We sing the praises of brands that appear to effortlessly lead the social conversation—Tom’s Shoes, Virgin America, Chipotle—while simultaneously hitting "refresh" on our Facebook likes, completely missing the point.
The numbers game (fans, followers, traffic, sign-ups, sales) will always fail as long as we fail to connect to what the customer cares about: footwear that makes a difference, a travel experience that makes flying fun, fresh food and great music. Marketing strategies will maintain their mediocre successes as long as we keep expecting engagement and loyalty from our customers without giving them the same consideration. However, by investing time and resources to develop great gobs of gorgeous content with compelling, interesting messages worth sharing, the scales will tip, the pendulum will swing.
Whether your goal is to galvanize public awareness around an important social issue or showcase new spring denim colors, aim to deliver relevant, sharable content for your customer across multiple touch points that connect to their life moments.
Here are some considerations when introducing strategic content strategy into the mix:
Start with what you already have. Content development and process begins with the organization. Perform a communication audit of existing collateral, creative assets, and positioning from the perspective of the customer. There are likely many existing content resources that with a bit of shine can be revitalized into powerful content marketing pieces—just take a look at the amazing photography that the New York Times incorporated into its Facebook timeline. However, be a fierce editor, ruthless about sending things to the cutting room floor. Ask yourself honestly, "Is this any good?" "Do these images make me feel the right kind of something?" "Is this worth sharing?" In addition to reviewing existing materials, gather opinions about content opportunities and upcoming milestones from staff members. Involve your entire organization in a creative brainstorm to uncover the compelling stories that are already happening, ripe for the telling.
Let the social conversation lead. Some of the best advice I’ve heard about writing is to "listen to your audience and they’ll write your copy for you." The social web is a goldmine for business intelligence. Make a point to listen and learn from what people are saying about you, your competitors, and the world at large. When you find out what is inspiring, challenging, or cracking up your customer, you’ve hit the jackpot. Take a look through trending topics on Twitter, top videos on YouTube, and your own social feeds for inspiration.
Abide by your customer’s to-do list. As the editor in chief of your organization, develop an editorial calendar that takes into account key dates not only in your industry, but those that matter to your customer. Your annual sales meeting or tradeshow booth might be a big deal to you, but what about it is interesting to your customer? How can you bring them into the fold? Maybe it’s a series of quick "nice to meet you" videos for your Facebook community with the C-suite, or a Twitter contest to crowdsource the name of this season’s new laptop bag, then announced via live-feed during a special customer Q&A. For clothing brand Free People, the music festival Coachella was an important enough event to warrant a how-to video on DIY body paint for on-trend festival decoration.
Make transmedia your best friend. Get the most value out of investing in content by including multiple platforms and varied content around singular campaigns. During the planning phase, consider the different ways to connect to your audience and decide ahead of time to develop and integrate several of these platforms into your approach. Behind-the-scenes still shots at a video shoot can be published to Instagram, and money-saver tips used as website copy can be turned into a series of illustrated JPEGs and posted to Pinterest. Of course, it’s not necessary to always use every platform, but it is necessary to consider each platform.
Now is the time to augment the traditional marketing conversion funnel with a strategic content strategy. Whether you imagine your brand storytelling like the great American novel, celebrity blog, or must-see television comedy, know that sales are a natural outcome of placing value, connecting your brand to the broader issues and ideas that interest your customer.
Crosby Noricks is director of social media at Red Door Interactive and founder of PR Couture. With offices in San Diego, Carlsbad and Denver, Red Door Interactive, Inc., is a strategic partner dedicated to ensuring businesses acquire, convert, retain and engage their customers wherever they are. The firm holds more than a decade of expertise in successfully developing and executing communications initiatives across all touch points to deliver real, measurable results. Clients include Cricket Communications, CND (Shellac), Smith+Noble, Rubio’s Restaurants, and Charlotte Russe. Crosby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @PR_Couture.
[Image: Flickr user Milivoj Sherrington]