14 May 2017

Social media, blogging and content marketing: keeping a balance and perspective

Judith Rubin
This is based on questions I often field from clients, to help everyone stay out of the weeds when it comes to the effective use of social media and content marketing. 

Clarify your business marketing goals
First of all, we are discussing social media as an online publishing and editorial tool applied to marketing and public relations goals in business. Social media has broadened the ways information can be expressed and distributed to serve the core mission and convey the message. It's easy to confuse social with business - we are not going for flavor of the month so much as an effective approach that serves the client goals. Identify the goals, identify the best channels, and formulate a strategy.

What are the advantages of blogging?
Blogs can be standalone, or integrated into a website. They can be an effective way to create an online information clearinghouse that could be quickly updated, create a body of information focused on a particular topic, be time sensitive, professional looking, and not require the services of a webmaster. Blogs help build the overall internet footprint, boost search marketing, create incoming links. They also allow for a little experimentation in what drives traffic and gets pageviews. And they can be made press-friendly. Blogs can be designed to serve up a body of reliable official information and resources. Interface with other social media formats facilitates sharing the information easily by anyone who visits the site. Blogs can also outlive their usefulness - with the number of possible directions online marketing can take, be aware when something falls by the wayside and make a decision either to bring it up to date, position it as an archive, or eliminate it.

How are we measuring our results? How do we know if our numbers are high or low?
The measure is always tied to whether you are getting what you were aiming for. What were your goals? Registration for an event? Press coverage? Increased awareness? Education? Post-event reporting? Numbers can look high or low depending what you compare them to. Find realistic comparisons based on your industry, your competitors and your own past performance.

What is the right balance of quality and quantity?
One thing to be concerned about is over-proliferation. Resist the pressure to be everywhere all the time - it's not possible, but the attempt will compromise quality. Always be looking to see what a particular channel gains you in terms of exposure and to what audience. 

Should we have individual blogs or social media accounts for departments, divisions, offices or individuals within our organization? 
This is an umbrella question. The answer may be yes or it may be no - the issues to discuss first pertain to proliferation, consistency, editorial quality, ability to update and maintaining your contacts list - all crucial factors. 

Each separate channel - whether it is a Facebook page, Twitter account, Vimeo channel, WeChat account, blog or other forum - engenders a separate database in terms of members or followers. Each channel needs a stream of content. Who will be responsible for these things? How will you keep everything under the umbrella in terms of branding and message, and access to the contacts list that is a very valuable asset? Will you find yourself competing with members of the press who have been supporting you? How will you deal with admin changes? Online forums can be damaging to a business, when in unprofessional or unethical hands. 

How do we select our editorial topics?
Do what an editor does: work to stay in touch with the community and identify what's important and possibly under-reported. Chat with leaders and people in the know about direction. Look for trends, significant projects, markets and so forth, and narrow it down. Cultivate awareness of your audience, what are you trying to convey and what you hope to accomplish. Be objective.

How much time is required?
More than you think.

How should we focus our efforts abroad?
Determine the appropriate channels and how best to use them depending on the region. There can be a lot of variation. 

Must this be done in-house? 
You can use an agency or freelance specialist or media outlet that provides such services, and make them your marketing partner. It can be an advantage to do so, in that these tasks are a part of their core business. Any good provider in this field is always working to stay up to date, to understand branding and editorial quality, and to build online followings. You are more likely to get bigger results faster, and clear explanations of what those results indicate.