I think we can all agree that social media isn’t going anywhere. But as sweet as the promise of ‘free promotion’ might sound, it can be just as exhausting, confusing, and sometimes extremely frustrating. Especially when you realize that only one person clicked on the link you provided to your blog or video; and somehow Twitter followers keep changing their damn minds about following or un-following your account on an hourly basis.
Honestly, to this day I sometimes catch myself resenting the random and unpredictable behavior of audiences online. Then, after giving it some thought, I ask myself what the cause might be? Is it them or is it me? The conclusion in almost 100% of the cases is: it’s me! And here is why…
As content creators we create content for an audience (unless you are the type of artist who doesn’t care about exposure, which is just as valid of a motivation, but a different model). And what does the audience want? To be entertained. Or at least to gain some kind of knowledge or value.
What do we want as content creators? To be loved. Let’s be honest, we want people to pay attention and love our awesome work. Even more, we want them to ‘like’ it, share it, and comment on it confirming the fact that it’s awesome.
What happens, however, is that our work is indeed awesome and yet, not a lot of people see it. Then we turn to Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks to scream into the world that we just published another awesome piece of content. And still, only a few more people amounting to insignificant numbers show up to view our content.
Here are four problems that I have seen turning social marketing into pointless efforts:
We might not have enough followers or ‘likes’.
All we are doing is announcing that something we have created is ready for viewing on another platform, so people actually have to go out of their way to leave the place they are currently in (e.g. Facebook) to go to another site. Shouldn’t be too hard, should it? And yet, audiences can be incredibly in-compliant.
We know it, but random strangers on the Internet might not be familiar with the fact that our content is awesome. So we keep reminding them of it through social media posts, which at some point start sounding like desperate cries for attention.
Because of problem 1, 2, and 3, our social media posts become repetitive and, thus, boring.
And what did we all agree on earlier? That’s right. Audiences like to be entertained or gain value. ‘But am I not providing value by posting links to the content that I’m telling them to check out,’ you might ask? Once they actually get to that content, yes you are; but until then, you are just promoting, not entertaining.
Instead of talking about what you are providing, actually provide what you are talking about – awesome content that entertains your audience. And do it right where you are talking to your audience – on social media platforms.
Marketing firms and social media experts around the world have given this strategy the name ‘Content Marketing,’ a term that is becoming increasingly popular amongst ad agencies especially. It sounds more ‘fancy’ and complex than it really is. Anyone can do it and achieve tremendous success.
Core Breakthrough: Platform-Unique Content
Treat each social media channel as its own piece of content and as equally important as the main blog or video content you are trying to promote. In other words, instead of using them as mere promotional tools, we have to think of our Facebook pages and Twitter feeds as their own, self-contained channels of entertainment.
That means we have to create unique and original content for those channels IN ADDITION to the blogs and videos we provide on our main site, where we ultimately want our audience to go.
Ask yourself a quick question and try to be honest: which Twitter accounts and Facebook pages to you follow? I’m pretty sure it’s the ones you find most entertaining or interesting. And you could be just that to other people on the web.
So rather than turning your social media channels into broken records repeating the same boring promotional message, think about ways that could make those channels just as entertaining, informative and awesome as your actual blog or video.
The great news is, while writing a quality blog or producing a video can take quite a bit of time, posting a quote, picture, or simply a link to an article or YouTube video that relates to your subject or genre only takes a few minutes. And if you do that on a consistent basis, even just once a day, your audience will thank you for providing them with valuable resources and more entertainment rather than continuously bombarding them with self-promotional marketing messages. As a result, they will most likely start sharing, generate word of mouth, and increase your amount of followers and ‘likes’.
Focus On Just A Few + Participate
You’re probably thinking: wow, that’s a lot of work! Posting fresh content on a daily basis on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Vine, Google+… and they all have to relate to my subject and be great?! You are right. That would be a ridiculous amount of work taking more than one person doing it full-time.
That’s why the smartest content creators (if limited time and resources are their reality) focus their efforts on just one or two platforms allowing them enough time to do the most crucial activity on social media: PARTICIPATE. If someone ‘favorites’ your Tweet, let them know you appreciate it. If someone comments on your Facebook post, ‘like’ it or comment back so that they know they are not alone. You are a real person and you are awesome.
To determine which social networks are the right ones for you to focus on, ask yourself these three questions:
1. WHO is your target audience? (who is most likely interested in what you have to say or show?)
2. WHERE are they? (e.g. what and who else do they follow or ‘like’?)
3. And finally, HOW do they consume content? (time of day, frequency, etc.)
You don’t need to pay for expensive focus groups to get answers to these questions. All it takes is Google Analysis, Facebook page “insights”, and some common sense (often thinking of yourself as the main consumer and honestly analyzing your media behavior can really help).
With that in mind you can decide which of the social networks suit your company or project best, rather than trying to reach everyone, everywhere at all times. Less is more, and you’ll avoid driving yourself crazy with too many accounts to handle.
Here is a fantastic (and funny!) graph that College Humor recently published comparing different social networks to the ‘types of people you know’ –http://bit.ly/1mgrpaq. It is surprisingly accurate and will help you decide which one might reach your audience!
Focus more on providing amazing content instead of the need to feel loved, and you’ll be loved. That’s the irony. It will certainly take some patience and time (often 3-6 months) to get some traction, but in the long run you will benefit from ‘owning’ your audience as you will establish a level of trust that many other content creators and even big advertisers do not have. Your goal is to be known for a certain type of content, view, wit, or anything else that sets you apart from the masses. That ‘special sauce’ that you provide with your content is what audiences will keep coming back for.
The true opportunity of social media for content promotion lies in utilizing those platforms as another form of free distribution (like your own TV channel) while considering them as equally valuable as your main website or video channel. Because of that, they require their own, unique form of content. The same way that TV channels are best suited for 30-60 minute long episodes, social media platforms have their own ideal formats that resonate with their audiences. So don’t try to squeeze a novel into 140 characters on Twitter!
Creating content unique to its platforms requires a lot of attention and love, but it simultaneously acts as an effective ‘extension’ to the main content you provide on your website and other places across the Internet.
Treating every touch point with an audience online as an opportunity to entertain them or provide other value will make you an authority who shows integrity, which in return will activate the word of mouth you were trying to get in the first place. Entertaining rather than promoting is just another way to go about it!
About the author:
As CEO of United Motion Entertainment, his current projects include the recently launched online magazine “Luminary Daily”, a soon to be announced social media app, and consulting on digital initiatives for The Walt Becker Company (producer/director “Van Wilder”, “Wild Hogs”) as well as other entertainment, advertising, and start-up clients through “D. For Consulting”, a Los Angeles based consulting firm focused on digital content monetization.