Post written by
VP of Marketing at Sprout Social
Creating and distributing social media content for your brand is like walking a tightrope. If you’re too quiet, no one will care about or remember you. If you talk too much or come across as promotional, people are quick to click “unfollow.” So how do you give your community what it wants and successfully build a content strategy around that?
To complicate matters further, the qualities that initially draw consumers to your profiles might be the same qualities that deter them once they’re part of your community. A recent study we conducted found that, while many people come to your brand’s social profile looking for deals and promotions (58%) or incentives (42%), they may not keep them engaged. In fact, too many promotional messages not only annoy 60% of followers, they also cause 46% of people to unfollow a brand.
Suddenly, the tightrope feels a lot skinnier.
Engage In Proper Proportions
Everyone has heard of the 80/20 rule and it generally applies in this situation: Aim to engage your audience 80% of the time and promote your brand the other 20%. While the analogy shouldn’t oversimplify a targeted and multifaceted content strategy, it’s a good benchmark to follow. As you construct your content calendar (you can read more about how to build one here), establish a checks and balances system and extend visibility so that your entire team can collaborate.
Take regular inventory of your content, monthly if not weekly, and ensure that there is a healthy mix of topics, sources and multimedia. If more than 20% link back to your website with CTAs centered around sales or direct response, you may be getting too promotional. A vast majority of your social content shouldn’t just be straight links to your site; instead, it should be comprised of helpful third-party links and stories, user-generated content, personality-driving content, quizzes and questions, videos, educational content and much more.
Other than the 80/20 rule, trust your instincts. You likely use social in your personal life. Before you post content on your company page, ask yourself: “Would this annoy me?” Your community will likely feel the same way, and they won’t hesitate to take action against your content and brand if you strike the wrong chord. Social is a communication channel — a place to learn, engage and interact with diversified content, so map your content to match.
Take The Time To Actually Listen
A recent piece by Vox’s Ezra Klein on the leadership style of Hillary Clinton analyzed not her policies or political woes but her personal style and how it differentiates her from other political figures. He summed up years of research, data and interviews in two words: She listens.
Regardless of your personal views or political party patronage, Klein’s conclusion can and should be carried over when it comes to social communications. I often see brands big and small push promotions and self-serving content in disproportionate amounts when what they should actually be doing is listening.
Your communities organically tell you what they want by hitting the “like” or “share” buttons and engaging directly with your posts. On a micro level, monitor these individual conversations and respond to those that need it in a timely manner. Our survey found that one in four people were annoyed when brands didn’t respond to them, so by reading and responding to these messages you will not only answer questions and get to know your community, you’ll earn their respect.
On a macro level, use social listening to drive strategy and determine what you should be creating, the cadence of your content and who you should be targeting. By analyzing that data in aggregate, you’ll identify trends in your content and can pivot your strategy accordingly, thus better appealing to your community and avoiding potential annoyance.
Listen and utilize social monitoring to learn about your customers, inform your overall strategy and stay on balance with what resonates.
Words Matter, So Make Them Count
In the quest to be cool, brands sometimes adopt a tone and voice that just isn’t effective. There is a legitimate cost to not only over-promoting, but to overriding the real you. We found that 71% of people unfollowed a brand because they were embarrassed by a company’s content and 38% are irritated by slang. So while the newest slang may creep into popular lexicon, it doesn’t mean you should litter your social profiles with it.
By thinking of social not just as a marketing tactic, but as a communication channel, you won’t depart from your brand’s voice. In fact, social will become a human extension. People come to social communities as their authentic selves, and their expectation is that you and your brand should too. Get to know the language and tools that can make social communication more effective (like gifs, link shorteners and emojis) and employ the right people and resources to write copy and carry on conversations that are authentic, meaningful and to the point.
Social as a discipline continues to evolve. As marketers and social professionals, we owe it to ourselves, our teams and our communities to navigate it properly. Engage in appropriate conversations, listen to your communities and make the most of each conversation to avoid alienating the customer. A balanced approach will ensure you remain engaging and always stick the landing.