social media secrets

I know this blog post title might sound a bit simplistic — perhaps sensational — coming from me, but I do think there is one core idea to consider when starting a social media strategy that is often misunderstood … or missed all together.  So I hope this explanation will help a lot of people struggling to figure things out!

You could go blind reading tricks, tips and strategies for social media marketing success. But after being immersed in this space for many years now and having counseled thousands of business owners, executives and students, I think there is really one core idea everyone needs to consider when embarking on this journey.

Most companies and individuals start with an examination of platforms. Do I need a Facebook page? A blog? A Twitter account?  Where do I start and how do I get going?

Instead, I think there is another fundamental question to ask: “What is the source of my rich content?”

Let me explain what I mean by this strange little question with a story.

A small case study

Two years ago I wrote a blog post about a new company on the scene named Klout, which had the audacity to suggest that it could measure your online influence.  Nobody had really heard about it at the time so it was a very interesting subject. Here’s what happened:

The comment section blew up. People from all over the world chimed in with ideas, questions and concerns. So people engaged with the content and also provided lots of thought-provoking ideas for me to consider. In fact, these discussions ultimately led to the idea of writing a book about this entirely new trend of social influence.

The post went viral.  It was tweeted about 1,000 times and was shared across multiple platforms. My ideas spread.

Many people were so interested in this topic that they blogged about my blog, providing additional discussion and other means to spread my ideas and my post.

A few weeks after I wrote the post, I received a call from a New York Times reporter. She was doing an article on this new trend, Googled it, and found my post.  The social validation of the shares, comments, and back links undoubtedly helped guide her search to me.

She wrote an article which appeared in the Sunday New York Times. The article was subsequently syndicated by hundreds of newspapers across the U.S. and the world. A London Daily Mail reporter saw the article and generated an entirely new piece using my quotes.

The results are in

Let’s summarize the business benefits of this one blog post:

  • Writing the post helped clarify my thinking on a subject and create useful content for my readers.
  • The content spread virally, attracting thousands of new people to my site and my business.
  • Comments on the blog provided me with lots of new ideas and helped create an idea for something bigger — a book.
  • Since the original content was shared so much, it helped influence Google’s search results.
  • The blog post attracted the attention of a reporter from a very important newspaper, resulting in millions of impressions for my personal brand in newspapers around the world.

Now here is the key question to consider. Would any of this happened if I had only posted my thoughts on the subject through a Facebook post, a tweet, or a LinkedIn update? Of course not. I needed to provide rich content to have a chance at benefits like this.

There is no guarantee something like this will happen to you if you create original, rich content.  But I do guarantee it will never happen if you don’t.

Defining rich content

One common mantra we all hear over and over again is “content is king.”

And this is true, but not just any content will do.  A link, a funny photo, a famous quote, or even a recipe or coupon are legitimate types of content, but these are not the types of content that will optimize your social media presence and bring you powerful, lasting results. To really go for it, you must have at least one source of original rich content and you probably have just three viable options:

A blog.

A podcast.

A video series.

Only in-depth, conversational content from at least one of these sources will provide the content fuel to give you a chance to reap the immense benefits from a social media strategy.

There are other possible secondary sources — photographic content, Slideshare presentations, perhaps a Pinterest page — but I think the three tried and true sources accessible to most businesses are blogs, podcasts, and video.

Once you make that decision and begin to execute, you’ll have the content behind you that powers whatever social media platforms you choose. A source of rich content provides something that is then shareable, conversational, and engaging for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social platforms.

So after you have a solid business and marketing strategy in place and you are ready to embark on this wonderful social media journey, I suggest your first question should be, “What is the source of my rich content?”

The floor is yours. What do you think? Make sense?

Illustration: “Our Secret” by Angela Treat Lyon

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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