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Big things often have small beginnings

The role of social media in content marketing

By Wendy Monkley

CEO Digital Content Lab

Attention with a Capital ‘A’ is what every marketer wants for their brand, especially online. But what makes people follow or unfollow a brand? Much research has been done in this area. Time and time again we are told what we probably already knew – that people follow brands that are interesting and entertaining. The term interesting not only refers to the products and services that are on offer or their relevant promotions and discounts, but also the content associated with that brand. This should make sense, since people (in general) do know what they want, right?

When I first began my transition from ‘traditional marketer’ to ‘digital marketer’ some 6 years ago, I wondered what the point of this endless and seemingly useless supply of content was that brands seemed to produce faster than consumers could read. How does an inspirational quote like “Big things often have small beginnings” contribute at all to the marketing strategy and objectives? Quite honestly it all seemed like a massive waste of time and resource. It took me years of learning and on-the-job practice to fully grasp the power of content. Now, when asked the questions “What is the point of all this content?” and “What does social media actually do?” by brand managers, marketers and CEO’s alike, I answer with this simplified three stage explanation:

First, as with any promotional strategy, the objective for your social pages should be to build awareness of your brand and your product or service offering. In social media speak, your efforts of raising awareness builds a community of like-minded people. Unlike traditional marketing, this effort is extremely measurable by the number of likes/loves and followers you collect along the way. The content that you create for this purpose needs to appeal to your ‘perfect customer’ so that when the time comes for them to consider purchasing, your brand is already top of mind. If fact, eighty percent of social marketers say increasing brand awareness is their primary goal on social (Sprout Social Index, 2019). And for many, this is where it stops.

But, building a community is just the beginning. You now get to speak to your followers – your captive audience. Again, unlike traditional channels of marketing social media provides you with the incredible opportunity to engage with your future customers and have them speak back to you. At this stage of the game, it’s got to be all about them. You need to be listening, observing, learning what they like and love so that you can give them more of the types of content that appeals to them. Now is not the time for hard-selling offers – that will come later. You rather want to be educating your followers about your brand, what you stand for, your company culture and you want to introduce them to and educate them about your products and services. Essentially, you are building trust. If you do this part well, the magic starts to happen – increased traffic from your social pages to your website. After all, isn’t this really where you want your customer to be? If you need further convincing, know that when asked what content type they want from brands on social, the majority (thirty percent) of consumers surveyed said they wanted links to more information (Sprout Social Index, 2019).

And now the unveiling! Because your future customer visited your website, you have the privilege of getting to know them better. Through Google Analytics you can delve deep into several visitor insights; Who are they? What are they interested in? What technology do they use? Where do they live? How old are they? What media to they read? Where do they spend their time when online? And more. It’s here where the true power of content marketing is unleashed. It’s time for those great offers and hard-working ads. Here’s the thing, with all this information about your prospect, you have the power to create an offer that truly resonates with them – and with remarketing technology you can show them your offer in the online spaces that they frequent (outside of your social pages and website). And since they already know you and trust your brand, it’s an easy step for them to click back to your website and make a purchase. None of which would have happened if not for the small beginnings of an inspirational quote.

The three stages above do not necessarily happen in sequence. That would be far too easy. This means that at any time social marketers should be creating three types of content; content that builds communities, content that engages and educates and content that sells. All of which should be aligned to the needs of the customer you want to visit your website and buy your products or services.

The above three stage approach to social content is a sure way to drive real, measurable returns, but it takes time and persistence.