Feb 23 2014, 11:20am CST | by Forbes
If you’re publishing content that nobody consumes, does it help your brand?
Unlike the riddle of the tree in the forest, this question has a conclusive answer. Without an audience, your content can’t have an impact. In fact, at the most basic level, content is simply a vehicle for establishing a connection between your brand and your audience.
But delivering content to your target audience isn’t always easy. You’re competing against a noisy chorus of spammers who are flooding the social media landscape.
“Ultimately, this is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space,” writes Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, in his piece “The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging for SEO.”
“A trend starts out as authentic,” Cutts writes. “Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains.”
As a result, social media users are more skeptical than ever. They put up walls, refusing to interact with any content that looks remotely self-promotional.
So even if you hold your content to the highest quality standard, distribution is still a major challenge. How can you cut through the noise, break through the walls, and use content to connect with your target audience?
1. Let social engagement drive content creation.
According to Gregory Shove, founder and CEO of SocialChorus, brands need to ask themselves a simple question during every stage of the content creation process: “Would my customer be excited about engaging and sharing this content?” If not, go back to the drawing board.
Again, it’s not just the content itself that matters. Format also determines the extent to which your content will be shared. Shove says that, “to create an entertaining, informative, and emotional experience for a consumer, you cannot simply advertise a sale — you must produce a video, picture, or blog post that makes them laugh, share, and feel connected to a brand.”
Equally important in shaping your content is the platform. Different social networks serve distinct functions. To leverage Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram effectively, you need to know how your target audience uses each. Which network is for friends? Which is for family? How does sharing etiquette differ on each platform? Maximize sharing by optimizing your content’s shareability.
2. Find your brand advocates, and deputize them.
Anna Kassoway, CMO of Crowdtap, points to the fact that “92 percent of people trust the recommendations they receive from friends and family above all other forms of advertising.” In other words, you can push your content out to your audience, but they might just ignore it — that is, until someone they trust tells them to pay attention.
“By partnering with consumers to help create and share brand content, brands … add credibility,” Kassoway says. Forge these partnerships by finding your brand advocates: people who will evangelize your brand with no expectation of compensation.
If you’re not sure who your advocates are, search your customer relationship management system and social follower lists. Who are your repeat buyers? Who is already making positive social media mentions about your brand? These are the people who will carry your content forward.
According to Shove, “If you give [your advocates] an opportunity to express what they love about your brand and make it easy for them [to do so], they will happily share why they love your brand’s experiences.” The more they do, the closer you will eventually become to your target audience.
3. Encourage social networking in the office.
Social networks may seem like a threat to workplace productivity, but the potential reward is tremendous.
Robert Nolte, vice president of business development at EveryoneSocial, says that thanks to social media, “Every employee has a voice and an audience. They want their companies to succeed, and they like talking about what they do with their friends.”
Therefore, instead of making Facebook off-limits during work hours, leverage it as a multiplier for your branding efforts. “By providing relevant content [to your employees] and encouraging them to share it across their social networks, your entire company becomes part of the communications team and your brand reach expands immediately,” Nolte says.
And don’t hesitate to set the standard yourself. “When employees see communication from their leaders, they see that the company values social communications,” Nolte says. If they need more of a push, offer training and incentives for sharing high-value content.
Never Compromise Quality
Social media serves as the bridge between great content and an audience. If your content improves people’s lives, they’ll share it. If it’s meaningless, they’ll ignore it.
The tactics in this article, therefore, are only effective if your content is good. Never compromise quality — it is the essence of the connection between you and your audience.
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Source: Forbes Business
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