Developing a social media marketing strategy that works for your organisation takes creativity, careful planning and time. A good social media strategy is a long term plan that should be designed to build value for your brand, and ultimately generate sales. The planning stage alone can be a sizeable investment so it would be disastrous if the engine of social media was ignored – the content.

Content, and how it connects to social media and search engine optimisation objectives, should be at the core of a sustainable digital marketing strategy. However, simply creating quality content alone is not enough. The planning and distribution of that content must be built into the strategy from the outset.

The latest research from search engine optimisation [SEO] specialists suggests that content creation is far more effective than producing white papers. So what does “content” mean exactly? It is a very broad term when it comes to socially enabled marketing and includes: articles, guides and work sheets, blog posts, videos and social media updates. But not all content is created equal. From a SEO perspective articles, blog posts and social media updates are the most effective form of content. Gaining high search volumes without engaging your audience mean that opportunities will be lost so the other forms of content such as video and images need to be used in a strategic manner.

All indicators of how content is judged by search engines like Google point to an increased importance of social media influence. In fact, 1 in 5 social media messages have a link to another piece of content embedded in them. The popularity of those links produces a human layer of intelligence to search results. This intelligence is important to tap into if we are ever to filter through the more than 27 million pieces of content created each day.

Even though it may seem like a massive task to produce content that gets noticed, the truth is it matters as far as conversions are concerned. Fifty-two percent of consumers say that blogs have had a positive impact on their purchase decisions, while 61% of consumers have stated that they would be more likely to purchase from a website with custom content. The lesson to be taken from this is that spending the time to develop great content builds trust.

So what are some guidelines for developing a content strategy? Content creation is about long term interest so learn to repurpose well researched content in a number of ways; blogs, articles, info-graphics, e-books and videos. If you are using video, embed it in posts with a punchy sentence or two to make the whole piece more shareable. Develop a content style, or voice, that is shareable – injecting humour where appropriate tends to help.

Importantly, think about how you can incentivise social sharing behaviour. Discounts, competitions, access to additional high-value content or exclusive access to parts of a website can all be offers that encourage people to share what you have created.  It’s a fast way to see a return on all your hard work.