A question that new users of social media often ask is, “I hear that content is king, but what kind of content should I be producing?”  The conventional wisdom in marketing is: first figure out your objectives, then plan a strategy and finally develop the tactics.  Then, the theory goes, you get customers — and that’s when you take care of them.  After all, look at the time, effort and money you spent.  Of course you have to show them you care, or you’ll lose your valuable assets!

That series of steps seems backwards to me,  especially now that we have the incredibly powerful tools of social media.  We can get out there without the expense of advertising, rent, paper or postage and just start . . . but start what?  How does a business decide what content to create?

Developing objectives, then strategy should not be first.  First you decide who you want to serve — that niche that not every Tom, Dick and Harriet are already serving.  Then, (and here’s the key):

Care about your community.

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Caring about the community you hope to reach, having them in your heart and in your mind with every word you write, every offer you make, every new product you develop–that has to be step one.

Starting from the inside out guides all your decisions.  If you want awareness, care first.  If you want traffic, care first. If you want to be a thought leader, care first.

When Mark Twain was asked if he had any advice for aspiring writers, he didn’t talk about setting aside time every day to write or eliminating distractions, or even writing what you know.  His advice was simply this:  care about your characters.  Caring about your characters guides your writing.  The story will flow naturally from inside the writer to words on the page.

Tiny Buddha is an example of a social media presence that started with caring.  It’s a blog and a Twitter handle that tweets once a day.  It was started 3 years ago by Lori Deschene.  To date she has received about 5 million page views on the blog and 200,000 Twitter followers.  She also received a book deal, and has spoken about her unexpected start-up in numerous interviews and at conferences.  Here’s what Deschene says about how she got started:

“When I started Tiny Buddha, I had a clear vision of what I wanted to accomplish. It didn’t revolve around page views. It wasn’t about advertising dollars. It had nothing to do with affiliate sales.  I started Tiny Buddha because I wanted to do something meaningful . . . ”    Her “about us” page says “Though I run this site, it is not mine. It’s ours. It’s not about me. It’s about us.”

Gary Vaynerchuk is another example of how caring about customers can be the cornerstone of a successful business.  Gary says he spends less than an hour a day creating each show on WineLibrary.tv, but many, many hours a day showing his community he cares by listening and talking to them on social media.

Caring first, content second.

Caring is the basis of  great content.  Would you throw up a half-baked post or retweet only links from the big names on Twitter if you cared about your community?  Would you only broadcast coupons and product announcements on you Facebook page? Would you take a  banner ad on your blog for a product you didn’t feel confident your readers would love?

Social media facilitates caring across a wide geographic area, at all times of day to thousands of people at a time or one on one.  When you truly care about your readers, you don’t ask, “how can I sell more?” you ask  “how can what my content help my business become a meaningful part of peoples’ lives?”  That is how your content strategy can truly emerge.  The answer is different for every business but there are several categories of content that answer that question.  The kind of content that comes from caring includes that which teaches, inspires, makes people laugh or helps them succeed.

That’s what it means to be human.  and that’s what it takes to use social media effectively.

RELATED ARTICLES

Eight Twitter Tips for More Meaningful Conversations – Huffington Post

How To Be Profitable Without Focusing on the ROI – Marketing Without A Net

How To (Successfully) Break The First Rule Of Social Media – Social Media Explorer

Writing Good Content – ProBlogger

 

 

 

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About Ilana Rabinowitz

Ilana Rabinowitz

Ilana Rabinowitz is the vice-president for marketing for Lion Brand Yarn and blogs about social media at Marketing Without A Net. Rabinowitz approaches marketing with an uncompromising focus on the customer and a grounding in psychology and neuroscience to understand what motivates people to make buying decisions.  She believes that businesses need to develop their own media as a means of creating a branded experience for customers.  She has spoken at digital marketing conferences including Web 2.0, Blogher Business and Internet Retailer. She is the author of a book about psychology, a book about mindfulness and co-author of a book about the culture of knitting. Follow her on Twitter at @ilana221.

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://twitter.com/jeffersonhowell Jefferson Howell

    I think this over simplifies in a way that makes content strategy seem easy. I’d be interested to here more about the practical application of “caring” relative to the strategies and tactics, as you mentioned. I’d wager there are plenty of brands who just seem aloof, or worse, because they care deeply but their content mix is still off. With due respect, this seems a little bit like a coach telling a team: “To win, you have to want to win”. True, but most of the time you also need to be better than your opponent. 

    Thanks for the article Ilana. I do agree wholeheartedly with the basic premise here! Though I find it disheartening that brands or other corporate entities need to be reminded to care about their content or audience. I suppose that is a different discussion. 

    • http://twitter.com/Ilana221 Ilana Rabinowitz

      I really like your comment because it allows me to speak more to this point. You’re right that it does make content strategy seem easy.  I have found when you start with a genuine desire to feel the customer’s needs, wishes, confusion, and other human desires, it actually is easier.  Not that you shouldn’t write down what is apparent when you have this point of view or brainstorm with others about it. Not that you shouldn’t write down a strategy that comes from this place.

      But here is my honest appraisal: forget how “brands” feel for a moment and think about the people who work for them.  What I see is that some of the people who are writing content and driving the content strategy for the companies they work for are coming about it from a point of view of expediency–doing the daily routine that makes it possible for them to get a paycheck. Focusing on the bottom line first.  Maybe they aren’t one of their company’s customers and so it’s harder to get into that customer’s head to understand their needs. That would be o.k. if they worked harder to truly listen to their customers, hear, and even intuit what the customers need.

      Most people agree that social media requires a human approach but what I see, especially in some big corporations, who are outsourcing content is a very calculated and cold approach that is the only way to create a strategy if you don’t truly care.  But if you do, you’ve got a head start on knowing what to do.

      • http://twitter.com/jeffersonhowell Jefferson Howell

        Thanks for further defining. While directly applicable to social I think you’ve hit upon a major struggle while working for or with larger brands or agencies in general. It’s really difficult to do great work when the passion is missing.

  • http://www.embodieddreams.com/ David Kizler

    Thanks for your article.  I never considered myself a writer, and still don’t, but since I’ve found a community that I care about I’ve felt inspired to speak from my heart and share to the best of my ability to be of service.

    • http://twitter.com/Ilana221 Ilana Rabinowitz

      I really like your concept of your site.  Good luck with it.  I’m happy to discover it.

    • http://twitter.com/Ilana221 Ilana Rabinowitz

      I really like your concept of your site.  Good luck with it.  I’m happy to discover it.

    • http://twitter.com/Ilana221 Ilana Rabinowitz

      I really like your concept of your site.  Good luck with it.  I’m happy to discover it.

    • http://twitter.com/Ilana221 Ilana Rabinowitz

      I really like your concept of your site.  Good luck with it.  I’m happy to discover it.

    • http://twitter.com/Ilana221 Ilana Rabinowitz

      I really like your concept of your site.  Good luck with it.  I’m happy to discover it.

  • http://www.internetincomecode.com George Tee

    Hi ilana, great post. I agree to what you said The conventional wisdom in marketing is: first figure out your objectives, then plan a strategy and finally develop the tactics. Great examples you gave. Caring about to your audience and customers is really an important factor that will contribute to your strategy.

  • Mikeyboi

    “how can what my content help my business become a meaningful part of peoples’ lives?”
    what?!

    • http://twitter.com/Ilana221 Ilana Rabinowitz

      Good question. When you educate or inspiration your customers in ways that improve their use of your product or service, or give them more ideas of how to use it in unique and satisfying ways, you help your business become more meaningful to them.  My company sells yarn so we offer free patterns that give them ideas for new projects to make. We share information about how yarn is used by artists. We find ways to create virtual events where everyone is working on a project at the same time.  We recognize the accomplishment of those who have created something they have taking the time to share with our audience.  (I probably should have given more examples in my article!)

  • http://www.thesilverconductor.com The Silver Conductor

    As we all I hope have heard many times, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”, I guess that would apply here right? Right?
    When communicating with my music fanbase, care is crucial in today’s social media digital music Industry. Find out what works best for and then do like my dad told me many years ago, “Son you have to learn to listen, and listen to learn”, that is so relevant in your online communications.
    Who am I? The Silver Conductor @twitter-8294022:disqus http://www.thesilverconductor.com,Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, itunes and more, check me :-)
    Remember: “Always know who loves you”
    The Silver Conductor

    • http://twitter.com/Ilana221 Ilana Rabinowitz

      Thank you for the comment.  I just wrote a post over at my blog, Marketing Without A Net, about the book, Anything You Want by Derek Sivers who started CD Baby. If you haven’t read it you may enjoy it. He really cared about his customers and built (and sold) a big business based on that principle.  Your father gave you good advice! 

  • http://twitter.com/RyoatCision Ryo Yamaguchi

    Thanks Ilana, it’s so nice to see this kind of focus with marketing in social, and while I do agree with @twitter-87710747:disqus that sometimes a good strategy (or, for that matter, a good product) is important, I read this post more as about really listening to your customer base, understanding the community, versus generating content for content sake. I do think you need a strategy, you need to know who you are trying to reach, what you are trying to say, and how you are going to say it, but that strategy also needs to be flexible and responsive to the conversations that surround it. That, too me, is caring both about your customers and your business. 

    • http://twitter.com/Ilana221 Ilana Rabinowitz

      Ah, I like that phrase “the strategy needs to be flexible and responsive to conversations.” 

  • http://mymediainfo.com/ Renee

    While this does make the content aspect  seem fairly easy to create, I welcome this different approach. I think we can all agree a little more caring might help everyone. Thanks Ilana.

  • http://mymediainfo.com/ Renee

    While this does make the content aspect  seem fairly easy to create, I welcome this different approach. I think we can all agree a little more caring might help everyone. Thanks Ilana.

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  • http://twitter.com/RyanCritchett Ryan Critchett

    Ilana, I think that’s one of the major barriers with a lot of folks in the biz world, they don’t necessarily know how to care (or they don’t inherently want to). I think from inside the business, what needs to happen first is people have to actually align themselves, in terms of behavior and thinking, with the growing demand for their sensibility and caring. I’m sure you, with a background in brain science and psychology totally get that. It’s interesting to me, because I think that brain physiology has everything to do with whether or not a company will do well in social business. As weird as that sounds, it all comes down to people’s thinking patterns, and we resist change like crazy because of our need to do what’s familiar. 

    • http://twitter.com/Ilana221 Ilana Rabinowitz

      Ryan, It’s certainly true that anyone who is mindlessly doing a job on autopilot is going to be less successful and not be much of an asset to their company. That even applies to the IT people who don’t come in contact with consumers. That person’s customers are fellow employees.

      What your comment points to is a hiring process that considers how empathetic (and even compassionate) the candidate is. It might seem to some that this is a very “soft” and irrelevant quality, but for many, if not all positions in marketing, those qualities predict a person’s ability to care.

  • http://twitter.com/JonathanHudson2 Jonathan Hudson

    Caring is an important aspect of social content, but the fundamental requirement is to be useful to your community. Members don’t just want nice content, they want value and that can also mean coupons and vouchers which will save them time and or money

    • http://twitter.com/Ilana221 Ilana Rabinowitz

      Jonathan, I agree that customers want and need the best value for their dollar.  Coupons work and I don’t disagree that they make sense as part of the marketing mix to different degrees in any given company.  What is rarely, if ever, a winning strategy is one that uses social media to deliver coupons and little else. 

  • http://www.aabuk.com Buy Abaya Online

    If i say Content is King so it is right. Content plays an important role in social media.

  • http://thinkspace.com/ Alyssa Magnotti

    Itlana – this is an AMAZING point! I actually just wrote a blog post on Content Strategies today entitled “4 Steps to Creating a Successful Content Strategy” – http://thinkspace.com/four-steps-to-creating-a-successful-content-strategy/#. It should have been 5 though, because Caring is definitely most important! I LOVE This quote: When you truly care about your readers, you don’t ask, “how can I sell
    more?” you ask  “how can what my content help my business become a
    meaningful part of peoples’ lives?”” Great stuff! Keep it up!

    • http://twitter.com/Socialologist Stephanie Schwab

      Thanks for your nice comment Alyssa.  I really enjoyed your post as well and appreciate the specific direction it offers.

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