According to a May 2011 Nielsen/AOL report, 23% of social media messages and 47% of industry-specific social messages contain links to content. Content is your currency in the social media world.
Knowing this and doing it are two very different things. Successful content relies heavily upon a great thought leadership platform. In short, you need the unique and validated point of view I discussed in my previous post, combined with the authenticity and honesty required by social audiences. Once you have that, here's how to turn it into social currency.
Create great content.
Sales collateral does not work, nor does pontificating about your company's great products. In simple terms, your content should be more about your audience than about you. Make your thought leadership platform your guide. Determine the proper sequence and pace for communicating the various elements of your platform and create a calendar. We often recommend a campaign-based approach. Create one great piece of content each quarter that can fuel all of the other content vehicles. For example, a study done with a research partner might make for a compelling e-book, which can be packaged into four blog posts and infographics, two contributed articles, two webinars for lead generation, and one video with customers speaking about their experiences with those issues.
Distribute that content and make it findable.
Create a central landing page for your point of view, which is often your blog. Unfortunately, for too many companies, posting on the blog is the beginning and end of their content strategy. The bigger challenge is finding ways to get that content into the social streams of your audience. The Pew Research Center's “State of the Media Report 2012” reveals why this is so important. Seventy percent of Facebook users access news sites via links shared by friends and family. Just 13% come from journalist and media organizations. And the influence of friends and family still outweighs that of journalists on Twitter.
Select the social networks that best reach your audience. If you are a b-to-b company, start with the big three: LinkedIn (particularly with the newly launched Influencer initiative), Twitter, and Facebook. (If you are b-to-c, you could probably skip LinkedIn.) Google+ is an easy addition and is great for SEO. Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram can complement the other social networks and are useful if you choose to go heavier on visual content. Bottom line: your social presence only works if you have an audience, so build up the right channels that reach yours.
Don't forget to syndicate your content and your blog. You have to build it and share it before they will come.
Converse with your audience.
Create a listening post that identifies and filters the right social conversations. Caution: this is hard work, so you need the right resources. Community forums and group discussions are powerful, but proceed with caution. Make sure you understand how each group operates. When in doubt, remember the golden rule of social interactions – give credit for other people's ideas and share others' content generously. The social Karma will come back to you.
Beth Monaghan is principal and cofounder of InkHouse Media + Marketing, one of the fastest growing independent PR and social media agencies in the US with headquarters in Waltham, MA. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and find her on Twitter @bamonaghan.