Joe Pulizzi is no luddite when it comes to social media.
The former Penton publishing exec and founder of content marketing hub and match-making service, Junta42, can Twitter, TripIt, Facebook and LinkedIn with the best.
So, if you’re feeling a little behind in blending social media into your branding and marketing efforts, you might be buoyed by this post from Pulizzi’s Junta42 blog. In it, he argues that marketers who rush to adopt social media before establishing a content strategy are putting the cart before the horse.
The tweet before the meat.
Tweeting On Empty
Couldn’t agree more. In fact, a colleague recently passed along this good example (and by good I mean bad) of what can happen when it appears a business or a marketer has jumped into social media because, well, the water’s fine and everyone else seems to be diving into the pool.
It’s one of those classic faux pas vignettes, this time involving Time Warner Cable. But it could have been any organization where the strategy and motivation for using social media is unclear.
A designated corporate tweeter from TWC put out the following message:
“…working on customer loyalty programs and would love your ideas/input — raffling an ITouch on Thurs to constructive suggestions.”
Already you know something’s a little off. Let’s assume we’re seeking customer insights to enhance a loyalty program. Most of us might find a more artful way to make the ask than to say, essentially, “Hey customer, we’re looking for ways to make you more loyal. Got any?”
However, a customer took the bait and proceeded to publish a series of tweets describing some fairly specific wants and pain points. More attentive customer service reps. Great flexibility to personalize channel packages. A monthly bill cleaned up of “cryptic misc. charges.”
After about the fifth tweet of constructive feedback and critique, the TWC tweeter chirped back:
Rough translation. “Appreciate the comments. But we’re actually not that interested in listening to you. We’d prefer to market at you.”
Content Trumps Social Media
Now that’s just one example, perhaps an aberration. Presumably, TWC is a fine organization with mostly excellent marketing intentions, execution and people. But the bigger point, the one made by Pulizzi’s post, is this:
Make sure you’ve got something to say, something of value to offer, before you go stirring up too much conversation and following via social media. And be ready to engage in conversation. Otherwise, you’ll end up whistling Dixie, or engaging in aimless chatter, and that’s not a good place (and by not good I mean bad) for a brand to be.
“Ultimately, it’s not about just experiences and interactions through social media. It’s about creating meaningful experiences and interactions,” Pulizzi writes. “It’s about creating valuable, relevant and compelling content on a consistent basis that positions your brand as the trusted expert to your customers. When that happens, customers and prospects want to talk to you, and want to share your content.”
Visual Metaphor Alert!
I added a comment to Pulizzi’s post. It’ll probably sound quirky, but it might help establish a visual metaphor by which to keep your social media and content strategy priorities in order.
Social media is a bit like a colony of ants, streaming out from a hill. Bumping into each other. Climbing over one another. Exchanging antennae rubs. Impressive amounts of kinetic energy and potential on display.
Then, abruptly, the scene changes. Those seemingly random interactions start to signal there’s something important or valuable going on back at home base.
Suddenly, what appeared to be mostly a scramble starts to assume purposeful patterns. Queens get nourished. Eggs get laid. Tunnels get dug. The colony and its inhabitants flourish.
That earlier scramble was social media activity lacking an organizing purpose. Without a content strategy.
The latter, more orderly scene? Let’s call that content marketing in action, leveraging social media as channels by which to stimulate awareness, consumption and sharing of your content.
If you haven’t yet, check out Get Content. Get Customers.,
co-authored by Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett. It’s just out
in paperback from McGraw-Hill.