There have been numerous models proposed for social media and content marketing (including the Four C’s of Social Media Marketing model previously published here), but when all of the complexity is stripped away, social media marketing success comes down to two core elements: content and amplification.
Content is like singing a song. Amplification (done well) is like singing that song into a microphone. On American Idol. Late in the season.
Content can be produced in a wide variety of formats:
- • White papers
- • Case studies
- • Video
- • Podcasts
- • Presentations
- • Product data sheets / brochures
- • eBooks / digital magazines
- • Blog posts
- • Webinars / webcasts
- • Checklists
- • Infographics
- • Research reports / briefs
- • Product reviews
- • News releases
- • Newsletters
- • Online tools / apps
- • FAQs
- • Guides / toolkits
- • Tutorials
- • Microsites
- • Bylined articles
- • Virtual events
- • Buyer’s guides
- • Product comparison grids
- • ROI / TCO calculators
But regardless of the format, the first key to getting your content amplified by others is to produce high-quality, share-worthy content. Of course, in the B2B realm, your content should be targeted at addressing a specific question or concern of a specific type of buyer at a specific stage of the buying cycle (e.g. research reports at the top of the funnel; webinars at mid-funnel; product comparisons near the bottom).
Truly “social” content will go beyond those basics, and also be:
- • Optimized: content is more likely to be found and spread if it contains the words and phrases your buyers are using, rather than jargon or internal company terminology. These can be discovered by using keyword research tools or by talking to your customer-facing employees. The use of keywords in content should never be forced; content that’s truly written for your target prospects will incorporate these words and phrases in a natural manner.
- • Remarkable: ask yourself—if I were on a buying team that was evaluating my product or service, is this a piece of content that I would feel inspired to pass along to other members of the team? To my boss?
- • Unique: people are most likely to pass along content that is new or different—information, a point of view, or a collection / presentation of data that they haven’t seen before. According to Google, there have been 77,400 blog posts, articles and guides written that contain “SEO basics” in the title tag. The world probably doesn’t need another article on SEO basics, and such a piece would be unlikely to be shared, unless it somehow stood out from the previous 77,400 writeups on the topic. Not easy.
- • Compelling: to be shareworthy from your standpoint, the content should compel the reader to take some sort of next step—download a white paper, register for a webinar, subscribe to your newsletter, contact your sales team—some type of action that makes the effort of developing the content worthwhile. Otherwise, it’s just entertainment.
- • Easy to share: encourage sharing and make it easy by including social sharing buttons on your content whenever practical. Recent research shows that incorporating social sharing buttons increases email sharing by 115% (and helps with all sorts of other content as well).
Amplification is the process of getting influential voices in your market to share your content with their friends and followers. It is not about creating a “viral video” or some such thing. What kind of videos go viral? Funny videos. Videos featuring animals doing cute things tend to do well also. Create a funny video of animals doing cute things and you’ve got an almost sure-fire viral hit. But unless you sell pet supplies, the value of drawing that traffic to your site will be virtually zilch.
The amplification process has three essential steps:
1. Build a network of influencers. There are several ways to find the key influencers in any industry. On LinkedIn, search for relevant groups, then connect with members of those groups. On Twitter, search for hashtags relevant to your industry, or peruse Twitter directories like Twellow and WeFollow. Identify the top blogs in any segment using AllTop, then note who those bloggers include in their blogrolls. If you’ve got the budget, search for influencers using a social media monitoring or PR management tool.
2. Develop relationships with those influencers. Follow them on Twitter. “Like” their Facebook pages. Join the same groups on LinkedIn. Read their blogs and leave thoughtful, value-added comments. Tweet / retweet their posts and other content, and ask questions. Take an interest in them and they’ll be likely to take an interest in your content as well.
3. Produce content that those influencers will want to share with their friends, fans and followers. Key influencers get into that position by staying on top of trends in their industries, and sharing valuable, interesting, relevant content with their followers. Help them to do that and you’ll end up helping everyone involved: those influencers will become even more influential, they will amplify your content (because of its high quality), and—most importantly—your prospective buyers will be more likely to see and respond to your helpful and informative content.
The bottom line? “Build it and they will come” only worked in Field of Dreams. Success in social media marketing requires both “building” it (creating great content that showcases your unique expertise and compels buyers to act) and amplifying it through a network of the key influencers in your particular industry segment or market niche.