It’s not a secret to content marketers that social media is important, but for some reason that doesn’t seem to stop a lot of people from having a really weak social media presence. In fact, that’s one of the biggest weaknesses I see in a lot of content marketing strategies.
If you’ve read some of my stuff before, I make a point to stress the importance of building your brand and strengthen relationships through content marketing. Social media is no exception. And no: posting poorly captioned links three times a day isn’t actually helping you build your brand.
There isn’t one style that’s going to work for everyone. You have to use some trial and error to figure out how the method I outline is going to work best for you. You have to be strategic about what you’re posting to what profiles, when you’re posting it—and yes, even how. But first, let’s start with the “why.”
Back to Basics: Why Do We Share On Social Media?
Social media is an amazing tool for promotion and strengthening your brand, if you can use it right. In trying to figure out what content works best, focus on learning how to craft a relationship, not just abuse a platform. You want to play to your audience’s strengths, not just blast them with bullshit and “deals” all day.
Look at Denny’s for example. They’re using Twitter simply as an opportunity to appeal to their target market, Millennials. In fact, any of their posts with the addition of pictures or video consistently do significantly worse in terms of engagement (which goes against conventional social-media wisdom).
While I might not recommend that you use all of your social media real estate for cracking weird jokes, there’s merit to the example that Denny’s sets of using it to showcase some personality.
In that regard, Jet Blue is a practical example that you should absolutely emulate.
They use twitter as an opportunity to offer amazing customer service, which can be an incredibly effective tool for growth all on its own. They have an incredible response time to individual customer issues—giving the large company a very public opportunity to create a feeling of personal relationships with a broad base.
A part of my brand is that I’m helpful. I don’t just post my own stuff—I’ll often post articles that I’ve found to be helpful, or motivational quotes that inspire me to go out and kick some ass.
And I use my personal handle to engage with influencers or my audience. As I’ve said time and time again, when you create relationships, those people will be more excited to share your stuff.
Big Takeaway: Not everything you do on social media needs to be for promotion. Use it to engage with your audience, grow your following, strengthen your brand, and create relationships with influencers. If it’s part of your image, it’s OK to crack some jokes.
Understanding Your Audience
So how do you figure out what content is best to post? Start with your audience. The backbone of this post comes from this study by Frac.tl and Buzzstream.
The ultimate conclusion? While some posts can consistently perform better than others, it still depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re specifically writing in technology, you may need a different approach than if you’re aiming for an education audience.
For me, it seems to work like this:
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out my best posts are the ones loaded with resources. My audience speaks with this data, and I try my best to listen. It won’t change the fact that I diversify my content from time to time, but it certainly clues me in to what people in my social media circles prefer.
Choosing Your Social Medium
Wondering which platform you should use? It doesn’t just depend on who you want to reach, but how you want to reach them. I’m not going to waste my time on Pinterest when a majority of my audience engages through Facebook or LinkedIn.
But hey, maybe a few bohemian wedding dress pins are called for from time to time.
If you’re a little lost on where to start, check out these helpful stats from Hootsuite. They’re sure to paint a better picture of not just who’s on what platform, but how they’re using it. Highlights include the fact that 54% of Millennials are using Linkedin for professional advice, and 23% of Twitter users make less than $30K a year.
Big Takeaway: Try out the same content in different forms on different platforms.
What Kind of Content Do You Want To Share
So what sort of content do you want to write? By the Frac.tl article’s measure, there are a few different types of content that a given post can generally fall under:
- How To: The classic. You’re saying, “Here’s a problem, and here’s how to fix it.” This can take a lot of forms, whether it’s some of the basics in starting a blog, or maybe a more advanced skill that most sites don’t address very well.The point is that these posts are generally narrow in scope, which gives you plenty of room to go in-depth.
- List: Ah, the great listicle. These are great for ideation, and something you see a lot of over on the blog at When I Work. They don’t have to be as superficial is Buzzfeed’s reputation has made them out to be. It’s a great way to cover a number of points in a more palatable way. It makes it easy for readers to engage, skim, and share.
- What: I like to call these “101” posts. They are trying to provide an overview, or define a certain topic. This gives you ample room to provide a lot of resources, and touch on a broader spectrum than with a How To. Newsjacking can also fall under this category.
- Why: This is about as close as you’ll get to the essays you wrote in grade school. There’s a specific conclusion you’d like to make, and you’re trying to walk someone through that. Different than the How To, you’re not simply trying to explain a process, but you’re making an argument as an expert.This opens the door to providing “exclusive quotes,” and other resources that can bill you as a resource in your industry.
- Video: Whether it’s an explainer or a viral piece of content, video posts are often what you’ll see on many news sites. It’s a clip, and then a brief article to support or summarize the contents of the video.
It’s important to understand the different types of content, because you don’t always want to get stuck in the same type of posts. But also, as we mentioned above, different posts perform better on different social media. If you write a lot of How-Tos, you really are likely to better on LinkedIn or Pinterest. and newsjacking will probably do best on Facebook.
If you really want to score well with your Twitter audience, find out what they’re reading the most of using a tool like BuzzSumo, and then ideate from there.
When Should I Be Posting My Content
On this topic, there’s not much to be said that hasn’t been said already. There are plenty of studies that you can read that touch on when the “best time” to post is for different audiences.
My recommendation is that after reading those articles, you go out and do a bit of testing yourself. Learn and master the art of posting the same content multiple times on social media. Try to create 10 different snippets or headlines for any given post, and have several different pictures to go along with them.
Try out a few different times of the day, and see when (and with what headlines) those posts are getting the best feedback.
A Few Notes About Post Frequency
I’d like to end by making a few points about how often we post. Not posting the same article, as I mentioned above, but posting content on your social media accounts in general.
My advice is simple: don’t overdo it. Maintain a solid content schedule—especially on social media, and make sure that you’re posting content regularly. You want people to be very aware that you’re active online, but you don’t want them to get sick of you.
As I’ve mentioned before, I probably write anywhere from 25-30 blog posts a month. Aside from my own posts, I’m usually linking to helpful content that I see online from my Twitter or Facebook.
If you really want to take charge of your post frequency, I would recommend using these tools, which are the ones that I use most often:
You can check out more of the great tools in a recent post I wrote on here.
Bottom line: Make sure that you’re regularly engaged, and always feel free to republish the same article more than once. But remember, social is all about engaging your audience, not just leveraging them. Listen what they have to say, and they’ll guide you toward the best path. The best content to post won’t be the same for everyone, but the more you listen, the more you’ll find the right answer.