By Bill Lenoir
You have a variety of tools at your disposal that give you the opportunity to speak to the social media universe. Blogs allow you to publish content and provide your readership with the opportunity to comment. Media sharing sites enable you to upload images, video and other media. You can then present that to the public as is or to incorporate it into your blog. Social networks, such as FaceBook and LinkedIn, provide the opportunity to tell the world what you are doing and direct people to your blogs, uploaded media or other sources of your content. You should use all three, but the degree and priority depends upon your circumstances.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or seeking to revitalize a current effort, it is necessary to layout a framework in which you can consistently generate quality content and deliver it to the right people. The following steps will walk you through this planning process.
1. Speak to the right audience.
You cannot just start writing; you need a clearly defined theme. The internet is littered with blogs and social media pages that peter out after a few months. When your message and your audience are in sync, the depth of interest across the breadth of your readership will ensure sufficient demand for your content. While the theme should not be written in stone – you will refine it through time as you receive feedback – it should not fundamentally change or you risk losing your audience.
- Define your desired audience.
- Hone your message to a tag line.
- Express your theme in terms of what you will and will not cover.
2. Research the competition.
Who is currently talking to your target audience? Who has a message similar to yours? What are the successful people doing? The objective is to learn the expectations and language of your potential readers so that your content is something they will immediately recognize as valuable. You should also learn how to fit into this universe, yet differentiate yourself so that you bring something new to the table.
- What topics are people writing about?
- What is the style, length and publishing frequency?
- How do other authors describe and organize their content?
- Who is linking to whom?
- What can you infer about the typical commenter?
- How many comments does a post usually get? Over what time frame?
3. Coordinate your presence.
Before you start writing, participate in your target audience’s community. Provide meaningful comments where it makes sense. Ideally, people will know of you before you launch your effort. Additionally, make sure that your communications and technology choices conform with your organization’s requirements. The aim is to have a graceful start.
- Visit sites where your target audience gathers.
- Include identifying information in the signature of your comments.
- Do you need to integrate with an existing website, eCommerce system or an ad server?
- Do you need to conform with an organization’s branding or communication strategy?
4. Organize your effort.
Put in place a process to consistently generate content so you can establish and maintain your position as an authoritative source. You should not have to worry about the technical and aesthetic aspects of each post, just concentrate on the writing. A consistent approach enhances your searchability by ensuring that terms your readers use are present in all the places that count. Finally, readers, solely by viewing the title and the layout, should be able to intuitively understand your intent. The more they have to think about it, the less likely they are to return.
- Start a dictionary of terminology that your audience uses and you can use to identify your content.
- Design a content hierarchy that your audience can intuitively navigate.
- Develop a naming convention for your content and media files to enhance searchability and sortability.
- Design a template for each typical piece of content (e.g., book review) that describes title formatting, photo size and positioning, length, writing style, etc.
5. Develop a schedule.
People fail at this effort because they don’t set aside time on a regular basis to generate content. This is not something you can do just when you have some free time. Look several weeks into the future to figure out what you need to write and set aside the time to do so. A consistent schedule trains your users to return on a regular basis.
- How often will you post?
- Are specific days or dates important?
- Coordinate with your publishing schedule so that you are available to respond to comments on a timely basis.
- Develop a backlog of posts that you can publish when you’re not available, preferably something that you won’t need to respond to comments.
6. Evaluate Your Performance.
There will come a time when you will need to justify your effort, if only to yourself. Set one or more measurable goals through which you can judge the whole as well as the parts. Keep in mind that you assess not just the content, but the theme and your ability to reach and retain your target audience. You should gather as many statistics as you can, even if you are not currently using them for evaluation. What you define as success will evolve over time and it would be nice, when you’ve made changes to what you measure, to see it in the historical data.
- Overall, how many views? Comments?
- Sales Leads? Contacts?
- Ad or eCommerce Revenue?
- Which posts, authors and terminology do well?
- Search for your content to see where you are in the result set.
- Who is driving traffic to you? Linkbacks? ReTweets?
- Would you enjoy writing this blog even if no one reads it?