Collaboration is the core of digital marketing. The success of a campaign is not defined by any one business area but the coordination of these teams in order to produce work that has been optimised for the most impact. I’ve explored the importance of teamwork before in the context of creativity; a sustained metaphor for prehistoric man ensued, complete with flint, sparks, and hunks of shouldered prey. The same metaphor extends wonderfully here.

Content is an innately social form of communication. The earliest stories were community-led events, told by starlight and the roar of fire pits: advisory tales, myths, and legend designed to make sense of the world. This prehistoric man died out thousands of years ago, but his oral traditions survive to this day. The modern relationship between social and content is made different only by our technology and the digital platforms we now use to communicate. Coordinated effectively, this relationship can be used to bring both your social and content marketing strategies to life.

In the name of collaboration, this is a joint post between our social media executive, Sarah, and myself. From established basics to the latest trends, let’s look at the emerging voice of social content 2016.

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1. The basics

The relationship between social and content marketing

At its simplest, social depends on shareable content in order to engage and mobilise an audience. Similarly, content relies on effective promotion in order to reach target readers. The collaboration of the two bridges the gaps between strategy, social, content, and customer for a successful publishing experience.

The social promotion of content confers a number of obvious benefits. Blog posts are notoriously short-lived; depending on your level of activity, posts can be hidden from your main page within days or weeks, making them difficult for readers to find. This is where the power of social comes in: with social pages now ranking in Google, tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram images can all be used to improve the visibility of your content through social and search.

Sharing content to social channels also enables you to more closely monitor its effectiveness. Results can be gauged in a number of ways:

  • What is the engagement like?
  • Who is engaging with the content?
  • Is your audience commenting or sharing, and if so, what is it saying?
  • Is the content achieving its goals?

With the right tools, you can also track more specific user details like bounce rates, page views, and average session duration, informing you specifically of how your audience is interacting with your content. Monitoring content in this way helps you to have a clearer idea of who the audience is and what it wants. From subject matter, to the language of your copy, to more technical specs, tracking the performance of your posts through tools like Google Analytics and Moz provides invaluable insights, enabling you to write clearer, more targeted content going forwards.

The social advantages

From a social viewpoint, strong content is everything. The ability to promote relevant, valuable, ultimately shareable content is integral to an effective social presence. Compelling copy makes it much easier for you to capture users’ attention and expand your reach outside of your established audience.

The top tips to consider when sharing your content on social include the following:

  • How can you maximise the audience reach? Many social platforms employ their own ways of furthering the promotion of posts. A hashtag on Twitter is an excellent example, enabling you to associate your post with a popular subject or theme in order to increase its visibility. Read more about how hashtagging works here.
  • Consider the different wording across the various social media channels. Twitter is character-restrictive, limiting the amount of text you can include with each tweet. Facebook is much more accommodating, but doesn’t have the same searchability, while text on Instagram images has a much harder job of being noticed over the images themselves. How will your post differ on Twitter compared to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and / or Linkedin?
  • What images can you use to help your content and social posts stand out from the crowd? A carefully-selected image can bring a piece of written content to life, and help it to make an impression in a busy newsfeed.

Only when all of these aspects are taken into consideration can social and content work to the best of their collaborative ability. For effective coordination of your social and content marketing efforts, you need a clear social content strategy.

Social content 2016: the direction social will head in

2. Social content strategy

The typical social content strategy

A social content strategy encompasses the planning, research, creation, and promotion of content for social. Obviously no two strategies are going to be the same. Every strategy should be carefully tailored to its specific campaign, in order to optimise performance and meet campaign goals. Despite this specificity, the questions that every social content strategy should seek to address are universal. An effective social content strategy needs to be able to answer the following:

  • Who are you trying to target? What do they want, and how do they act online? Identify your target audience and study its social behaviour to increase your chances of engagement.
  • What are typical sharing behaviours? Research more general shareability triggers and tailor your content to suit.
  • On which social platforms is your audience most active and responsive?
  • What forms of content does your audience most readily consume, and how do these relate to its favoured social platforms?
  • How are you using different social channels to complement one another? Think collaboration! Can your content be repurposed to better meet that channel’s audience?
  • What is the publishing calendar? Schedules should be established from the outset for each social channel and adhered to throughout the campaign, enabling the organised creation and timely publication of content through relevant channels.
  • How are you going to interact with your audience? Define a protocol for responding to user comments and engagement.

Social content marketing isn’t a new strategy, but when used considerately, with attention to planning, campaign goals, KPIs, and the latest social advancements, it can still be a highly effective means of maximising your online reach.

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3. The future of social content 2016

Social content: omni-channel publishing

The speed with which the social media scene is advancing puts increasing pressure on companies to re-evaluate their tactics, but the same can also be said of the reverse. As the way in which audiences consume content changes, so social media platforms are adapting in order to best meet these new demands. One such social advancement integral to the development of social content in 2016 is social platforms themselves as publishing destinations.

Contently identifies the trend as one of their key themes for content marketing going forward into 2016. In their article, they note that existing content marketing habits are still largely true to their print roots, when readers encountered your content in your magazine or advertorials. In digital speak, this is the equivalent of your blog or native content respectively. But digital is not the equivalent of print; for the first time in human history we have a virtual space where the whole world is listening. Neolithic man would have sunk to his knees and trembled at the unrivalled opportunity.

“2016 will be the start of the omni-channel publishing era.”

Even better, the social channels we have grown so used to sharing and promoting our content through are changing, too. With the development of publishing tools like LinkedIn Pulse,  Facebook Instant Articles, Medium and more, some of social’s biggest names are letting companies publish content to their social profiles natively. Enter the era of omni-channel publishing.

In Contently’s words, “succeeding in content marketing over the next five years is going to be about publishing to multiple platforms. It’s how brands will effectively build owned audiences and maximize their share of voice in a competitive landscape”.

Why is omni-channel publishing so effective?

In content terms, omni-channel publishing is huge. Uploading content to your social platforms puts your copy right where you want it: in front of your consumers’ eyes. It is no longer necessary for your audience to visit your website or chance across native content; by integrating your content seamlessly with your social channels, you can create a social content hub right in front of them.

“The transformation of social networks into publishing networks means that in the future, brand content won’t be about just marketing. It will be about everything.”

The implications stretch further than social content. Statistics from #smlondon put a staggering 89% of the UK as regular Internet users. They spend an average of four hours on desktops or tablets, over two hours of which is on social media. 59% of the UK population have active social media accounts.

social content 2016: smlondon quotesIf you’re still wondering where to publish your content for maximum reach in 2016, the short answer is social. With 32 million social media users accessing their accounts through their mobile every day, your social platforms become an extension of your brand like never before. From improved reach and engagement to better brand perception, customer relations, and ROI, this can lift your business head and shoulders above your competitors.

A final word on social and content collaboration

The benefits of social and content collaboration extend beyond the technical. Here at Zest, our social and content teams work together on a daily basis. This collaboration comes naturally, promoting a supportive working environment that enables us to plan, create, and distribute content to the best of our joint abilities. I am confident Sarah would say the same! If it is human to collaborate, then this is our culture, reminding us that an agency is more than just a digital mechanism, but a living, breathing community made up of people with human concerns.

“Marketing has never been about keywords”, said Simon Penson of Zazzle Media at last April’s BrightonSEO. “It’s about people.” Almost a year later, this quote has stuck with me. Working quietly through this copy with Sarah, to the white-noise chatter of Alex and James, the unending accounts of Laura’s weekend, and one of Jay’s thoroughly inappropriate remarks (take it up with HR), this is never clearer.

As a writer and a content creator, storytelling is never far from my mind. Advancements in technology have led to the need for us to tailor the stories we tell – and the way in which we tell them – but the storytelling itself remains the same. Neolithic man entranced generations with nothing but two shards of flint and a compelling narrative. Collaborate with your social team this coming year and start your own social content fires for maximum reach, narrative impact, and clear business results.

For your own social content 2016 strategy, give Zest a call on +44 (0)1865 684999 or contact us online.