An In-Depth Social Media and Content Marketing Strategy (Explained)

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What if Coca-Cola wanted to copy your marketing ideas? What if you could easily “evangelize” customers using a smartphone? What if you could reach hundreds of thousands, or even millions of targeted individuals every month? What if you were the most cutting-edge business or organization in your sector? These don’t have to be hypothetical questions… you can be what you want to be. Sure, it takes time, hard work and even some money, but in this article I’ll show you how you can stomp the competition when it comes to social media marketing. If you want to skip right to the guts, look for the section titled “The Digital Bridge Ecosystem.” Otherwise, get ready for an in-depth, colorful and illustrated tutorial of how you can rock strategic social media marketing.

Let me first start by telling one of my favorite stories as an illustration. When Google Chrome launched a couple of years ago, Google hired a team of highly creative and talented individuals from Sweden to craft an interactive video marketing campaign called The Wilderness Downtown. Maybe you participated in this campaign. It all started when a friend of yours shared a link with you (personal recommendation). Upon arriving at the site, you were asked to enter your first home address (from your childhood home). You weren’t quite sure about providing such personal info, but since your friend sent this link to you and promised it would be good, you did. The next thing you know, you’re “walking” down a street (via Google Maps), turn the corner and *BAM* there you see, for the first time in who knows how many years, your childhood home. At this point, no matter what message you are about to be presented with, you are going to be emotionally engaged and attached. What a brilliant maneuver by B-REEL, the agency behind the game. The catch? It only worked in Chrome. As you can imagine, downloads soared. That was super creative and that was back in 2010! Just a few months ago, Chrome passed Internet Explorer to become the world’s most popular browser.

This is the perfect example of a “non-ad ad,” a non-traditional, non-obvious marketing tactic that I’d advise you to make your new best friend. Standard banner ads can’t hold a candle to content marketing (stories, videos, etc.). Facebook knows this; it’s the reason they are now offering sponsored-story ads (and charging plenty for them as you’ll see below). Read on to learn how you can create deep and lasting relationships with digital natives through the creation of highly targeted content marketing campaigns and social media.

The Digital Age: A Crisis of Opportunity

The recession has been hard on business. It’s harder to everything these days from raising money to acquiring customers and all points in between. Whether you are bleeding money/customers or your growth rate simply isn’t up to snuff, I’m willing to bet that you are probably still relying on out-of-date marketing techniques (decades old or perhaps more than a century old in some cases). In this day an age, a lot can change in a single year, or even a matter of months. What worked last quarter might not work as well this quarter. One thing is for certain, as customers age and perhaps move on to other brands, you’ll need to start engaging younger generations. And that is where the big opportunity lies; reinvigorating your client base with some fresh, young blood. It’s not that social media doesn’t reach older generations, it does (as the stats below show), but it’s the digital natives that are increasingly living their lives online. That’s good for you because the internet is already in nearly every home in America (and nearly every pocket for that matter).

A Few Interesting Facts About Social Media (2012)

  • There are currently 1.2 billion global internet users (who collectively spend between 30-35 billion hours on social media sites monthly)
  • 82% of the world’s online population can be reached via social networking sites
  • 22% of Americans use social networking sites several times per day (making it a “social habit”)
  • 27% of internet-using teens 12-17 record and upload video to the internet
  • 76% of marketers plan on increasing their use of YouTube and video marketing in 2012
  • 63% of adults ages 18-46 own a game console (which are increasingly being used for consuming video/media content)
  • 97% of adults 18-29 use the internet at home vs 91% of adults 30-49 and 77% of adults 50-64

Know What You Are Up Against

Before we go any further it’s important for you to understand your potential competitors. If they are savvy, and many increasingly are, they are doing their homework, digging into the psyche of their (your) target audience to gain every possible advantage. You can do that easier than ever these days thanks to the goldmine of data produced online by the minute. Take Axe (owned by Unilever) for instance. In a recent Fast Company article titled “Axe’s Highly Scientific, Typically Outrageous and Totally Irresistible Selling of Lust,” the brand revealed just what it takes to understand the inner working of a target demo’s mind. Here are a few excerpts I pulled out with emphasis added to give you an idea of what your competition may be up to (and what you need to do to stay competitive):

How do you engineer a virtually unbeatable grooming product for men—and now women—that promotes passion? The answer isn’t in the chemistry. It’s in the market research.

To conjure male fantasies, to be a testosterone whisperer, Axe’s marketing team must engage in constant sociological study.

Axe managers are trained to discard old tactics—to know that every year, a new horde of kids will enter their demographic with new social habits and that Axe can’t speak to them like it spoke to last year’s class.

Theirs is an adventurous life, [speaking of the global Axe team] involving frequent forays into college towns, where the Axe team joins bar crawls and keggars. Older members have designated “trendslators,” fresh hires who can explain what’s on teens’ minds. Does all of this help make money? No doubt. But in the Axe Republic, that’s the wrong question. Unilever considers Axe its special test kitchen, a place to experiment with ideas before there’s any metric to judge them. “They help us define the idea of communication and innovation-led growth,” says Rob Master, Unilever VP of media for the Americas and Europe.

“Axe is deliberately not telling the truth, so they’re being truthful about being untruthful. And there’s an honesty there that this generation really relates to,” says psychologist Kit Yarrow, who studied teen purchases for her book Gen Buy.

Like the Beatles or Twitter, Axe’s 2002 debut is a line drawn in time; If you came of age during its reign, you’re better equipped to appreciate the kids who love it.

An Axe user will spend about five years with the brand. The company’s marketing team claims the typical age ranges from 20-25—thought high-school gym teachers would dispute that.

Social Media Has Real Monetary Value

Before we get into actual strategy, you need to understand that social media has real monetary value. Too many executives, employees and even communications professionals think about social media from the perspective of a consumer; namely, they think social media is free. While it’s true that it is free to sign up for sites like Facebook and Twitter, there are hundreds of professional social media tools available that range from inexpensive to quite pricey (depending on whether you are an individual, a small business or looking for an enterprise solution). Heck, there are even hundreds of Twitter-specific tools (I wouldn’t consider all of those listed as professional, however). For reference, check out this chart I created that shows you what big brands already know: there is real money to be spent on social media.

You see, the only way to amplify word of mouth online is through marketing; that’s what the costs in the graphic above illustrate. But, there are other costs to a real social media strategy to take into account as illustrated below. I’m hoping to underscore the point that professional social media management is not free.

6 Essential Building Blocks

Before you get any further, you must have a solid understanding of what I’ve dubbed the 6 Essential Building Blocks of Effective Social Media Management/Strategy. Even many social media “experts” only get 1 building block; platforms. As you will see in this section, you’re not firing on all cylinders until you’ve incorporated all 6.

1.) Audience Awareness (Foundational): Targeting a specific audience, or audiences, is crucial as is thoroughly understanding the interests, needs, style, habits, expectations, culture and nuances of said audience.

2.) Quality Content (Foundational): Only content of the highest possible quality should be produced and released to the public. This could include, but would not be limited to, blog articles, editorials, audio, videos, scripts, marketing materials, etc. Why? Just as car manufacturers earn reputations for quality (either good or bad), web properties and brands must maintain a trustworthy reputation in order to fuel repeat visits and word-of-mouth recommendations.

3.) Creativity (Sensational): Extreme creativity should be employed in all aspects of any social media endeavor including working with the most creative minds available. Creativity and innovation help make a project something that other people will want to experience, share and even copy. Why? People expect, even demand, creativity in everything these days because they are surrounded by it (in advertising, packaging, etc.). Creativity and innovation (or the lack thereof) can directly impact the bottom line.

4.) Professional Management Techniques & Tools (Sensational): Social media should not be managed with the perspective of a consumer, namely, thinking that “being on social media is free” and that social media has no monetary value. In contrast, professional social media techniques and tools should be employed. It’s not enough to know a few popular buzzwords; real experience and extensive knowledge is key. Why? 99.9% of businesspeople treat social media as an “add-on” service, don’t understand how social media truly works and have no idea what professional-grade tools exist to manage and analyze social media as part of a strategic plan. They see social media from a consumer’s point-of-view.

5.) Trend Consciousness (Structural): Every Social Media Director and their team must be aware of the latest trends and data and must avoid getting too comfortable using only certain platforms or channels. Why? Today, kids are fleeing Facebook for newer platforms because their parents are signing up, yet Facebook is still seen as “the only” major social network worth having a presence on.

6.) Relevant Social Channels (Structural): Not all social media channels are well suited to all content or audience types, therefore effective social media strategy will include an acute awareness of where specific audiences congregate and what social channels best support specific types of content. Why? Because Sonar, Path, Diaspora, Highlight and OurSpot exist.

The Digital Bridge Ecosystem (Relate, Educate, Assimilate)

The digital bridge ecosystem (strategy) is about creating (and distributing via social media) useful and/or entertaining content that functions as a “non-advertising advertisement” designed to foster deep and lasting relationships with highly targeted audiences. This content reflects the essence of a brand or product (or values, etc.), but is presented without the jargon so that, while a deeper analysis would reveal it’s true character, it may not be blatantly apparent on the surface. Engaged users will either organically or strategically be funneled into the bridge where the business/product can be creatively and honestly introduced before funneling those interested into physical brick and mortar locations or a website.

The idea is that the culture, lingo, sales pitch, etc… of your brand creates culture shock with uninitiated customers. Imagine if you parachuted into a foreign country where you didn’t speak the language… you’d probably want to leave right away, unless you had a translator of course–and that’s what the bridge is; a translator. When you dive right into a sales presentation, you’re essentially disrespecting a person because you are only after one thing: their money. Alternatively, the digital bridge ecosystem fosters deep and meaningful relationships with prospective clients. It invests in them, whether or not they become a customer eventually or not. The bridge is there to run interference and diffuse any potential culture shock so customers don’t bounce out immediately.

It all begins with identifying a target audience. Don’t take the shotgun approach; instead, be a sniper, deliberately picking who you want to go after. Let’s say you want to reach females ages 18-24. You’ll need to identify their interests, needs, culture, style, expectations and habits. Essentially, what makes them tick. Once you know that, you can begin crafting useful content that reaches out to them.

 

As an example, if you know your target audience is looking for fashion and dating advice, what kind of useful content can you create that will make a positive impact with them? Your content can come in the form of a blog, an app, video, audio or even a game. Maybe you can create a series of video episodes that live on the web showcasing advice from real people or maybe you can create a blog that posts tips and tricks with photos that can be shared on interest. Whatever you develop will the the asset that reaches out to your target audience.

That first asset should have the ability to either organically (of their own interest) or strategically (sift through data to find who is most engaged) funnel interested audience members into your bridge asset. The bridge should be an immersive experience as opposed to a bulleted list of benefits. As you’ll find out int he upcoming section, creativity is absolutely essential to success. More on that to come. Needless to say, hire the best ad or interactive agency you can afford to create a bridge asset that creatively and honestly defines your company or product. Tell them who your audience is and let them craft an engaging experience. Perhaps it incorporates geo-location, customer videos and sleek animation–or–maybe it includes an element of gamification. The bridge should be built in a way that funnels top prospects into your stores or toward a set goal.

Above all else, no element of this ecosystem can be a let down. If your first asset and bridge asset are great but the final website people funnel down to looks like it was created around the beginning of the internet… you lose.

Implementing a bridge system doesn’t have to cost a lot, although money can amplify certain aspects of a successful campaign. Whether you are an individual, small business or large business, do the best you can within your given constraints.

Summary

When Ford debuted the Fiesta in the U.S., it sold 10,000 cars in the first six days thanks to social media campaigns that generated 6.5 million views on YouTube and 50,000 info requests from people wanting to know more about the car. PepsiCo gathered social media insights through DEWmocracy promotions which led to sales of more than 36 million cases of crowdsourced Mountain Dew varieties. Levi Strauss has used social media to offer location-specific deal which drove thousands of people to it’s stores based on social media’s word of mouth power. How will you use social media to impact your bottom line?

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4 comments

    1. Oh thanks Adi! It took a long time to put together! I developed this for a project I am pitching… but I thought I’d share with the world in case it could be useful to others. Thanks for reading!

  1. The digital bridge concept is a neat way to look at it. My favorite line: “The bridge is there to run interference and diffuse any potential culture shock so customers don’t bounce out immediately.” :)
    I’m glad you shared it openly. I’m sharing sharing it with my circles.

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