To improve your social content, try looking beyond the usual social media platforms

Posted on December 15, 2014 by - Theory and practice

Network map for content marketing

Sometimes the least glamorous social channels are the most powerful. Learn where your audience goes for information, and find a way to join the conversation. Photo by Beth Kanter, CC by 2.0

Organizations often use social media to broadcast their messages to the largest possible audience. It’s true that if even a few people share your content with their own networks, your number of “impressions,” “likes,” “friends,” and “followers” can add up fast.

This approach might be good enough if your objective is simply to “raise awareness” about your product, service, brand, or cause. But most organizations don’t fund their operations with Awareness Bucks. And who likes to be spammed by advertising-style social media messages?

Create granular content for targeted audiences

It’s often smarter to define objectives that directly support a business need. Then you can send targeted messages to the people who are the most likely to help you achieve your objective.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to segment your followers on social media. Jonathan Crossfield recently wrote about one solution—social media groups:

Instead of spraying your content across large numbers of generic followers in the hope of hitting the right target, you may find a ready-made community eagerly consuming the content you want to share.

I’m talking about social media groups, of course. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ each has different types of groups, community and/or fan-page functionalities. And these groups allow you to target some incredibly specific niches.

I’ve had success with this approach, but I would add that sometimes the most valuable groups aren’t the ones that belong to major social media platforms.

Sometimes the most valuable social groups are the ones that you might not even think of as social groups.

Learn where your audience goes for information

If your target audience is active in a particular Facebook group, Google+ community, or LinkedIn discussion group, then you’re in luck. If not, keep looking. Chances are that they’re having a conversation somewhere online—but you might need to do some old-fashioned market research to discover where.

At the relief and development agency where I work, I help colleagues communicate with government donors, international partners, field staff, and researchers. These are diverse groups, and some of their members do use Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook for work.

But those platforms aren’t where most of the conversations happen in the industry. Instead, the most important online conversations happen through discussion lists, discussion boards, newsletters, and blogs.

My team compiled an inventory of these channels by interviewing staff members and external audiences. We periodically update the inventory as new employees join the agency. Almost every employee can add at least one professional network to the list.

Our target audiences might not be the most active on Facebook or Twitter, but many of them subscribe to the Health Information and Publications Network’s discussion list, or they read the Food Security and Nutrition Network’s e-mail newsletter, or they follow the American Evaluation Association’s blog, to give just a few examples.

Communicating through these channels isn’t always glamorous, but it has been effective for us. It allows us to cut through the noise and share valuable content with precisely the people who are looking for it. And when you share valuable information with the right people at the right time, they tend to remember you.

Measure what matters

This approach might not produce breathtaking vanity metrics. If your boss expects your content to receive hundreds of “likes” or millions of “impressions,” you might need to reset expectations. However, it shouldn’t be a hard sell if your objectives truly support business needs.

You might need to set up some custom analytics code in order to measure the right types of information. Don’t worry, this doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive. In a future post, I’ll share how I used Google URL Builder and some custom Google Analytics code to better track engagement in multichannel campaigns.

Josh TongJosh Tong is a content strategist and content marketer in Washington, DC. He helps colleagues create powerful content through research, strategy, and implementation.

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To Improve Your Social Content, Try Looking Beyond the Usual Social Media Platforms by Josh Tong is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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