Q: When it comes to using social media for branding and PR, what tools do you suggest to make the process easier?”
A: Despite what many entrepreneurs may believe, social media-based branding and PR isn’t actually about the tools or even the social media channels themselves, for that matter. I always say, “If your content sucks, all the tools and channels do is make it suck faster and for more people!”
That said, for us, Hootsuite – a social media dashboard that allows you to manage most of your online/social interactions in one platform – is an excellent tool for making it easier. There are also hundreds of other wildly popular apps that have gained traction over the past few months, including Vine for video content, Instagram for photo sharing and Tumblr for blogging.
But entrepreneurs must remember one very important thing: these apps don’t make your branding and PR efforts any better. That still comes down to your message.
Social media’s real purpose
We view social media channels as new and expanded ways to point people to our own industry insights. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other social media platform, our core strategy is the same: Share some provocative teaser message and link the audience to our insights. The length of the content itself may vary (since Twitter limits your word count much more than the other platforms), but the overall message is a cohesive one that stays the same across all delivery vehicles.
Creating the right content
As mentioned earlier, we use social media to bring our core messages to an even larger audience, but creating the insights themselves is where we focus all of our time and efforts. These insights are delivered by an infographic, video or visual story-driven eBook. But the content itself is driven by original, fresh research we regularly conduct within the market.
These insights-based assets are created to get people to raise their hands, give us more information about themselves and create a prospective opportunity that helps our business development representatives in the field. This is key. For us to believe that successful branding has taken place, we need to make sure our content has actually “left a mark” on our audience. And the only way we know that is if they subscribe to getting more content from us.
Integrating the right content in your social-media strategy
So, the primary goals of your social media strategy should be to:
Make it insightful: A great way to stand out is to conduct original, primary research that produces new data points in support of fresh industry insights. This can be done in a variety of ways: You can poll your existing customer base and content followers on key challenges they may or may not know about, or you can hire someone else to do it for you. Either way, ensure that you keep your own branding on those results because that’s how to get prospective clients to start regarding you as a thought leader in that area, which is what they’ll be looking for when they’re in need of a new business partner.
Insert your opinion: Generate a distinct point of view on matters of concern to the marketplace. Focus this point of view on not just on the obvious, known needs of your prospects and customers, but more importantly, on the unseen, under-valued, un-met and “unconsidered needs” where you have something different to say. This is your sweet spot, and will set you apart from your competitors.
Package insights with powerful visual assets: This is where the highly visual nature of social media will be your friend. Leverage the principles of good storytelling to create pictures, infographics and eBooks, among others, as these are designed to appeal to the way the brain processes decisions to change.
Market throughout all channels: You then need to promote and link to this content through every social channel and online group you can connect with
Separating yourself apart from the pack
Because no ironclad rules exist about how to stand out in social media, it’s easy to view it as a bit confusing from a branding perspective. With social platforms proliferating, the tendency is to think you’re stepping into a “brave new world” of marketing where everything is changing.
You can definitely overthink these matters. Don’t fall into that trap. More important than the media is the story, message and content you’re delivering through these channels.
After all, your company could be saturating all the right social sites, and drawing lots of eyeballs. But ultimately, if you’re not delivering stand out, provocative, visually powerful assets on those sites, the business return on your social activity will be limited.
In my view, it’s the story you deliver to the marketplace that ultimately transcends the social media question.
Related: Why Authenticity Is Key to Mastering Social Media Marketing