Lesson 8: Creating and Posting Compelling Content

Compelling content is essential for new customers to discover and follow a business, and for existing followers to remain engaged and excited. Customers who follow a business online are signaling some initial interest in that business, but that interest can wane over time. It must be kept fresh with compelling content. What exactly should that content be? It’s hard to say without knowing more about the business and its customers.

When you first start working with a business, learn more about its history and background. Understand the owner’s values and what events led to starting and running this business. Interview the owner about the vision they have for the business. You should aim for the content you post to express the atmosphere and values that the owner conveys to you. For example, a sports bar owner in an urban downtown might tell you about his passion for camaraderie and his vision of groups of friends getting together to watch a game over beers and fries. This vision will be different from the suburban European-style spa that’s going for the busy mom who needs a weekly or monthly break.

After learning more about the business, try to assess its existing and target client base. Understanding who the customers are and what’s important to them will point you in the right direction. If possible, spend some time in the business, talk to customers, and try to build a profile of the typical customer. If the business already has existing social profiles, look through them to understand the demographics and behaviors of current followers. Notice things like age, gender, location, and common areas of interest.

Based on your findings you can brainstorm ideas for content the customers will enjoy. Group those ideas into categories and test out different types of content. You should also test posting on different days and at varying times of day. The business tools mentioned in our earlier post will provide you with statistics on your posts and you’ll be able to tell which type of content is working and which isn’t. As you gain more experience, you will be able to refine your insights by customer type, day of the week, time of day, and other parameters.

Here is a guide to the best times to post on social media. It’s a good start, but remember: every customer set is different, so test and adjust to your specific audience. There are many guides out there about how to create compelling content. You should check them out from time to time, but not rely on them entirely. The reality is that true compelling content comes from knowing your customers, testing and measuring engagement, and being open and flexible about changing tastes and preferences. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think about the content you’d like to see.

When you have a list of topics that customers are interested in, use a tool like Talkwalker that scours the web for stories about those topics and sends you an email when something relevant comes along. These services can be a great source of content you can repost.

Here are a few best practices about content:

1. Pictures – beautiful topic-relevant photos. Photos awaken the senses and create a positive feeling, more than text ever could. In some social networks, photos are also favored by the algorithms that decide which post makes it up higher in the feed and is shown to more people.

2. Keep it short – customers are not used to reading manifests, they are used to reading short sentences in status format. Those are also easier to share.

3. Use humor – make it funny, meaningful and valuable. It’s helpful to think about the three “E’s” when it comes to content: Educate, Entertain, Engage. Give people a positive feeling with the content you post.
Pro tip: Quotes from prominent thought leaders are a great way to generate meaningful content that people will enjoy.

4. Don’t repeat yourself – if you post the same things everyday, it will quickly get old and customers will unsubscribe from your feed.

5. Get a rhythm going – customers need multiple touch points to be consistently reminded a business exists. Posting once in a while is not enough. According to Facebook the average page reaches about 16% of its followers with each post. With recent changes to Facebook’s algorithms, a page’s expected reach is actually much lower (this study estimates it at 2.5%). By posting quality content you increase the chances of your post showing as more engagement increases your quality score.

However, even with quality content many users will not see your posts if they are not logged in when it’s shown. The bottom line is you need a daily cadence of posts your customers can come to expect and even look forward to. The more they see the name of your clients’ business, the more likely they are to remember it next time they make a relevant consumer choice decision.

Don’t overdue it. Test out different frequencies, settle on a consistent frequency and keep at it.

6. Optimize for engagement – present your content in a way that encourages interaction (re-pinning, re-tweeting, sharing, liking, commenting etc.). Ask your audience questions so they answer in the comments. Prompt for sharing (e.g. “do you friends a favor and share this deal with them). It might be awkward at first when the business doesn’t have many followers but over time engagement builds up (provided you post good content).

7. Avoid politics and controversy – unless they are completely in sync with the business and what it stands for. For example, if you’re a vegetarian restaurant, it may be appropriate to take a stand on stricter slaughterhouse controls, but you should definitely stay out of the abortion debate.

Make a content plan for every business you serve. There will be the general content you will find (e.g. tips to keep your flower delivery fresh) and content relevant to the specific business (e.g. today’s deal: 20% off tulips between 4-6pm). Schedule both types using a tool, such as Hootsuite, and monitor that your settings are working correctly and the content is being posted as scheduled (hint: the post about 20% off tulips needs to go up before 4pm).

To recap, creating compelling content requires that you:

  • Understand your audience
  • Create a list of topics targeted to your audience
  • Follow the best practices in selecting and creating content

One last note about content: always be careful and aware of potential intellectual property issues. For example, you cannot post copyrighted materials without the rights holders’ permission. We are not lawyers, so we dare not venture into the details of this, but here are some resources to help you get the basics on this issue:

Tips to avoid copyright infringement on social media by Howto.gov

What community managers need to know about copyrights by Ignite Social Media

Social media and the law – 11 things you need to know by TopRank Social Media

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Photo Credit: modenadude via Compfight cc

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