Suzanne McDonald is a colleague from the Boston area, and we had the chance to chat recently about social media and marketing, Suzanne runs, Designated Editor, a company that launches and sustains successful Interactive Marketing strategies, here's the result of the interview.
John: What’s your background with social media and blogging?
Suzanne: Social media and blogging, while quite new, still fall under the mass media/communications umbrella. The basic tenets remain the same – human beings seek connections – so how can we connect with what fundamentally drives individuals: saving money, saving time, educating.
I’ve adapted 15 years in newsrooms – most recently The Boston Globe – and a master’s degree in mass communications, and have learned how to lasso effectiveness from these new media.
John: What are the steps to developing an effective content marketing strategy with social media?
Suzanne: Assuming you understand your offerings & can clearly articulate them (discover some helpful tips & thoughts on Verbal Branding), here’s a few steps & thoughts for developing effective social media strategies:
1. Understand your target audience & determine how you can best serve them.
- Who are you trying to connect with: A customer, potential customer, or a thought-leader?
- What is it you have to offer these individuals? What interests them? What commonalities do some have that make for natural groupings, not all customers have the same needs.
- The more targeted you can be – marketing folk in Southern Rhode Island – the more likely you’ll succeed. And what would you like them to do? If you can’t focus, how can anyone who’s trying to listen understand?
2. Find your people and speak to them using their vocabulary.
- Where the heck are the people you’d like to have a conversation with? It makes sense to look beyond LinkedIn and Twitter. Perhaps there’s a Ning group? Don’t forget YouTube is the #2 search engine.
- Utilize those keywords that are so important in SEO, chances are they are hashtags, but the reason why they’re important is because people use them!
- How can you solve their problems in a personal way? And be sure to give them a place to learn more: If you’re on social media but don’t have a blog, it’s a bit like disinviting someone. Transitioning from social media straight to your website is jarring.
3. Foster relationships with individuals & don’t reach too far.
- Be yourself: your professional, positive self. Dan Zarrella http://danzarrella.com/ from HubSpot.com has done some amazing research on what works on Facebook and Twitter. Unilaterally, people don’t like negativity.
- Be the expert people can turn to and rely on for information, bonus points for entertaining them, too, but don’t force it.
- Trust is the basis of engagement. Picture yourself as knocking on someone’s front door, what’s going through her head as she answers. Or, what’s Betty thinking when the Feds come knocking asking questions about Donald Draper. Don’t expect too much too soon.
Don’t discount your real-life network. Social media is a great way to keep yourself or your company in that new networker-friend’s mind.
John: How should companies manage content distribution?
Suzanne: It depends: Content distribution should be custom. Each company, depending primarily on goals and size, will vary. The trick is to understand audience expectations – so listen before engaging –and deliver content that’s customized for the people on that particular platform.
John: What problems do you see within companies today when thinking about content strategy?
Suzanne: Designated Editor launches and sustains successful Interactive Marketing strategies. To be honest, it’s usually two things: excuses or lack of knowledge, both of which, in this day and age are, well, no excuse. If you’re a marketing professional, it’s your job to educate yourself.
Here’s two manifestations I see often, and I give credit to those who make it this far.
I don’t know where to begin …
Websites age in dog years, so a decade-plus web presence really needs a makeover. Many of them look like my mother’s attic with all kinds of outdated detritus. Adding social media to the mix, or even a blog, without getting your house in order will confuse & frustrate.
We can’t afford …
It’s a potentially fatal flaw to assume that companies cannot engage in social media effectively. If you’re spending any marketing dollars at all, you need to consider social media & blogging. And it doesn’t have to be even a five-figure budget, even if it’s outsourced.
The reality is: Content and social media aren’t going away and will become increasingly important as technology evolves to meet the needs of humans. Unless you’re closing up shop in a year or two, you risk your company’s future and all of the people who depend on your decision-making abilities. It doesn’t take a master’s degree, and no one knows it all. I suggest finding a good networking group that shares know-how and insights and utilize the resources near you.