When we first started ImagiBrand, we were conflicted whether to brand our marketing company as a social media agency or a content marketing agency. We ultimately decided on the former rather than the latter mainly because we discovered that too many companies still operated under a traditional marketing mindset and weren’t ready to fully embrace a content marketing strategy for reaching consumers on social media. Fast-forward to the present, and surprisingly, far too many companies still underestimate the power of content marketing created specifically for their social media channels. How do we know? Every month companies throughout the country reach out to us requesting help with their social media presence. Unfortunately, we keep hearing the same perplexing backstories about what these companies have tried, and more importantly, what these companies have failed to understand over the years about social media for business. Whether we’re talking about Twitter or Facebook, Instagram or YouTube, it is important to understand that these social channels are just communication tools. If a company has not opened up their marketing budgets to include the creation of their own branded content to support their social efforts, they really shouldn’t be disappointed by the lack of results. It’s akin to a television studio expecting viewer ratings without actually airing anything or spending any money on producing any actual content. Seems like common sense, yes? Then why are so many companies still expecting their social media marketing to exist successfully without a commitment to content marketing? Content marketing is the fuel that makes the social media machine work.
Therefore, we thought it best to lay out some of the key content marketing decisions every brand needs to make as they plan their content for social.
Decision #1: Do We Have the Capability to Post Content Consistently on Social?
With the exception of Twitter, we aren’t necessarily advocates for the obligatory daily social post by a brand. In our opinion, quality will always win over quantity. However, on the other end of the spectrum, a brand cannot expect to grow their social following, let alone maintain a social community by the occasional post to their Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+ business pages only once a month or even less. Why should any brand expect to elicit online responses from a community that they only occasionally dabble in? Consistency breeds community on social. Once a brand starts sharing social content on a more consistent basis, their engagement rate per post will increase and the level of engagement will intensify over time. It’s all about building trust and credibility with a targeted audience.
Unfortunately, many companies don’t have an in-house staff capable of consistently producing content customized for a social audience. They might have a few traditional commercials or conference presentations they could throw up on their social streams, but this type of content will probably only yield a few yawns and an uninspired response from their fans and followers. Unless a company such as this is committed enough to hire an in-house creative staff to produce a consistent flow of branded content, it sometimes makes more sense to outsource the creative.
Decision #2: What is Our Willingness to Spend on Content Marketing?
Whenever we’re asked about the costs for creating content for social media, the answer truly is that “it depends.” It is always easier to start with your budget for content creation and then we work together to determine what makes the most sense with your specific budget in mind. Interestingly, nearly half of the brands that reach out to us for our social media management services hadn’t planned on producing any content at all. When you’re on social day-in and day-out, it may seem like common sense that one cannot grow an online community without content, but we have come to understand that this may not be readily apparent to a brand new to social or a brand that has yet to figure out that content is the secret sauce for growing an online audience. More times than not, a brand is reaching out for help because they don’t have the creative wherewithal or resources to develop and produce content, let alone an understanding of how best to manage this content on the various social channels available to them. That’s okay. If every company out there knew how to be successful on social and was able to create lead-generating content for social, we wouldn’t have much of an opportunity to thrive as an agency.
With all that being said, content isn’t cheap. For a year of content created specifically for a social audience, a small brand will need to be prepared to spend anywhere from $20K to $30K for some basic social graphics and brand photography and maybe a low-budget video or two. Video will always be the most expensive to produce due to all the moving parts necessary to execute professional brand storytelling. With video having the greatest success when it comes to lead generation and online conversions, a brand can easily spend in-between $50K to well north of $100K per year on their video content depending on the complexity and demands of the productions from the types of locations and level of visual effects to the number of videos being produced.
As an example, a typical client has us produce anywhere from twenty to forty videos per year for their social channels. It’s not a cheap proposition to take on this level of commitment for social, but these clients understand the power of video on social media. The old adage of “you get what you pay for,” holds very true in the world of content creation as well as social media management. Anyone can always find a less expensive option, but spending less usually means you’re getting less. You can always hire a starving artist straight out of film school to produce some little videos for your company, but do they have the brand storytelling experience and the social marketing savvy to deliver content which produces business results? They certainly could. You could get lucky. If you’re the boss, then you could roll the dice and hope for the best. If your job and career depends on what is ultimately delivered, then I highly recommend you invest in professional content creators. Preferably content creators whom specialize in content for social.
Decision #3: Which Forms of Content Should We Focus On?
Highly integrated into a brand’s social strategy is their content marketing strategy. You cannot have one without the other. A social strategy without content is similar to a real estate agent promoting an open house event without an actual house to show. What would be the point? You’d have an audience of prospects scratching their heads and staring at each other in bewilderment, trying to understand why they were all brought here. An online community is no different. Getting people to follow your brand is one thing, it is quite another to maintain their interest and deepen their understanding of your product or service over time.
The decision on the exact focus for your branded content is also dependent on your brand’s overall marketing objectives. Is your brand looking for higher levels of social engagement, more online leads, or both? Are you chasing awareness with a new target audience or new product awareness with your existing audience? Is your company marketing business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C) or a combination of both? Which forms of content we might recommend depends on the answers to these fundamental questions.
In general, a brand’s social stream should have a balanced blend of several forms of content ranging from blogs and whitepapers to graphics and videos. Once there is a clear picture on your true marketing objectives, a content plan can be put together with the content budget we have to work with. There will always be budgetary constraints, so most brands cannot expect to include everything in their annual content calendar. The following are some of the basic forms of branded content that should be under consideration.
Company Blogging – Are You Sharing Value or Fulfilling an Obligation?
Does your company have a blog? Are there employees actively posting to this blog? What is the quality of the blog? Are they short, micro-blogs of only a couple hundred words or longer, more in-depth blogs of 2,000+ words?
A blog can supply multiple functions for a brand. They are a great long-term strategy for improving your search engine results for relevant keywords for your product, service and/or industry. Blogs serve as a great communication tool between your brand and new partnerships and customers. There is no better way to establish your brand’s credibility as a thought-leader in an industry than through the words on a blog. If the blog is well-written and provides good value, it becomes highly shareable. Sharing is the key to reaching new customers through having been validated by a simple social share.
There are some caveats to blogging. It’s difficult for even the largest of companies to keep up. The greatest contributors to their blog change positions or leave the company altogether. Finding the right internal talent that has an ability to write that actually knows what he or she is writing about can be a challenge to find, let alone replace with efficiency. Outsourcing blog content is even more challenging. Who else but employees living and breathing your company is best suited to write about it? We are strong proponents of keeping blogs written in-house with strategic consulting from the outside. We can usually tell when a blog is being treated like a company obligation – they’re usually relatively short hovering around 500 words or less and unfortunately vague in nature. You’ve seen them. They are usually titled with something like, “Ten Ways to Stay Productive,” or “Why Projects Fail.” They are very generic in nature and could have been a blog post written for countless other random companies selling who knows what. Regardless of posting frequency, their value to the brand itself is limited. They’re usually not memorable and rarely inspire people to investigate the brand posting the blog beyond a cursory glance at the catchy title on the page.
In our opinion, if the person tasked with writing a blog cannot easily write a 2,000 word blog post, they probably don’t know enough or have enough experience with your brand, your product, or your industry. It’s much better to write a couple of really well thought-out and researched blog posts once a month than pumping out useless blog dribble several times per week.
Customized Graphics for Social – A Great Communication Tactic
Some brands have adapted to marketing on social better than others. Smart brands have quickly come to understand that creating customized graphics for their social channels is not only beneficial to their brand, but a necessity. In a previous post, I asked brands to question whether their content strategy was respecting its audience. A quick way to disrespect your online audience is to not take the time and effort to use graphics as a means to communicate your brand essence, brand personality and brand message. Social audiences love graphics – they’re extremely shareable, likeable, and when executed well, have the ability to communicate a message mush quicker than the time it takes for a prospect to read a blog. Especially in this present era where the attention spans are shorter and the noise out there on social becomes louder as each year passes, social graphics are a great tactic to quickly gain attention and hopefully compel consumers to take a deeper dive into more of your content on and off social.
It has also become a common practice by many brands not fully committed to developing their social presence to curate content from other sources and then posting this content in their community. When you share this content to your social streams, it might fulfill a perceived obligation to not allow your social streams to look neglected, but it doesn’t actually help your brand. Your generous share of other brand’s content helps the brands who created the content – you’re more than likely sending eyeballs and traffic to their website and away from your own social. That is not to say that strategic shares are not a good relationship-building practice with these brands if that is actually your intent. If your brand wants to grow brand awareness and develop targeted leads for its own products and services, then producing graphics specifically for social is vital to achieving those objectives.
Professional Brand Photography vs. Smartphone Photos
It really depends on the company, but when it comes to specific product photography, we always recommend professional photography for social. When it comes to capturing photos in and around the office and industry events, the everyday smartphone takes decent photos, that is, assuming the person taking the photos can at least insure the photos are in-focus. Smartphone pics can be easily retouched, cropped for better composition and then branded for social. In many cases, photos captured with the average smartphone are more than adequate to share the personality behind the brand.
The Importance of Brand Videos
As mentioned earlier, video storytelling on social yields incredible results. Unfortunately, videos are the most complicated to produce. Unlike blogs that only needs a single person that can write and possibly a second to produce some graphics to help illustrate the words on the page, videos have so many more requirements, roles and elements needed to take each project from concept all the way to final delivery.
Very few of us went to film school. Even fewer of us will ever be or care to be the next Steven Spielberg. Nonetheless, it doesn’t matter if you’re molding the story around a promotional interview or developing a narrative short video to promote a new product, there needs to be an experienced visionary behind the camera that has the experience to produce a little Hollywood magic for your brand. Unlike the traditional world of producing a single 30-second commercial spot and putting all your eggs in one promotional basket, an optimal social strategy might require a new video each month or even each week – that’s a heck of a lot of story development and execution for a year’s worth of videos. Times have changed. Social media has created an entirely new generation of opportunities for today’s filmmakers. It’s truly an exciting time to be a creative!
There is nothing like the creative energy that’s generated when it comes time to finally capture the footage that was purely just conceptual during the weeks and months of planning that preceded. There are so many moving parts when it comes to video production, especially when the shoot has complications like multiple locations using employees of the company, customers, vendors or simply inexperienced actors under a tight shooting schedule. For instance, it’s all too common for brand videos to become complicated by the brand’s leadership and key staff not being accustomed to speaking on camera on behalf of the brand. It’s extremely tough to sound intelligent, articulate and natural in front of the camera unless you’re one of those naturally-gifted speakers that loves being on camera. Unexpected production problems should be expected because they will happen regardless of how experienced a production team you are using. Video production has a unique relationship with Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Experienced video crews know how to handle the continual challenges facing them each and every day.
There is a plethora of other considerations besides locations and actors that should be addressed. Even if a video is being shot at a company’s office location, that doesn’t mean it’s camera-ready. 90% of the time, we need several hours if not days of clean-up, rearranging and bringing in outside decorations and props to create the perfect shooting environment to best represent the brand, its products and company culture. We’re not suggesting that we manipulate reality like a typical Hollywood movie, but rather make sure that we’re visually highlighting what is important to the brand, its essence and its message. Shockingly, many companies put videos up on social or their website without paying attention to these visual details and may be doing more damage than good. Take a glance around your companies’ possible shooting locations, whether they be employee offices, conference rooms, manufacturing areas or product warehouses – Are these spaces clean and orderly or messy and cluttered with random office crap? Would the present furnishings, wall decorations and branded décor represent the image and message your brand stands for? On occasion, some companies might need a complete image overhaul or will need to shoot their company video at a location separate from where they conduct their actual day-to-day business operations. Usually it’s minor adjustments to the décor and just a little tidying up of certain spaces.
Post production is where all the magic actually happens. It’s the period where the most time will be spent sorting through the hours of video footage that was shot and finding those nuggets of story gold. Depending on the production budget, this is also where we’ll be able to add any visual effects that will best tell your brand story. Aside from adding basic titles, most visual effects will have been planned for during the development period so that footage could be shot a certain way to best prepare the implementation of the effect during post production. What type of visual effects are we talking about? Pretty much anything that the imagination can come up with. Want to add something simple such as a magical twinkle to someone’s eye or something more complicated like having the entire video taking place on another planet? Anything and everything is possible – it’s all about time and money. However, when it comes to visual effects in brand videos, I always recommend keeping things simple regardless of the budget. Visual effects should only aid in the telling of your brand story. If the audience will not miss an effect, then leave it out. Always best to remain as authentic as possible. Bells and whistles are just bells and whistles – they are meaningless without good storytelling.
Regardless of how complicated and costly making a collection of brand videos can be, they are always well worth it in the end. Nothing beats high-quality content like video production. No words on a blog or design on a graphic connects with consumers more than good brand storytelling on video
Decision #4: How Will We Distribute and Promote Our Content on Social?
The Profiling of Facebook and Instagram
In our experience, Facebook is absolutely essential, regardless if your company is focused on content marketing for B2B or B2C. There is such a large and diverse audience that can be reached on Facebook. Despite the rumors that the Millennial generation prefer Snapchat over Facebook – they might not make personal posts to Facebook as often, but they still check their Facebook stream daily to see what others are sharing. On the opposite side of the generational spectrum is the enterprise-level senior leaders that you might wrongly assume that they don’t use social media. Nearly three-quarters of online adults use Facebook, even if their only agenda is to monitor the activities of their children and grand-children. Basically, anyone can be reached on Facebook just as long as you have a solid strategy to reach them consistently with your branded content. The customer profiling using Facebook is extremely powerful and has been quite the game-changer for many of our clients. However, being effective on Facebook takes an experienced manager that knows how to navigate Facebook’s Power Editor and how to wisely distribute a brand’s monthly budget for promoting their strategic content. The inexperienced can easily waste thousands of promotional dollars each month on the wrong content aimed at the wrong audience using the wrong process to capture customer leads.
If your company is a lifestyle brand that produces a great deal of photography and graphics, then Instagram should be at the top of your priority list as well. After Instagram was acquired by Facebook in 2012, the use of this mobile photo and video sharing platform skyrocketed in popularity, especially with the always coveted demographic of young adults. Combined with the ability to profile and promote to targeted audiences using Facebook’s Power Editor and/or Ad Manager, the results leave even the most seasoned marketers equally impressed and excited.
The Value of Twitter
Aside from Facebook and possibly Instagram, is there a social channel which takes priority over the other remaining options out there to distribute a brand’s content? Most brands do the one-two punch of Facebook + Twitter. It’s not surprising since these two social channels routinely receive the most publicity. Twitter can be an extremely powerful tool. If used correctly, Twitter has the power to connect your brand with influential figures that can take your brand to new heights. Sharing links to content is a big part of the culture of Twitter, mainly derived from its 140 character limit which naturally enabled the need to tell and show more off the platform. This makes Twitter a big traffic driver to your company website. If your company’s strategy is steeped heavily in blogs, then Twitter will be an important channel of distribution.
The Power of YouTube
Producing videos without a YouTube strategy is like selling cheeseburgers without the cheese. In other words, if your company has made a commitment to producing a steady stream of video content, then it would be a major disservice to not be working on your brand’s YouTube presence. With YouTube being the second largest search engine and a fully-own subsidiary of Google, its importance is paramount to your video content being discovered. While it’s entirely feasible to produce videos solely for the purpose of content for Facebook, you would simply not be extracting the full value from your video productions if you aren’t utilizing YouTube. In much the same fashion as a good blogger pays attention to the search engine optimization (SEO) of their written content for Google, every video uploaded to YouTube needs to be optimized for both YouTube as well as Google search.
Google+ Might be a Sleeping Giant
There have been quite a few changes over the last few years on Google+. It might have conceded the race to Facebook to becoming the preeminent social network, but it would be a mistake to dismiss this platform as being dead. There have been countless articles written about the demise of G+, but Google has been making strategic changes to shift their focus away from being a social network and redirecting towards becoming a home for niche communities and collections. Prior to the shift, Google+ was a popular platform for the technology and lifestyle industries. Communities on Google+ were and still are very active for industries ranging from fashion and travel to tech education and gaming. For instance, our team at ImagiBrand started a Fashion Community on Google+ several years ago and it has become a powerful community for fashion brands to share and promote their latest designs and products with a community which now boasts well over 140K members. It didn’t surprise us here when Google started focusing the platform on communities. We’ve been witnessing this strength for years. We’ve always just wondered why it took Google so long to realize the opportunity that was unfolding before their very eyes. Better late than never. We foresee great things to come for brands and Google+. Should your brand be investing in Google+ now? It might be considered a slight risk with the platform’s development being somewhat fluid in nature. On the other hand, developing your niche community now could pay big dividends down the road when and if this sleeping giant finally awakens.
Content Marketing = Social Media Marketing
If your company is behind the times or just getting started and are yet to develop a presence on social media, it’s certainly never too late. However, it is important to realize the difference to having a brand on social media and being successful marketing a brand on social media. Without the proper resources and commitment to content marketing on social, a brand is better off waiting until they’re ready.
Curious to see if ImagiBrand is the right solution for your company? We encourage you to visit the following page which explains more about our social media services .
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- Is Your Social Content Strategy Respecting Its Audience? - October 8, 2015