First and foremost, while researching this article I came upon a startling truth. I am not the first person to use enumerating letter “C’s” to describe social media. There are lots of articles using “C’s” about this very topic. Naturally, feeling as if the ground on which I’ve built (or thought I built) my entire social media strategy had collapsed, I looked for new letters to use. But, no avail and here I am using that hallowed letter. Laugh at me for feeling original in an inherently unoriginal world. Onward!
As we continue to build social media campaigns for our clients, it feels like there is a lot of ambiguity around social media strategy. Before we get started, keep this in mind: social media is social. It was not created or designed for business to reach consumers, and though this seems all too obvious, trust me it’s not.
So, onto the three C’s!
Content- My friends, everything in social media boils down to this. There is nothing more important to social media success than relevant and engaging content. Let your mind wander for a second, why did Myspace and Facebook originally become popular? People had limitless content to consume about their now “40-pounds-overweight-with-two-ugly-kids” long lost lovers and high school classmates.
Take a moment and ask yourself a few questions about your industry…
- How much information is available about my product or service?
- How many people are interested in this product or service?
- Where would I go on the web to find information or research on this product or service?
- What type of information is most valuable?
Chances are by this point there is oodles of information available on the web about whatever it is you’re selling. But, there is always an opportunity to condense and streamline this information into packaged content products that can be easily found and consumed by interested buyers. You’re job is to originate content that is relevant to your consumers.
Let me be frank for a moment here. A website very rarely fits this bill. By nature, websites are static and docile. Buyers are smart; they know when they are being sold to and almost always hate it. Instead of relying on uber-expensive flash websites, use a blog, white papers, case studies and articles to produce relevant content.
Whenever we design a way to help a business use social media to connect with their consumers, we always start here. Content is so important, I will go on record and proclaim that without content social media is not possible.
Community- Coming in a very close second is your community. If you’re coming from a traditional business/marketing background this may seem very counterintuitive. Many times when we try to design a traditional marketing campaign we first think about who we are trying to reach and design the messaging around that segment. Enter one of the hardest paradigm shifts when using social media. Your identity as a provider of a product or service is more important than the consumers. Be true to yourself and your corporate culture and the right audience will organically come into focus. They will literally find you. With that said, there is always a need for what I call outbound social media (following people on twitter, sending out friend requests etc). It can’t always be sit back and let the chips fall where they may.
A community is at its core a group of people bound by similar interests. Most of these people will never meet, but they roll in your companies circles on the web. They go to the same daily websites you do, they read the same articles and press releases you do. In fact, in many ways they are replicas of you. You are, by definition, bound by your similar interest. Your community is vital; they are the entire reason you are even engaged with social media. They are literally your brand, any one of them a snapshot into your market and future.
Many times it’s thought that your community manifests itself as Twitter followers or Facebook fans. Though yes, it is important to build communities via these mediums, a much more accurate snap shot of your community is found through web analytics providers like Google or Yahoo! analytics. How long are people staying on your blog? How many times has that new white paper been downloaded? How many RSS subscribers do you have?
Communication- Now that we have our content created we need to get it into the hands of our community. Enter communication, stage left with a dramatic flair.
Many times communication is the most visible form of social media. I’d go so far as to say when you think about social media many times these communication mediums are the first thing that pops into our heads (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Foursquare, Buzz, Gowalla). Yes, some can double as both a location for our content (Facebook), but generally we use these mediums not to create content but to engage with our consumers.
Think of our communication as method of syndicating our content to our community. It keeps companies engaged and connected. Thought vitally important, it’s also the most fluctuating and in my opinion least timeless of the C’s. Communities of people will always be consuming relevant content, but our methods of communication will forever be changing (think radio, magazines, and newspapers).
Many times folks new to social media rely completely on communication without providing content for a community. It’s the “Hail Mary” of social media, and we’ve all done it, something like “special Q4 offer this week, call me to find out…” Problem is no one is listening because you haven’t built your community. No one is engaged because there isn’t any content to engage with. Let me be as forthcoming as possible; it’s pointless to simply tweet for tweeting’s sake.
Good luck on all your social media endeavors. I’d love your feedback on this. Feel free to send all your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.