Successful social media starts with solid content marketing processes

While any organization can use social media to listen — and there is no downside to that — before you actively set up your social media presence, you need some things in place:

A content hub: Your blog or website should be a key component of your content marketing strategy (as well as your social media strategy), as this is where you would direct followers to forge a deeper relationship on a media platform that you own.

Adequate resources to keep up a consistent presence: Having an outdated presence on a social platform looks far worse that not having a presence there at all. Before committing to a platform, make sure you have the resources you need to consistently update your content there.

A content plan: You need to understand why you are communicating on a given platform, and what you will deliver there. More details on the key elements of the plan are below.

Key tip: If you are new to aligning your content marketing and social media efforts, it’s best to start small. Consider the top social platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube), and see where the largest concentration of your target audience members are congregating.

The key elements of a social media content plan

As mentioned above, for best results, you need to have a dedicated plan for every channel you intend to distribute social media content on. Just because you can share something on every channel there is, doesn’t mean that you should.

To create a basic social media plan, answer these questions for every channel you are considering:

What is the goal of this channel?

You need to have a reason to be on every channel on which you decide to publish content. “To gain followers” is not a viable reason, in and of itself, but “to gain followers on Facebook to drive brand awareness and traffic back to our website” can be. The important part here is that your content on the channel will serve as a means to convert the viewer into taking the next step in your desired purchase process — i.e. move them from Facebook follower to website viewer, email subscriber, event attendee, or whatever conversion goal you choose.

What is the desired action?

Similar to the point above, you need to figure out what you want someone to do in each channel. Share? Comment? Visit your website? Register for something?

What is the specific type of content the audience wants to get in this channel?

Customize the content you distribute on each channel. Consider what messages are appropriate for each channel and create a message you think will resonate with that specific audience. Think about the kind of informational needs people in this channel have and how you can help. Will you primarily publish text, images, or video? 

What is the right tone for this channel?

As you consider the topics and content formats in each channel, it’s critical to determine what the overall tone for the channel should be. Friendly? Fun? Conversational? Professional?

What is the ideal velocity?

It’s a smart idea to understand how often you want to publish content in each channel. How many posts do you want to publish per day/week? What time of day is best? You’ll have different cadences depending on if you are sending/responding to tweets, updating your Facebook status or publishing a new SlideShare, for example. Every company is different, so you will want to spend some time determining the schedule that’s likely to work best for you and your customers.

Key tip: Let your goals dictate the decisions you make in regard to social media content. For example, if the goal of your content marketing plan is to increase email subscribers, would it really make sense to broadcast all your blog posts on Facebook and Twitter? What reason would readers have to subscribe to your email program if they can get the same information on the social channels they already visit regularly? Think about how you can tweak and repurpose the content you share on your social networks, both as it applies to your goals for the channel and to your overarching business objectives.