Chances are you have some sort of content marketing and online social engagement strategy in place. Right?
Which kind is it?
- We do stuff pretty randomly.
- We work according to a plan with stated goals, measurable objectives, and operative strategies.
- Our plan is a collaboration between development, marketing, program and other executive and administrative staff so we don’t miss out on any potential content worth sharing.
I encourage you to use the above-bulleted list to take stock of your current strategy. If you checked anything other than the third bullet, you’ve got some “oiling” to do to get to the point where you’re always leading with your best foot forward.
In other words, to be effective you must know why you’re doing what you’re doing, how you’re going about achieving your goals, who will be responsible, what specifically will be done, and when it will happen. On top of that, everyone in your organization has to be part of creating and disseminating your value proposition and messaging.
If you silo everything, two things can happen. The first is that you end up talking out of both the left and the right side of your mouth – and different words come out of each side. This is very confusing for your constituents.
The second thing is that you miss out on some really great content you could have been sharing. When content marketing is left as the sole province of the marketing department, many of your best stories never see the light of day. Because they’re locked up with program staff who either (1) can’t be bothered to share them with you, or (2) don’t think their ideas are welcomed by you, or (3) believe it compromises client confidentiality to talk with you.
Whew! Do these problems sound familiar?
If so, you need some leadership. Someone to make it clear that you are a team and all the good work you do belongs to everyone. Someone to bring in the metaphorical oil can and get all your parts lubed up and clicking on all cylinders. Together.
Program’s success is marketing’s success. Marketing’s success is development’s success. Development’s success is marketing’s success. And on and on in an endless circle.
Funds that are raised make programs possible. Successful programs make marketing promising. Fruitful marketing yields additional philanthropic gifts. Everything works together seamlessly.
You really want to build a well-oiled content marketing machine to fuel your online social strategy.
If you don’t build this machine, you’ll be less effective than you could be. And you’ll still work just as hard. So, that’s just plain dumb. And sad. I’m feeling your pain.
What can you do to move to a happier, smarter place?
Why not begin with answering the following True/False questions? If you have all “trues,” you’re probably doing a very effective job. Congrats! If you’ve got a “false” or two in there, now’s the time to commit to ameliorating your situation.
Please note that in the questions I’m posing to you I’m focusing not just on creating great content, but also on assuring it gets shared. You can have the greatest content in the world, but if relatively few folks see it it’s just not that effective. Your comprehensive online social strategy must be something like this:
Develop it and Rock it!
Ready to see how you’re doing?
Please answer “True” or “False” to the following four statements.
1. We create content worth sharing. True or False?
Worthwhile content is generally one of three things:
- useful (helpful to the user; makes them like you since you’ve given them a “gift”),
- entertaining (fun for the user; makes them want to open your content. maybe to play a game or get a chuckle or see an “Aw” video) or
- inspiring (heart-tugging; makes them connect emotionally, and maybe even take action). If you can deliver in one or more of these ways, people will want to share your content with others.
Shareable content tends to come in specific forms, which include:
- Anything visual
- Calls to action
2. We have a system that makes content easily shareable. True or False?
Creating shareable content is only a first step. You need to make it easy for busy people to share. Otherwise, despite their initial impulse or best intentions, they simply won’t bother. Life’s too short.
Media Examiner. It includes a detailed “how-to” for sharing content on Facebook, Twitter, G+ and LinkedIn. And note that sharing is different on different platforms.
There’s a science to what makes content shareable. Some of the things you should do include:
- Add social share buttons on every piece of content you put forward, such as web pages, landing pages, blog posts, e-newsletter articles and email content to make it easy for others to share your posts and drive more traffic to your website. Don’t forget a Pinterest Pin-it button, especially when you share great visuals.
- Spend some time finding quality images for your content. Pictures really are worth 1,000 words, especially in brief mediums like Twitter, and certainly on platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, and will quickly catch people’s attention and increase click-throughs to your content.
- Simply ask folks to share your content. A well-placed “please retweet,” “please follow” or “please share with your friends” can go a long way. And you can specifically reach out to your influencers and advocates and ask them to promote your content as well.
Your goal should be to create great content; then use it as leverage for exposure via other social channels. In other words, repurpose, repurpose, repurpose . Put a link to your post on all your social channels. Better yet, write a short intro – maybe ask a question — that intrigues folks and makes them want to click on your link and learn more.
Don’t just leave it up to your fans and followers to engage with you. That’s like sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring. You engage too! This one sounds like a no-brainer, but are you really doing it? Remember, it’s “social” media! Retweet other people’s posts. Comment on their blog posts. Join their Linkedin discussions. This will drive more leads – folks in their networks – to you.
Another goal should be to find great content that you offer up to your fans and followers as a gift. You never want to be all about you. So you have to take some time to sleuth out relevant content elsewhere and share it. When you do, your constituents will be grateful to you for sending them a “gift” of content that’s useful, interesting, entertaining or otherwise meaningful. This means finding the right ratio between sharing your own content and sharing links to other content.
3. We invest time in online social interaction. True or False?
One cool thing about social media is that it can make friends out of strangers. Remember the “Getting to Know You” song from “The King and I?” This should be one of the stated goals of your content marketing and online social engagement strategy.
The more you know about your potential supporters, the better you are able to meet their needs and align with their values. Also, the more time and energy you devote to online interaction, the greater impact you’ll have on folks and the more they’ll be encouraged to talk about your cause with others.
Social media time well-spent includes:
- Asking and answering questions (e.g. on your blog or on Twitter)
- Promoting group discussions (e.g. on LinkedIn or Google+ or Facebook)
- Setting up filters in your social listening tools to monitor conversations about your cause and your organization so you jump in when mentioned and add to the conversations.
- Giving your biggest fans a shout out to show you care enough about them and their experience to fan them, follow them, comment on and/or share their content and respond to their engagement.
Just as social media without a content marketing strategy is a waste of time, the reverse is also true. Content marketing without a social media strategy is a waste of time. In our post-digital revolutionary world, the two are symbiotic. Without social interaction, your content is akin to a tree falling in the forest when no one is there. Why bother? Nonprofits must learn to own social media to make their content marketing effective.
4. We make our constituents happy throughout the year with consistent, interesting, inspiring and useful messaging. True or False?
Social media is supposed to be social, right? If you see a friend once every six months you probably won’t have the deepest of relationships with them. So you need to create a schedule and stick with it. Don’t be a stranger. Meet constituent expectations. Otherwise, “out of sight out of mind” will apply.
Be the kind of friend folks look forward to hearing from. When you’re able to put on a happy face for your supporters they’re more likely to want to put on a happy face for you. This includes sharing your content, giving testimonials and remaining loyal supporters. And, guess what? A 2014 study by researchers at University of California, Yale, and Facebook found that moods can spread virally through social media sites like Facebook — and that positive vibes spread faster than negative ones.
Effective editorial content planning includes considering:
- How will this content make our readers feel?
- What are we offering to exceed our customers’ expectations?
- What do we provide that makes us loveable?
- What gifts do we give?
- What’s our plan to deliver these gifts?
Social media is a powerful gift-giving tool. The overarching purpose of your content marketing (aka “communications”) strategy should be boiled down to “delivering happiness and meaning.” The more of both you can offer folks, the more likely they are to become interested in and engaged with you. Then your job is simply to keep them engaged; then move them along the communications continuum – from awareness… to interest… to involvement… and, ultimately, to investment.
How many of these statements were “True” for you? If you want to create awareness for what you do, increase interest and engagement in your cause, and ultimately drive philanthropic investment, it’s really pretty simple.
Create cool content, make it easy to share, interact with people, and delight your customers. If you do, they’ll spread the word while simultaneously becoming more deeply loyal to you.