At every meeting we have recently attended, our customers and prospective clients have been talking about their social media strategy. How to get one… how to improve it… how to manage it…

What isn’t being talked about anywhere near as much is the content that drives a social media strategy. Without valuable content to deliver, you’re probably falling into the trap of just doing it for the sake of it… a box ticking mentality that’s so easy to succumb to when hype clouds effectiveness.

Whether your box is ticked or not, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions… firstly is the content you are delivering via social media of value? And secondly, is it reaching the audience that would find it valuable?

Content is king

Content marketing is not a new phenomenon, just a new term for what many astute marketers have been doing for a long time – providing their target audience, be it buyers or influencers, with compelling and useful information that aids decision making.

So why are we saying that a content strategy is more important than a social media strategy? In essence, social media just gives us the forum to disseminate information – be it thoughts, findings or genuinely helpful information. It’s what you put out there that is important.

As the power of traditional outbound marketing activities waivers – e.g. direct mail, email or telemarketing – you have to ask yourself how you can reach and influence these buyers in other ways.

The answer is very simple. Help buyers do their jobs more effectively by becoming a trusted adviser and by delivering your expertise through engaging and valuable content.

What type of content is of value, and why?

Content you create should ultimately persuade buyers to choose your offerings and services over your competition. To define the type of content you should be creating, you need to consider the buying process. A typical buyer goes through four stages: defining a need/ identifying solutions/ identifying suppliers/ choosing suppliers.

Every piece of content you create should enable your audience to travel further along the buying cycle. This is critical to understand, because the content you create needs to help target these individuals to solve their challenges at each stage – or someone else will.

So here’s a bold stance: step away from the self-promote button. Yes, you can do it. We know there is a real feeling of satisfaction pressing ‘send’ for example on a large email campaign to a highly profiled audience isn’t there? By pulling back the reins on outbound marketing techniques, it might feel like you’re relinquishing all control, but believe me – it feels even more satisfying when the leads start coming to you instead of you trying to find them.

Don’t worry, not all control is lost – in fact you can gain more control if you’re prepared to keep your eye on the ball and spend time and energy in creating desirable content. Don’t panic – your website is still there to tell your audience what you do, who you do it for and why – but your role as a marketer needs to be about driving interested prospects – i.e. inbound leads – to that website using content marketing.

Content of value

A recent survey (1) carried out by found that after ‘webinars’, social media users ranked ‘to read user ratings and reviews for business products or services’ as the second most useful resource to help them do their job more easily and effectively.

We agree. The majority of decision makers use social media to gain third party opinion. Without a shadow of a doubt, the best way to do this is through endorsement and testimony… in other words case studies.

This was also backed up by a recent survey (2) by B2B Content Marketing Trends that found that case studies, followed by live presentations and white papers were considered the most effective formats in engaging prospects and delivering propositions.

Content delivery: getting the platform right

Marketing people used to slate the ‘build it and they will come’ attitude. Liken it to old fashioned libraries. People went along, browsed in the sections of interest and whilst they were there, other books and authors might have caught their eye.

The same principal applies now. Actively ‘build’ content and – if it’s in the right place and of the right nature – your audience will pick up and share that content using the communication platforms that now exist.

But how to get that content in the right place?

Consider your audience and how to segment it. Whether doing end-user marketing directly, or via your channel partners, the one advantage of a good old database you used to purchase from a list supplier, was that you could segment the data quite well – be it by job title, industry, or business size.

The same need to segment your audience still applies in making content available, but therein lies the rub – if it’s passive content posted on a social media site, how do you make sure the right audience finds it?

If you work with channel partners, the answer is to use content management tools that allow you to tag and segment content by type of content and target audience BEFORE you share it, and then let your channel partners publish that content themselves using their own social media presence. Simple!

Well, think about it. Your channel partners serve different market sectors/ territories/ solution sets, don’t they? So, why not segment content for them and leverage them as ambassadors for your social media messaging? By using your partners as conduits to disseminate your valuable social media content out to end users, you will add value to your partner relations, and it is them that can close the loop on the sales journey more tightly than you.

Click here for the full whitepaper.