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February 6, 2013
Content is King. Content is Media. Content is the New Black.
Social marketers are scrambling to produce content that will engage friends and followers and prompt viral sharing. There is a land rush-mentality toward social content. Too many marketers are filling the content box with tired old crap or me-too materials.
Before crafting, designing, or curating content, consider six basic strategies.
Be Original or Die. There is no dearth of tips, recipes, or snappy motivational ideas in social media or on the Web. Nobody is looking for more. You can’t compete with publishers who are known for their expertise and have significant consumer franchises. Don’t start cranking out me-too copy or images, before you figure out what content feeds your brand image. The critical criterion is…what content will set you apart and be intimately and uniquely linked to your brand? If your content can’t deliver this, don’t bother.
Expose Yourself. Most brands have bits of information, underexposed ingredients, competitive nuances, surprising processes, and/or quirky people behind them. Too many are reluctant to mine these rich veins for social content. But helping fans understand who’s behind the curtain and how they do what they do is extremely fertile ground to drive interaction and sharing. What you think is routine, fans find fascinating. Give consumers insight into the character and people of your brand.
Calculate Context. Who takes advice or lifestyle tips from their peanut butter, their air conditioner, or their snow boots? Understand the real dimensions of utility, value, and entertainment between the brand and your fans. The texture and the expectations about customer-brand relationships vary. Consider the variables that influence the relationship (frequency of purchase, frequency of use, complexity of use, cost, level of ego involvement, key purchasers) to guide you in selecting subject matter, developing the appropriate voice, and scheduling posts or tweets.
If you make shoes, can you comment on red carpet fashion? If you sell soap, do you have an opening to discuss family values? If you sell tires, is it credible to look ahead to the Indy 500? Can an insurance company wish fans, “Happy Easter?” Think long and hard about where you fit in customers’ mental maps and what topics you can credibly raise with your audience.
Create Categories. In searching for the right context, develop content categories that will give your social communications texture and ultimately can yield a productive and interactive cadence. Typical content buckets include brand attributes, subjects directly affected by the brand, pop culture or celebrities, promotions, charitable work, or holidays and events.
Direct Interaction. Social content is the substance of an ongoing conversation. Many brands tell and sell too much. They don’t open up enough opportunities for interaction. Be sure you are asking questions, taking polls, soliciting consumer input and responding, referring to popular topics and memes, and are being perceived as involved in the ongoing social swirl. Be straightforward and be directive. If you don’t ask followers to act; they won’t. This will affect what you post, how you present it, and when you post.
Social media is high school. Everybody wants to be in on what the cool kids are doing. Offer the jocks, the nerds, the prom queens, and the wallflowers opportunities to take part. Figure on stimulating some of the followers some of the time rather than trying to get everyone fired up at once.
Count Carefully. By posting and counting carefully, using embedded and third-party tools, you’ll quickly see which topics resonate with your fan base. Then test which sequences of posts or tweets generate the most likes, retweets, or shares. 
The savvy social marketing crowd is making data-driven decisions about content. They are zeroing in on information and entertainment that delights their followers and encourages them to share and re-post. Keen eyes on metrics help leading social brands develop predictable subject cadences to beat Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm, optimize free viral reach, and deliver great social media experiences. 

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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