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.
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.
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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