Content Strategy and Social Media

Kristina Halvorson

Social media proponents tell us that the only way to protect our brand integrity in this Web 2.0 world is to "join the conversation"—get out there and pay attention to what people are saying about your products and services. Listen, respond, deliver on your promises. Be authentic. You know the drill.

But let's back up for a minute. In any conversation, we're really doing two things. We talk. And we listen.

Easy enough. But here's the catch. Once you decide to actively participate in social media (like Facebook or Twitter, for starters), it's important that you answer two questions about your conversations:

  •  Why am I talking?
  •  Why am I listening?

These seem like the most basic, obvious questions in the world. But they're the very first questions that must be answered before you lift a finger in social media. And it appears that many, many companies (and their agencies) are forgetting to ask them.

If you're going to dive in, don't forget to keep swimming.For a quick example, check out these live, sponsored channels on YouTube:

Seriously, people. WHY? What was the plan, here?

Clearly, there really wasn't one. At least, not one that had a meaningful outcome to either the business or its audiences.

I see these sites, and I see three brands that don't have their social media acts together. And that makes me think they don’t care about me, what I need, or what I have to say. Not really.

So how can you participate in social media without losing trust or credibility? How can you mitigate risk and reap the rewards social media has to offer?

Have a plan. No, seriously. HAVE A PLAN.

For starters, create a well-articulated web content strategy that's actually sustainable within your organization. Plan what you're going to say, why you're going to say it, and how it's going to happen. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Scale according to real-world resources.

Then, whatever you do, make sure that content strategy informs your use of social media. Wherever you're posting, responding to, distributing or syndicating information, be sure that information is on brand, on message, accurate, and delivers on its promise.

This isn't easy. This means you have to listen to more than just the people who are pushing you to "dive on in" to YouTube or Facebook. You must engage marketing, PR, customer service, subject matter experts, legal. They all need to be involved in the decisions you make about social media. Because they all have important information about how your social media content and conversations could impact the business and the customer.

Sound complicated? It is. So take your time. And be sure to start by asking that most basic, obvious question: WHY?

Note: This original post contained a link to a sponsored, empty YouTube channel called AmeripriseDreams. I quickly received a very lovely phone call from Keith at AMPF who let me know that they weren't responsible for this channel. Hopefully they can get it pulled down soon ... good luck, guys.