3 Ways to Master the Social Media Conversation

How to Fuel the Social Media Discussion  [Examples]

Social media has a voracious appetite when it comes to content. Like a growing teenager that’s constantly eating, social media always needs more.

To help you fuel the social media conversation, here are the three major content sources you need to tap, the five content types you can use, plus thirteen tips on how to expand your social media base.

3 Forms of content required

Here are the major three forms of content you need to keep the social media conversation going.

  1. Regular content. This is the full breadth of content you plan, create and publish regularly based on your editorial calendar to synchronize with your overall marketing. This encompasses the breadth of information your organization produces, not just for social media or marketing. (Not sure what content your organization has, then perform a content audit.) 
  2. On-going participation. This content results from your continuing engagement across social media and other live platforms. It includes presentations (generally shared via Slideshare), videos and Google+ hangouts, and other tweets, comments and shares. This content encompasses vetted public presentations as well as commentary and engagement by your social media managers, customer service representatives, sales personnel and others. Vice President Biden’s use of a Google+ Hangout to discuss gun violence was an example of how powerful this engagement can be.

    (Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2013/01/24/white-house-hangout-vice-president-joe-biden-reducing-gun-violence)
  3. Opportunistic participation. This content is created specifically to take advantage of a special event or happening, such as the Presidential Inauguration and the Super Bowl (often referred to as the Special Game), trending topics and news, and celebrity activities. David Meerman Scott dubbed this “Newsjacking”. One of the best examples was Oreos social media engagement during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout when half of the New Orleans stadium went dark.

    Oreo Super Bowl Photo Tweet

5 Types of information content social media needs

  1. News. In today’s always connected world, we get the news via television, radio, newspapers, the Internet, email, text and word of mouth. Go for news targeted to meet your audience’s specific needs. The more tightly related to your topic, the better it will perform. For example, here’s how Everyone Loves Free Stuff took advantage of the Presidential Inauguration. 
  2. Educational information including how-to’s and styling. Consumers want and need information about how to use your products. Go beyond the basic instructions (although having complete information regarding assembly is useful.) Take a step outside of your comfort zone and approach your products as if you had never used them before. This translates to tutorials for using your products and images of how to put together this season’s clothes. Here’s Target’s New York City shoot showing its latest outfit Sex And the City Style on Perry Street.
  3. Patterns and recipes using your products. Encourage customers to use your products by giving them the instructions incorporating their use. Don’t overlook the opportunity to include a linked product list. Allow customers to print it out or send it to their smartphones.  For example, Kraftfoods provides a range of recipes to help plan family meals. Here’s Jambalya in time for Mardi Gras. Note how they highlight Kraft products.
  4. Consumer input. Use a broad definition of consumer content. Recognize that only a small proportion of your visitors and customers will create content (90% read your information, 9% take a small action, such as share or vote, and 1% contribute content, such as writing a comment.) Therefore, simplify what you want your audience to do. Think quick-and-easy such as a photo or vote. For example, Lion Brand took photos of customers who were wearing things they made with Lion Brand yarn.

  5. Entertaining information. Unless you’ve got a business focused on a somber topic such as running a funeral home, consider how your content can have fun. Think of what’s funny for your audience – cat photos don’t work for every business. Here’s a shot from one of my favorite amusing sites, Cake Wrecks, which every day gives readers a reason to laugh. Take note of this holiday, National Dump Your Significant Jerk Week. (I’m not sure whether it’s real or not but the cakes are.)

13 Ways to build your social media base

For your social media communications to have meaning you need to have a community who’s interested in your point of view and activities. To this end, it’s important to continually build your base. Without positive action on your part, over time you audience will erode.

  1. Pay it forward. Share other people’s content and answer questions to help them.
  2. Follow the thought leaders in your category across social networks. Know what the experts in your field are saying on social media so you can share and engage with them.
  3. Find like-minded individuals on various social media sites. Most social media sites provide tools to help you find other people you may know or want to follow.
  4. Incorporate social media follow buttons on your website and blog. Ensure that they appear on every page because you never know how someone will enter your site. Include a call-to-action to get visitors to join you.
  5. Comment on other blogs in your field. Go beyond the “great post comment” and add real meat to the conversation. If your commentary is valuable, the blogger will find out who you are. For example, check out the conversation generated by my guest blog post on Social Media Examiner which has sixty-eight comments, half of them are mine. I used each comment as an opportunity to extend the conversation. (BTW—if you’re a columnist or a guest blogger, it’s expected that you’ll respond to comments for the first three days.)
  6. Guest post on other blogs. This means writing amazing content for other blogs. This enables you to leverage their audience and let them know who you are.
  7. Offer incentives to get people to follow you. Understand that followers who only join you for a coupon or other bribe have a higher likelihood of leaving.
  8. Distribute content on owned media platforms including your website, blog, and email.
  9. Highlight your content in your customer communications. Include a call-to-action and a link in a P.S. to your purchase and customer service emails.
  10. Leverage your real life establishments. Let visitors know about your content via your shopping bags, handouts, in-store signage and sales receipts. Don’t underestimate the power of your shop window.
  11. Attend tradeshows and other live events. Use your presentations, promotional items and business cards to let others know about your social media presence.
  12. Use your company intranet and email signature files. Take advantage of your internal communications to ensure all of your employees are part of your communities.
  13. Incorporate a message about your social media presence in your offline communications and advertising. Think print catalogs, newspapers and magazines.

Remember, the social media discussion isn’t a one-time event, it’s an on-going conversation. To succeed, you need to have a variety of forms of content, a mix of types of information and a community that supports your efforts.

What else would you add to this list to fuel the social media conversation?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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  • http://www.facebook.com/scottwayres Scott Ayres

    Lots of info to chew on here. Was like 3 blog posts into one!

    • HeidiCohen

      Scott –

      Mastering the social conversation is difficult because it’s multi-faceted.

      Happy marketing,
      Heidi Cohen

  • Dejeesh Dev

    Hey Heidi Cohen Nice read, thanks for sharing.

    -3 Forms of content required,
    This will make sense all marketers, actually this is new for me. Before this I just create a content only only categorized it based on these 3 which is mentioned by you.

    -5 Types of information content social media needs,
    Only need these 5 information ?
    I my opinion, we have to crawl more opportunities and find suitable information like Events.

    -13 Ways to build your social media base,
    I’m completely agree with your 13 poits.

    Thanks again Cohen!

    • HeidiCohen

      Dejeesh–

      Thank you for your thoughtful response.

      While I agree events are content, the information generally falls into one of these five categories. For most businesses, it’s educational information.

      Happy marketing,
      Heidi Cohen

  • freelance writers

    The common thread through all of these
    strategies is creating genuine engagement. Making connections with other social
    media users, including other bloggers, and becoming a contributor to the
    conversation in your niche leverages the power of social media to bring people
    to your own website where you can really sell to them. The essence of success
    is persistence and too many people think that they can make a post on Facebook
    and wait for the click-throughs to start rolling in. When that doesn’t happen
    they blame social media instead of their own facile level of engagement with
    the people that they want to make into their customers.