shutterstock_77684344It’s pretty clear by now that the next level of growth for social platforms is and will be coming in from Asia. But as I attend industry events and talk to my peers here in Asia, I realize that emphasis is still on the ‘why’ of social media then the ‘how’. Many Asian brands have a long way to go in embracing social for what it truly is – having meaningful conversations with your consumers or potential consumers.  You don’t need to be a Rocket scientist to figure out that Social Media is a great way to humanize a brand, develop a relationship with your consumers and be present when it matters the most.

But as the days of ad-hoc social media campaigns come to end and as CXO’s demand ROI from their social teams, the pressure is now mounting to prove that these conversations are making a tangible business impact. Brands are still so fixated with the creation and growth of communities that they have forgotten why they are in this medium in the first place, which is adding business value. This leads us to scrutinize two areas that many social media practitioners are currently not focused on, which is content marketing and not having the right measurements in place.

Let’s address the first aspect that is content marketing in this post.

The world is definitely a different place since the advent of social media. Consumers are far ahead in the content creation and the curation game than the brands. The below infographic – ‘What happens in an Internet Minute?’ clearly articulates my point that content is aggregating around consumers and not brands.

What happens in an Internet Minute

This has made brands clearly uncomfortable and desperate. They have been so used to thinking about long duration campaigns, when the consumer is obviously asking for a daily conversational content. There is a lot low quality content that brands are churning out,  and this is exactly what happens when a brand thinks that they can switch gears from campaigns  to daily conversations, without having a detailed ‘Social Content Strategy’.

To evolve and have a great ‘Content Strategy’ for Social Media, a brand needs to transform themselves to build content like a ‘Publisher’ and distribute content like a publisher network. It’s almost like owning a newspaper or a news channel and figuring out what will you talk about next.

So what is the journey that needs to be taken by brands to become great storytellers?

Step 1. Why would people care, share and engage?  

Unfortunately a lot of bands think the starting point of their content strategy is their marketing and business imperatives.  But frankly the consumer really doesn’t care what our business or marketing goals are.  To understand social content and how it works, you have to study the ‘Psychology of Engagement and Sharing’.

The New York Times did a comprehensive multiphase research study called ‘The Psychology of Sharing’ which was conducted in collaboration with Latitude Research. The findings are based on two qualitative research phases and a quantitative online survey of more than 2,500 medium-to-heavy online content sharers. The study identifies five primary motivations for sharing. Each of the five motivations has a common theme: sharing is motivated by the relationships that users have with one another. Therefore, marketers should be focused on providing content that enhances consumers’ relationships with one another.

I would highly recommend the reader of this post to read this report as it helps in filling the knowledge gap around why people share content on the internet.

But similar to motivations of sharing, there are motivations of engagement and they may not necessarily be the same. For example, some of the motivations of engagement could be that the content is deeply emotional, agrees with their values, helps them live their dream and it gives them a sponsored experience that they would have never had without the brand.

In summary, if you are developing a content strategy and if what you do speaks to any of the motivations for sharing or engagement, then you have a chance of creating content that’s shareable and engaging.

Step 2. Knowing your brand and keeping it consistent

Just like the Step 1, step 2 is mostly ignored by brands as well. It’s amazing to see how so many brands when creating content in-house or through agencies, don’t even have a brand document. Just think about what this does to a brand when you have multiple content creation points, and they don’t even know the essence of your brand. This is the reason why so many brands get into trouble because they find themselves off-brand and at the mercy of individual creative interpretations. There is no excuse for not having the ability to articulate your brand and it’s vital that when people are creating content that we are prescriptive about what it stands for and what it isn’t.

A good brand document or style guide would have detailed descriptions of brand purpose, brand mantra, brand benefits, brand personality, brands look & feel, social tone of voice and content themes.

Each content piece that you eventually create has to ladder up to the brand framework, which gives a consistent on-brand experience to consumers across all touch points.

 Step 3. Defining Social Editorial Priorities

A good Social Editorial priority articulates the goals that a brand needs to take for their social media initiatives.  This would include Brand goals, sales goals, community engagement and growth goals. It would also include breaking the content down into themes that support a particular business or community goal and then assigning % weighting that will guide content creation efforts and publishing calendars.

For example, one editorial priority could be to ‘Nourish and Entertain communities’ which would help in creating a strong affinity to the brand. And then that could be assigned a weighting of 30% (3 content pieces out of every 10). Another goal could be around creatively driving awareness and demand for your premium products and with a weighting of 20% assigned to it. In this manner weighting can be given to all the content goals that are predefined by the brand.

Step 4: Content Distribution

The last piece of a great content marketing strategy is having a distribution strategy. One of the things I keep echoing to people with whom I work with for a content strategy is that creating great content is just half the battle won, the other half is about having a great content distribution strategy. This includes a combination of paid, earned and owned. I have addressed some of these points here in a previous post.

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