content marketing
Image via Wojtek Witkowski on Dribbble

For many brands, content marketing has widely replaced advertising as the most prominent tool to make an impact on followers and clients, new and old. That said, many individuals and small businesses still struggle to fit social media — maybe the most important marketing channel right now — into their content marketing strategy.

Social media allows you to leverage existing networks to increase the reach of your content, it provides a testing ground for broad marketing campaigns, and so much more.

The fact is, content marketing isn’t a science. There are a lot of factors outside of your control which can contribute to your content being a hit or falling flat. That said, there are certain ways to sway the odds in your favor. Here’s how social media can help.

Social Media Tips to Include In Your Content Marketing Strategy

Tip 1: Share messages at optimal times

Posting at optimal times can help give your content an edge. While there’s no specific “best time” to post to social networks, certain times have proven to bring more engagement to content.

According to research by, each network has a different optimal time during which posts receive their highest engagement. For Twitter it’s 1-3 p.m., Facebook 1-4 p.m., Google+ 9-11 a.m., Pinterest 8-11 p.m., and Instagram 5-6 p.m. Reasons for these optimal times could be everything from the work day slowing down in the afternoon, to checking your phone before bed.

Tip 2: A/B test on social networks to see what resonates with your audience

If your content is going to make an impact on social media, you have to test it and measure it. If you only send one Tweet to a piece of content and it fails, you might think the content wasn’t right. Actually, you should be testing a variety of social media messages across networks in an effort to connect with your audience.

Your social media marketing plan should include trying several different Tweets for each piece of content. This allows you to see what type of language and structure resonates with your audience. It also allows you to stretch out the lifetime of that content. You can even use social networks as an A/B testing ground for blog or article headlines. Often a good Tweet will make for an equally good headline.

Tip 3: Optimize messages to each individual social network

Each social network has unique qualities and a unique audience. Ignoring the specifics of a network basically ensures that your content will not succeed and be shared. But if you take the time to optimize messages, you have a much greater chance of connecting with the audience and perhaps helping your content go viral.

Twitter, for example, demands succinct but powerful messaging. Often attaching an image is the best way to connect with the Twitter audience. For the Google+ audience, we’ve found that engagement is equally, if not more important than simply posting content.

With Facebook, there is a very specific algorithm that dictates how much reach your content can achieve. Among other things, this code dictates that any posts requesting comments or likes won’t get much traction, and that all your posts should include photos. Staying on top of the algorithm when sharing content to Facebook is essential to gain any traction on the social network.

Tip 4: Repurpose great content

With each social network having a diverse audience, each network can be treated as a distinct channel on which to share and repurpose existing content. If you create a blog post that performs well on Twitter and Facebook, consider repurposing it as an infographic for Pinterest and Slideshare, or a video for YouTube and Instagram. This can be done with new content, or content from your existing library. Seek out these opportunities when there are gaps in your content marketing calendar.

If you notice your content is working really well on a specific social network, don’t feel bad sharing it to that network several more times. The attention span of your social media followers is probably quite short. If you post a Tweet at 6 a.m., 1 p.m. and 11 p.m. to the same piece of content, the odds of one person seeing each of those posts is very small. Each piece of content has a lifecycle; make sure you don’t cut it short just because you’re afraid of annoying followers.

Tip 5: Gather insights from your audience for content marketing ideas

In addition to being a great place to share content, social media is an incredible source for getting content ideas. Ask your followers for suggestions on what types of content they’re interested in reading. Ask them questions about their own experiences, and use their comments and feedback in a blog post or video.

Apps like Nexalogy also provide a map of the topics your followers are talking about, offering inspiration that can be used in your own content creation. Analytics tools like uberVU via HootSuite provide significant insight on the interests and habits of your audience, which can help guide your content marketing.

Why You Should Have a Content Marketing Strategy

In addition to following these tips, it’s important to actually have a plan. Ashley Brookes, marketing lead for HootSuite’s brand and content strategy, suggests starting by looking to your marketing goals. Are you trying to increase sign ups? Decrease customer complaints? Only once your know your goals can you look to your audience, identify their needs, and begin to create social media content that addresses those needs.

“Grab a calendar. Grab your marketing plan. Look at what you need to achieve the next year, month by month and quarter by quarter. You know your marketing objectives. Now, flip your mindset around to that of your audience. What are they looking for?” Ashley explains. “Based on their needs and pain points, start to plan out pieces that show how what you have to offer can meet these needs or solve their frustrations.”