content-marketing-conversationWe are forever talking about how high quality content can engage with an audience and nurture them through the buying cycle; educating them, persuading them, encouraging them to act upon their new-found knowledge.

We also talk about how social media is the vehicle by which this content can reach an audience. The synergy between social media and content is now becoming a relatively familiar one. The process is, in its simplest form, well, simple.

Content is created and it is published across social media channels. Social then acts as the primary tool that deals with those interested in the content. Of course, there is an awful lot more to it than that, but as a basic overview, this is what happens.

However, what happens if we flip this entire process on its head?

The most common obstacle that will stand in the way of a successful campaign is doubt. What happens if people don’t engage with the content? Do people really care about what we’re writing? Is there an audience for this kind of thing?

I would never belittle social media so much as to think that it is, as mentioned, purely the vehicle by which your content can be administered. Reverse engineering the content marketing process puts a bigger emphasis on social. Rather than spend time researching topics and writing content in the vague hope that the end product will have an affect, use social media to see exactly what is already ‘out there’. If there is already an audience talking about a particular issue, then surely contributing to this conversation with your own content is less risky than creating your masterpiece then standing on your soapbox and hoping someone listens?

Let me give you an analogy

Dinner parties… love them or hate them, they are an absolute haven of diverse conversation. Whenever I try and explain my job to my Gran (a horrifically painful process), I’ll use this familiar concept. “Gran, imagine you’re going to a dinner party. There will be some people you know, but inevitably, the majority of people around you will be total strangers. You want to make a good impression so you go with some ammo – the tried and tested anecdotes that have had previous dinner party attendees in stitches. Deep down you know you can’t please everyone with your tales, but you will certainly try… Well, that’s my job… except I do it at the biggest dinner party in the world – the Internet”.

I recently went to a dinner party. The guests and hosts will remain nameless! At the fear of being unsociable, you have to ‘mingle’; a concept that fills me with fear. However, rather than approaching a group of finely dressed guests, sipping champagne, gently nodding along with the conversation like the Churchill Dog in slow motion and attempting to join in by blurting “So, anyone watching Celebrity Big Brother”… you observe.

Find your ‘in’

You listen, biding your time until a subject arises that you can actually contribute to. CRICKET! I know cricket. Boom – you’re in. A far less risky way of engaging with someone.

It’s exactly the same with social and content marketing. Rather than callously putting pen to paper (or finger to key), use social media to see what people are already talking about. For example, if we have an interior design client, we could search for the phrase ‘interior design’ across social and see what the hot topics are. I don’t mean ‘hot topics’ in the sense that a number of news outlets are publishing stories on them, I mean topics that have already warranted conversation.

Aside from the obvious benefit of the eventual content being an already established subject across social channels, you have the added luxury of knowing the individuals that make up the engaged audience.

I blogged several months ago about how to use Google News to feed your content creation. However, just because the subjects appear on Google News, it doesn’t necessarily mean people are compelled to talk about it on social media. Use social tool to see what people are talking about. You can even limit your searches to specific locations; what are people in Surrey saying about interior design…?

I’m not suggesting for one moment that is the definitive methodology by which to approach social and content marketing. It would be naïve of me to suggest that content marketing is simply a case of replicating what people are already talking about. Of course a large aspect of your strategy may be to create content that few others have written about.

Give this a go and let me know how you get on.