiences. We're creating data at an astoundingly high rate. There's simply too much information out there to spout off whatever is on your mind and expect people to pay attention. Major social networks no longer show you every post from every connection, and for good reason.
Sure, you're not going to write whitepapers and hand them out to your friends (unless your friends are a lot different than mine). But if you want to be heard, you have to enhance your "customers'" experiences. Some basic tenets of content marketing can easily be applied to your personal social brand.
Match content to audience. Most of your individual social networks probably consist of a variety of connection types. My Twitter network, for example, has everything from best friends to coworkers to political science professors whom I've never met. If you want to stay relevant to all of the disparate groups, don't "heavy up" on one particular topic or type of post that other audiences may find irrelevant.
The best online content marketers know who is following them and provide content for everyone. A large tech firm, for example, may sprinkle links to highly-technical articles with news about broader interest areas like driverless cars. You can do the same with your content mix.
Craft platform-specific messaging. The same piece of content can often be repurposed across multiple platforms. That doesn't mean it should be presented in the same manner; context is critical. For example, the same article could be worth sharing on LinkedIn and Facebook, but for very different reasons. Frame things appropriately based on why users visit a given site, their tendencies, and how it will appear.
Establish goals and test. Not everyone wants the same things out of social media. Your goals should affect what and how you post, as well as what you consider success. For example, you may just want to reach as many people as possible with your message…whatever it is. Your success metrics here would be things like "likes", "shares", "favorites", etc., and you'd want them in spades. Your content strategy would likely consist of easily-digestible, low-controversy topics; pictures of puppies, posts about other highly-connected friends, etc.
Say, though, that you're more concerned with reaching a smaller base of users with more focused and specific messaging. Sure, you want to see some of the metrics just listed, but by picking more niche topics you're not going to win that battle. You'd instead focus on the depth of commentary; people providing thoughtful, longer-form replies, or maybe approaching you about a post in person.
Whatever the goal, though, test, optimize, and test again. Try using different descriptions or hashtags and posting at different times of the day. Use different media formats when possible. And crazy as it sounds, ask people what they think.
The goal of all of this deliberation is to enhance whatever it is that you want out of your social media experience. If all else fails, it never hurts to just listen.
About the Author
Brian Ruddock is a New York-based account manager for LinkedIn's North America Marketing Solutions business. He provides strategic recommendations and daily support for a number of enterprise technology and telecommunications accounts, including IBM and Verizon. Prior to LinkedIn, Brian worked for an agency-focused Search Engine Marketing (SEM) team at Yahoo. Brian graduated from the University of Richmond in 2008 with a BA in Political Science.