Most people are probably aware that content marketing and social media work well together hand-in-hand, like Batman & Robin, Del Boy & Rodney or Bert & Ernie.
But many still look only at the relationship as one-way, where you create content then use social media to distribute it.
While this is one valid way of using social media and content marketing together, it’s a very limited playbook if you want to be making the most of both marketing tactics.
Here I’ll run through 5 different ways you can maximise your content marketing and social media for great results.
1. Find topics to talk about
Social media is one of the best ways to understand what your audience wants to learn about. Better yet, it’s a great way to find out what your competitors’ audience is talking about, so you can give them what they want. And finally, it could also help you uncover ‘the next big thing’ for your content marketing too.
If you have been doing content marketing and social media marketing for a few months and have a historical backlog of data, there are a few ways to start building a picture of what resonates with your audience.
The first thing you’ll want to do is go into Google Analytics, and navigate to ‘Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium’ then add a secondary dimension of ‘destination page’ to the report. It should look something like this:
This will now tell you a couple of interesting things. Firstly it will tell you which of your social networks is driving the most traffic to your site. Assuming that’s one of your goals, so you can convert visitors into leads, this is important! Secondly, it will tell you which content on your site has resonated with which social networks.
This way, you can start to build up an understanding of what people want to read on your site, based on their behaviour.
Thirdly, you can also see if you’re delivering the goods when people do click through. Are people staying and reading your content? If you’ve set up goals, are they converting?
Social media analytics
The next place to look is in your various different social media dashboards.
In Twitter, you can visit the ads dashboard (you don’t have to actually spend any money to access this, or even enter your card details – see how here). In the dashboard, you can see plenty of metrics such as number of impressions, clicks, favourites, retweets and more.
This will give you a great sense of what content does well on Twitter, even if they didn’t click through to your website, although arguably in that instance you have to ask if that’s good enough.
In Facebook, you can see who’s commented, how many people you’ve reached, the number of shares and likes and a whole lot of other useful data at both the post level and in aggregate under the ‘insights’ tab.
With LinkedIn, if you have a company or showcase page that you post to, you can again see all the key metrics such as views, engagements, followers gained and clicks:
Basically, all of this information will tell you how different types of content perform across these different networks, which will help you to refine what content to create, and also how you should package and present it to the different communities.
If you’re new to the content game, and don’t have much existing content to measure your results against, there are still plenty of ways to use social media to guide you on what topics will resonate with you audience. Here are three possibilities:
BuzzSumo is a neat tool, free up to a point, that will allow you to plug in any url, and it will tell you what content on their site got shared, across which social channels, and in most cases, who shared it!
This is perfect for using your competitors url to understand what content works for generating social buzz, so you can then write about similar topics (but do a better job – of course); or you can also just use key words to see what topics and stories have done well across any site. Either way, it’s a great tool for bridging social and successful content marketing.
Another very popular tool for Twitter, Topsy lets you see if specific keywords, users or hashtags are rising or falling in popularity over a 30 day window.
While this is less useful than Google Trends for picking out topics that should garner long-term value as evergreen content, it is still a valuable resource for finding ‘of the moment’ things to write about that could do really well in the short-term on social networks.
If you can string several of these hits together, it may be that you transition to a more ‘real time’ content marketing strategy.
Quora + Twitter
I read a great article recently by Bryan Harris of VideoFruit that explained a clever way of testing whether or not to write a particular article. Basically you find a question on Quora, tweet it out, and see if there is 2-3x spike in engagement for that tweet versus your normal tweets.
If there is, write the post. If not, reformulate the question a few times until you see that spike. If there’s just no interest, move on a find something else to write about – much better than investing hours into an epic blog post that is unlikely to get the attention of your audience.
2. Ask questions
One of the best things about social media is that it can give you direct – or near direct – access to communicate with thousands of people really easily. They’re just one click away.
Yet many marketers don’t take advantage of this, just pushing things out to their feeds, without engaging with the community.
If you want to create successful content, why not ask people to get involved with it? Here are some ideas on how to do this relatively painlessly:
Group Discussions on LinkedIn
LinkedIn Groups are hit and miss, with their success largely resting on the moderator. Some groups have moderators that are too liberal, allowing spam to infect the group so everyone gets ignored and people are generally disengaged. Equally many moderators are too zealous and filter out legitimate questions and debate, often because they have a special interest in doing so.
However, where you can get past the gatekeeper (or work with them), then asking an interesting question can get you lots of interesting responses you can turn into great content.
You should check with the respondents first, but if you get lots of interesting responses and viewpoints, you could repurpose this into a big Q&A post and reference their quotes. You could also ask people to help point out interesting case studies (like I did here) or just what they want to learn more about.
Top Tip: If you don’t get much of a response from the general group discussion, you can contact people directly in that group by going to a contact, clicking ‘message’ and then sending them a brief message, which may increase your success rate.
Unless you have a ton of followers and great engagement, throwing out questions into the giant Twittersphere probably won’t gain you a huge amount of response.
However if there are any relevant Twitter chats you can join, this may be a good tactic for finding engaged users to connect with about your topic and ask for their input. Be sure to actually engage with the general chat and your questions shouldn’t seem out of place. But otherwise this is the kind of behaviour good Twitter chats are designed for, so you should see a decent response.
Facebook pages / groups
There are lots of highly engaged and popular Facebook pages and groups you can visit to generate discussions and build user generated content to write about. As I work primarily on B2B marketing I honestly don’t use them much, but it’s always good to know they’re there!
3. Involve influencers
Influencer marketing is one of the most impactful types of content marketing you can do, and using social media is one of the most efficient ways of tapping into it’s power. Here’s how:
Step One: Find Influencers
There are lots of ways to find influencers, from Klout to Topsy, but my personal favourite is BuzzSumo.
Just type in your keywords under the ‘Influencers’ tab, and it will bring up a list of influencers related to that topic.
You’ll typically get less engagement from ‘companies’, so untick that as an option in the filter boxes on the left, and you should also choose to ignore broadcasters.
Once you have your list, you can export it, and sort by other factors that you find most important, for example the average number of retweets, number of followers and page authority.
Step Two: Reach Out To Them
There are a number of ways to reach out to these influencers. You can tweet at them, and if you’re just looking for a short answer, this could be the quickest and easiest option.
Now you have exported the list, you also have their name, website etc. so you can try to figure out their email to contact them directly; or else you can try to contact them via LinkedIn too, particularly if you share a group with them, so you can message them directly.
The content of the message can be quite simple, try something like this:
Hi [their name],
I’m writing a post for my site [your site link] on [topic] and I’d love to get your opinion on it. Here’s the question:
Would you like to contribute?
Please let me know what website and social profiles you’d like me to include next to your quote. I will need it by [date] if it’s to be included.
You’ll maybe get a 50% ratio, so make sure you ask double the number of respondents you need. Neil Patel recommends these crowdsourced influencer posts should have at least 30 to be effective (which concurs with my experience too) so you should be contacting 60 people. It sounds like a lot, but you can get through the whole process in a couple of hours.
Step Three: Put Their Comments Together
Once you’ve finished the outreach and started getting their responses back, add them all into a document with a short intro and a conclusion. Make sure you add all their links they provided, and then get it formatted in WordPress (or whatever CMS you’re using).
Step Four: Tell Them It’s Ready
Finally, once the post is live, reach back out to all of the contributors and thank them for contributing. You can of course ask them directly to share it, but I find that simply letting them know will be sufficient to encourage them to share it anyway.
As an added bonus, not only should you see the post do extremely well on social, it may well gain a few backlinks and improve your SEO results too.
4. Social Distribution
Social media is a natural channel for content distribution and amplification. So much has been written about it that I don’t want to spend too much time going over familiar ground. So here’s a super quick bulleted list of current best practices, in no particular order.
- Reference influencers and other people whose attention you want by mentioning them in your posts, typically using their handle or username
- If you want your posts to appear in front of the right audience, make sure you’re using the right hashtags, but no more that two. There’s a great guide to using hashtags across most of the major social networks.
- Be consistent, so people can expect to see new content and updates coming from you, otherwise they won’t have a reason to follow and engage with your account.
- Don’t only ever share your own content, make sure you’re also sharing high quality content from other sources. It actually pays off, with this post using data to show that approx 60% of your content should point to other sources.
- Be responsive to people’s likes, retweets and mentions – it is ‘social’ media after all! Show you’re not just an automated account, engage in conversations and build relationships with people.
- Use images in your updates, as they’re more likely to stand out, generatehigher engagement and make your content seem more appealing.
- Don’t be afraid to pay for social media amplification. For very small budgets you can reach large numbers of targeted people on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Because so few people still actually choose to pay, it means there is more opportunity for those who do.
- Always be testing and learning. This is the most important point on here. All the major social networks update their rules and algorithms on a regular basis, nothing stays the same for long, and what works for one company won’t necessarily work for you, so if you really want to build a competitive advantage the only way is to keep testing and learning.
5. Test, Analyse and Improve
That last point brings me neatly into our fifth way that content marketing and social media can be used together for great success. It’s all about testing what works.
Here are four ways to optimise your content marketing with social media.
Test Topics Before Writing
Before I’d read Bryan Harris’s blog post which I referenced above, I across a similar post written by Andrew Chen who also explained how he used Twitter to figure out what to write about before he invested the time in actually writing it.
However it doesn’t have to just be Twitter. Why not post a quote, question or comment to your Facebook page, or a really short post on LinkedIn (possibly just an update, or a question in groups) and again, measure if something resonate with your audience 2-3x more than usual – then pick that topic to write about.
You can use social media in a similar way once you’ve finished your content. If you want to see what headline you should use, post 2-3 different variations in the first hour (every 20 minutes) and see if one outperforms the other. By clustering them within an hour, this should reduce the impact of timing on their performance, and reveal more about the headline itself.
Test Where It Resonates
If you’re going to invest in paid distribution, it’s a good to wait 24 hours to see how your post performs organically, and particularly amongst the different social networks.
You can use something like sharedcount.com to give you an accurate, up-to-date picture of which channel or channels have shared you content the most.
You can then pick the natural winner, and ride the advantage home by putting your money behind content amplification on that particular social channel.
Test Times & Formats
Finally, you should always keep an eye open for patterns that will tell you when you are best to release your latest content; and also which formats are most popular with your audience.
Should you be using more or less images; longer or shorter articles; more or less ebooks / whitepapers / podcasts…you get the picture.
Review at least once a month which content has outperformed the rest and see if you can draw any conclusions (or least a hypotheses to test) and then double-down on that the next month to see if you were right.
Content marketing and social media are natural bedfellows, close neighbours, two-sides of the same coin. Whatever cliched phrase you pick, there’s no getting away from how much they compliment one another, before, during and after the content creation process.
How do you combine social media and content marketing for maximum results?