When creating a content marketing strategy, social media can sometimes be an afterthought. However, in the age of social, capturing the eyes and ears and hearts and minds of an audience is crucial if your brand is going to succeed.
The best way to approach the ideation and brainstorming phase of your content planning is to build content with a “social-first” strategy. At its core, this means taking into account the social elements of your campaign. Essentially, how your content will be received and how social media might react.
Today, consumer expectations have never been higher, and most audiences are sharing wherever they go on social media. Let’s take a look at how your brand can successfully create a social-first strategy.
The Main Components of a Social-First Content Strategy
The typical branded content topic mix that we see features 99 percent of its content talking about the brand itself. What’s left, then, is very little creativity or human interest.
“Develop content from a social-first perspective. Speak to individual interests and needs.” – Mike Brown, Brainzooming
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, a social-first strategy means speaking very little about your brand in your content and more about the experience of your customer. To do this, brands must ask themselves what their customers are going through and what questions they’re asking.
According to Mike Brown, founder of Brainzooming, social-first content starts with audience needs and interests on the top by considering the following questions:
While your strategy will be unique to your brand, one thing is for sure: There’s a little gray area when it comes to social marketing, meaning it’s likely either brilliant or terrible. But, for the brands that do “get it,” social is a bona fide gold mine.
To start, you need to consider “audience needs.” Who is the individual I’m speaking to? What is their particular experience?
As a result of today’s hyper-connected age, successful marketing is no longer based on what brands say about themselves through campaigns—it’s what customers say about brands through social media that makes an impact.
One brand that understands consumer’s aversion to pushy sales messages, for example, is JetBlue, who aimed to flip the script by changing the way they use social media.
Rather than focusing on fare discounts or pushing promotional offers, JetBlue uses its Twitter handle to focus on customer service. If you look at their feed, you will instantly notice that most of the posts include replies to customer questions and concerns. As a result, this has helped the brand build a stronger reputation among consumers, making them more appealing.
Hi Brandy. We're sorry about the wait. Our crew is working to resolve a maintenance issue. We'll have you on your way as soon as possible.
— JetBlue Airways (@JetBlue) July 27, 2019
While JetBlue’s strategy has helped them build a strong reputation among its consumers, the reality is that a responsive messaging strategy is no longer an option in today’s world—it’s essential. As you build your social-first strategy, consider how social audiences will perceive your campaign, your actions and your communications. Then plan your response and service approach accordingly.
That said, social listening is also a powerful tool that is often underutilized. Through analyzing both the context and larger trends around consumer conversations, you get valuable insight, allowing you to better plan how to best serve your target audience.
For example, The UPS Store considers its core mission to help small businesses—a demographic that makes up a substantial portion of their customer base—to drive their social media strategy.
As a result, their social content demonstrates sympathy for the daily struggles of small business owners. Demonstrated in their “Small Biz Boost” series, UPS highlights businesses that have a compelling story or support a worthy cause by encouraging their audience to nominate exemplary small businesses through social.
The winning small businesses then benefit from the exposure on The UPS Store’s social media channels—making the retail shipping company an exemplary example of a social-first brand.
When thinking of “audience needs,” the point is to be interesting. Remember that social should be less of a platform to push your sales messages and more of a place for you to engage. Do this, and the audience and ROI will follow suit.
Audience Needs + Compelling Content
Next, comes “compelling content.” In other words, is there a way to make it more personalized or interactive? When it comes to social media content, you need to look deeper than engagement. Instead, you’ll need to focus on provoking a reaction of some sort.
Let’s take Pampers, for example. Although the baby-focused brand may seem like one that has it pretty easy, they realized that their particular product (diapers) is less than glamorous for the families that use them.
So, to shift the focus away from the less-than-glamorous part of parenting, you may remember Pampers’ “Love, Sleep and Play” campaign, which encouraged moms and dads living in North America to upload pictures of their babies loving, sleeping and playing to the brand’s Facebook Page.
By showcasing select images on the brand’s Facebook, Twitter and online gallery pages, Pampers was able to create engagement through a campaign that also tugged at the heartstrings, making it more effective than any diaper feature ever could.
“It’s so important to leverage social in this campaign because that’s where we know parents are engaging. So, it’s broader than just the photo submissions,” Mary Woods, communication manager of North America for Pampers, explained. “It’s where we know she’s seeking out information not only from the brand, but from her own mom community.”
To further ensure the success of your campaign, it’s important to take another note from Pampers: Analyze and target the social platforms that your audience engages on. That way, you will be able to become part of the conversation in an authentic way—a critical role in social media outreach.
Audience Needs + Compelling Content + Your Brand
After those boxes are checked, you then need to integrate your brand considerations, making sure your content ideas are aligned with your messaging goals.
National Geographic, for example, connected with their audience by understanding the powerful link between photography buffs and nature — both of which are elements consistent with the brand.
Through their Facebook-powered contest “My Nat Geo Cover Shot,” they tapped a network of more than 10 million people who had Liked the National Geographic page, allowing them to create their own cover via photos uploaded through the app.
Through this campaign, they touched on another benefit of social-first strategy: the ability to curate the best user-generated content from your customers.
Using this same approach, Cupshe, a swimsuit brand, focuses almost exclusively on user-generated content in their Instagram strategy.
Not only does utilizing user-generated content make your own content planning much easier, but it can play a big role in creating a compelling social strategy. Knowing that people are often happy and excited to share photos of their products if they think the business might see it, and especially if they might share it, user-generated content can effectively help engage and build a community around a brand.
In the end, the truth is this: Your content has to work hard today and will have to work even harder tomorrow. However, by incorporating a social-first strategy, your brand will undoubtedly create engaging, personalized and authoritative content. Ultimately, providing real value to your customers.
For more insight on creating valuable content for your customers, download our eBook, The Intelligent Content Playbook for FREE!