Content is King of Social Marketing

Oct 20, 2009 9:31 PM  By

What is it that online sellers care about these days? Everyone is struggling right now to figure out the best way to drive revenue and searching for the next silver bullet. It’s pretty clear that most are experimenting with social marketing.

Do you know anyone that’s actually making social work? There’s maybe one or two here or there, but very few companies either have the scale to support social properly or the understanding to really make it work.

Here’s one approach to the social marketing challenge for e-commerce marketers that leverages an existing capability – your marketing calendar.

A couple of weeks ago I spent a few days at a content marketing forum put on by one of our investors. There was a lot of great content, and the takeaways were twofold. First, social marketing efforts need to be driven by content, not vice versa. Without content, there is not a whole lot to talk about.

Second, given that you have content, cadence is king. Joe Pulizzi, the organizer of the summit, and co-author of the Content Marketing Playbook (a free e-book) and Get Content, Get Customers made this key point early in his presentations. Once you start with a given cadence, you’ve made a content promise. If you can’t maintain that promise, it will quickly alienate your readers.

More than anything, you have to think of yourself as a publisher. If, say, BusinessWeek just decided to skip a week, most readers would freak out. You have to take the same mindset when you’re doing content and social.

So this puts many Internet and e-commerce marketers in a bind: There is already too much to do, and not enough resources. Social just becomes another drain on their time.

The reality is, if you aren’t already generating a fair amount of content, it will be difficult to keep up any sort of cadence and maintain your content promise. Plus, most e-commerce marketers’ websites are specifically geared towards conversion.

Unless you’ve generated pages that are optimized for given content and use that to try to drive traffic, there will always be a disconnect between trying to publish content, and how your Website is put together.

The one advantage e-commerce and retail marketers have is an adherence to a marketing calendar, which is similar to publication or editorial calendar of any media firm. So many retail and e-commerce marketers are used to conveying particular deliverables on specific dates.

Many have the systems for project management and production to produce in a timely fashion. Projects are planned far enough in advance to get them done well and of high quality.

Developing the content necessary to drive social and other content marketing initiatives is just an extension of that marketing calendar. If you establish a cadence, say, of two new content pieces per month, these can just get inserted into the calendar.

It’s a little extra work, but I will bet that most e-commerce marketers, if they compare the time spent in a given month trying to figure out what to tweet or to post on their corporate Facebook page, will find the total time spent would likely be equivalent. And the quality of output and the quality of results would be much better.

Developing content is not for the faint of heart. You have to constantly develop new ideas and think of new ways to keep your readers or viewers engaged. But think about the benefits.

Most e-commerce marketers already know how to distribute information. Whether it is through Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, YouTube, press releases, your PR firm, or one of a dozen other channels, there are plenty of ways to get the message out.

By making this minor change, thinking of social as purely another mechanism for distribution and taking one step back and viewing yourself as a content publisher, you can really take the best advantage of social marketing.

There are plenty of other people out there that you can learn from. But if you read 100 social media expert blogs, you’ll find that when you dig down into what makes social media successful, the themes are consistent.

Have something to say. Say it often. Be interesting. Sound familiar? This is essentially the content publishing model. By incorporating content development into your existing marketing calendar and production process, you can turn social marketing into an asset.

For a deeper look at using content to drive interactions and search traffic, I suggest this presentation on SlideShare from Mark Silva at Real Branding. It includes a lot of good case studies on the before and after of some very recognizable brands.

Michael Greenberg (michael@loyaltylab.com) is chief operating officer at loyalty marketing firm Loyalty Lab.