By Derek Scheips
Facebook Story Bumping. Twittter Vine. LinkedIn Influencer Posts. Weeks rarely pass without these social media giants, not to mention other emerging social platforms such as Google + and Instagram, announcing changes to their algorithms or adding features that can upend how companies are currently conducting their online content marketing.
The rapidity of advancements and the resulting buzz in both the general and business media can make it easy for individuals and marketing teams to feel pressured into spending countless hours tracking the “what,” “how,” and “where” of social media possibilities and then racing to change their websites and social media platforms to stay ahead of competitors.
But in my 15 years of working with companies, agencies and individuals as both a creative consultant and a teacher, I’ve noticed time and again that it’s really some fundamental “whys” that are key to creating successful online content about or for a company or brand. And when it comes to reining in the dizzying possibilities available to B2B objectives, here are five key “whys” that I suggest marketers ask themselves.
1. Why Put Content On Social Media At All? This may sound radical, coming from a social media consultant. But, depending on the purpose of a business or what they’re trying to achieve with a certain communications, the constantly updateable and shareable nature of these platforms may be the wrong context for the most important messages coming from the organization. Traditional media has been working for a long time. So, are you really sure that a brochure, print ad or TV spot wouldn’t actually capture attention and drive results better?
2. Why Establish New Platforms When Existing Ones Are Neglected Or Incomplete? Ever since social media came along, many companies seem to forget that the plain old corporate website still needs fresh content and maintenance far beyond those endless Facebook, Twitter and YouTube plug-ins on every (frequently outdated and unproofed) page. And it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence if your company never finished populating all the tabs on its LinkedIn, or joined Instagram or Foursquare but never posted a photo or provided an offer for the audiences on these sites.
3. Why Enable Administrators Without A Clear Editorial Plan? Each social platform established can become many things, but essentially each is a new customer communication or service portal. And simply to keep up and respond and fill in material so the posts seem current can drive many companies to empower multiple people to become content managers. But in today’s increasingly mobile workplace, so many of these people never come up with or stick to a plan about how to handle the pipeline of new text and graphics about announcements, and thus the multiple Facebook, Twitter and YouTube postings of the same material.
4. Why Keep Producing Certain Formats Unless Measurement Indicates Success? I’m always amazed by the fact that many companies spend so much money and staff time producing online content, but then don’t take the time to figure out which kinds of material are the most popular in terms of page views, or in driving leads or even sales. Particularly in this age of big data, there are countless affordable measuring and monitoring tools and services that can tell them this and much more. Asking the right questions about the popular, unpopular or even neglected yet quality content that has been published can provide big insights about changing formats and the timing and production the next time around.
5. Why Not Ask Your Audience(s) What They Want Instead? Frequently, an organization is simply generating content based on executive preference. While this kind of vision can be compelling, if it gives a stamp to the whole point of the company, it runs the risk of self-centeredness and repetition that may drive audiences away. That’s why not only surveys, but email marketing and posts on all of the major social sites should regularly include questions pointed at the key audiences, to unearth preferences for actual content and their modes of delivery, for the greater likelihood of appealing content in the future.
Mae West once said, “They used to call me Snow White, but I drifted.” B2B companies and their agencies would be wise to be vigilant about inappropriate or controversial posts from within or without an organizations. Such posts can speed to scandal in record time via user-generated posts/forwards and media coverage.
Far more common is the gradual, silent, unchecked drifting of social platforms that may be confusing, outdated, repetitive or simply boring, in and of themselves, or how they connect to each other in terms of links or calls to action.
In a sense, we’re all experts at our preferred mediums and make snap but quite accurate judgments about what would be useful as we surf around the web and social media and tend to lose faith in those sites/platforms that aren’t well organized, informative or entertaining.
That’s why it’s so important for B2B companies and agencies in particular to plan and execute social media with a greater sense of purpose and the needs of their most important audiences in mind.
Derek Scheips is a Seattle-based content strategist, copywriter and online educator (Northeastern University, Mediabistro) whose clients have included DuPont, Intel, Sony, Genworth, Citibank and Microsoft, as well as small and medium-sized businesses. He can be reached at email@example.com.