In the early days, the Internet was an obscure creature, an exciting idea and a tool that people used to start documenting and sharing information. Technological advancement was driven by humans, with the vague notion that perhaps one day, we could become more efficient, have exciting new inventions and narrowly avoid an impending robot apocalypse - but that was all one day. In the meantime, we were content to use it as a way to connect.
Little did most of us know that technology would subtly become part of our daily lives, as a tool for socialising, sharing and curating our online experiences. Suddenly, strangers were friends and social media was the new-school marketer’s obsession - for well into a decade.
As a result, we learned a lot about how to reach consumers through storytelling and how quickly the print media could lose its monopoly on dictating what was newsworthy. There were a number of positive and exciting advances in social and editorial media - however, each came with its challenges.
After the initial exploration, marketers and social agencies started to rely too heavily on vanity metrics as a measurement for success. Between all the hype and buzzwords and social media “gurus”, a very real problem became evident: there was little emphasis on understanding how social media directly drove sales.
The bottom line is always the bottom line
In a bid to get the attention of the consumer and garner power through viral campaigns and creative awards, we collectively started to lose sight of the end goal. It was always business growth and increased revenue (at the core of it) but the road to get there was paved with good intentions instead of rich datasets, experimentation and a highly measurable impact on sales. We were repeatedly told 'content is king' and sales will follow - but the strategy needed to be more intentional along the way.
Yes, we should harness content to build specific communities and use both as a tool for tangible business growth. But at the same time, we stay true to our brand, emphasize key themes and align with meaningful values that serve both the business and the consumer. At the end of the day, we need to drive business growth and revenue as a brand. The focus is shifting and we need to shift with it.
Putting it into practice
Now for the important question. How?
- Get practical and specific about your objectives: Do you need to measure a correlation between content and communities and sales? Do you have a corresponding search strategy? What keywords would you particularly like to rank for? What tags, themes or phrases would you like people to associate with your brand?
- Intricately understand your place in the social landscape. Also, identify which partners, influencers or superfans are aligned with your communities. Know your audiences intricately, measure what they respond to and go back to the basics, i.e. split testing content, using heat maps for digital touchpoints and measuring more abstract metrics, such as sentiment. Ironically, these can sometimes offer the most helpful data on the relationship between a community and business growth, when cross-referenced.
- Identify and focus on the needs and expectations of your consumers. Intricately understanding your audience goes beyond basic demographics. Use focus groups, tools and media monitoring to explore their interests, what content they engage with. Also measure drop-offs and unfollows (negative user behaviour) in relation to brand behaviour and see if you can draw correlations.
- Use content and communities to nurture sales leads. Some consumers might be introduced to your brand for the first time, via targeted content. This is a good way to draw them into the sales funnel. Then by consistently offering them value and integrating social tools with sales tools, you can start to funnel them towards converting. Similarly, these methods can help you build relationships and garner repeat business, which you can track and measure.
- Identify your strategy and put the resources in place to execute it. For many brands, harnessing content and communities is (broadly) a 3-step process: Educate segmented audiences, convert them and nurture them for a final sales conversion. In order to do this, you will need a multi-disciplined team to create the right messaging, to analyse the data and to adapt and measure your progress accordingly. You will also need the right software to make these goals more easily attainable.
- Create data ecosystems that can give you in-depth insight into which social touchpoints drive revenue, and how. When you’re working with facts and figures, you start to create a landscape for understanding what drives sales. There are a number of tools at your disposal to help you test and develop theories, and often they are surprisingly easy to use and largely automated, taking the grunt work out of the initial data collation.
There is so much more to unpack on the subject, and so many rewarding ways to connect with your audience creatively and informatively. But your starting point is structure and understanding.
Want to know more about how content and communities can help your business grow, tangibly?
Join Meltwater and Depop’s head of marketing, Yoann Pavy for an exclusive webinar on how they use content and communities as a core part of their growth strategy. Learn how you can integrate these methodologies into your own marketing plan and start reaping tangible business rewards from your social efforts.