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The Essential Guide to Social Media Content
Monday, March 5, 2012 | Bruce Johnston, LinkedIn Evangelist and Sales Coach

Most of us know that content refers to the messages sent through social media platforms, whether it’s on a blog, or through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn.

And, if there is one commandment to writing social media content, it’s this: Thou shalt not sell. In social media, it is much better to publish valuable industry information than to attempt to sell your products or services.

Social media marketing is all about getting people interested in what you have to say. And how many people are going to get excited about your acquisition of a new drill? Is this the riveting content that’s going to make your possible customers say, “Gee, I wonder if they’ll buy something next week? I better check back to see!”

And this applies to features, benefits, company history, corporate philosophy, and all that "you-centric" stuff. You write about those things and you lose people’s interest immediately.

When you go fishing, what do you put on the hook at the end of the line? A note telling the fish to please bite because you’re really hungry? No. You put a nice juicy wriggly irresistible worm on the hook. You make it all about the fish. And by making it all about the fish, you catch the fish.

So, if you're not going to write about your products or services, what do you write about? Easy. Find something important to the customer. Research what your best customers want to know. What’s new, upcoming, or controversial in their work lives? Ideally, you want a topic people feel strongly about, on which they have an opinion.

Your content has to be interesting, controversial, practical, and educational--though maybe not all at the same time. You want readers to become engaged and interested. You want them to come back and to get in the habit of coming back. This is how you can get people to follow you--build their trust and ultimately engage them about your product or service.

If you can figure out something that’s compelling in your target audience's work lives, you can get them engaged. But what if you’re stuck and can’t think of any great content? Just ask them. What are the burning issues they confront each day? What information would help them? What issues are looming on the horizon? In many cases you don’t need to become an expert on a topic, but a repository where all the current and leading edge information on a topic is located.

An example I used previously was a company appealing to contractors by becoming the local authority on zoning by-laws and building permit rules. The contractors don’t have the time individually to keep up to date on all this stuff, so in doing so, the vendor became the place to go for that type of information. They became a trusted resource for this information without ever having to overtly sell their product. And when it comes time to buy that product, the contractors start with a very favorable opinion of that vendor.

Over time you want to be seen as a valuable resource. You want to be the go-to place for information or guidance or opinion or news on a topic of interest to your customers. You will build a following. You will build their trust. Then, and only then, after you have built their trust, will you be able to convert them to sales leads. They may even ask you about your new drill.

Bruce Johnston is a sales consultant specializing in social media. He has over 25 years' experience in high-tech sales and management, most recently as general manager of a PCB manufacturer. He can be reached through his website www.practicalsmm.com or through his profile on LinkedIn.


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