The Secret Sauce Behind Great Content

Lately, I have been talking with several C-level clients about their professional social media content, and have emphasized that great content starts with a great content strategy. A great content strategy takes a little work upfront, but will pay off with increased engagement and time saved later.

But what makes a great content strategy for an executive? Here are ten things to consider:

1. Establish clear objectives
This seems like a given, but you would be surprised at how many do not have clear achievable objectives. Many are attracted to the bright shiny object that is social media and content marketing and have vague objectives of being an expert or influencer.

2.Identify your audience(s)
Your audience should clearly flow from your objectives. Are you trying to reach employees, customers, government officials, etc.? While it is ok to try to message to multiple audiences, it does add a level of complexity and effort that you need to be prepared for. Simpler is easier and more straightforward.

3. Pick your platforms
Certain audiences tend to gravitate towards certain platforms. LinkedIn is right for reaching current and prospective employees and for delivering B2B content, but other platforms, such as Facebook, are better at reaching consumers. If your message is likely to be more text based, Twitter might be better than Instagram or Pinterest, which are more visually oriented. YouTube is great if your message is visual AND you have the resources to consistently produce quality video content. While large companies are often engaging across all of these platforms, as individuals, I recommend that my clients choose on one or two platforms to focus on.

4. Outline your preliminary messaging pillars
What are the content themes that you want to flow through your social media plan? As an executive, do you want to be known as an expert in leadership? Do you want to display subjective matter expertise around particular topics (blockchain, digital transformation, diversity, etc.)? Maybe you want to show a more approachable side? Or is it your intention to share some official company messaging? Most of these can ultimately be messaging pillars. With my clients, I like to start off with a preliminary list of ten.

5. Vet your preliminary messaging pillars
Just because you want to engage on a certain subject, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good idea. Using search and hashtags, check to see if others are already engaged in that topic. If few are, that may mean that no one cares about the topic, or it could mean that you have found whitespace to own. If there is a lot of content, that means it will be relatively easy to share and engage with others. While a lack of content may mean that you will have to create the content on your own, which may mean a lot of work.

Do extra vetting for vague pillars like approachability, which may be more of a style or tone that you want to weave across multiple pillars. I also recommend that executives run their content by their communications team, as some content may be deemed off limits. Using the vetting process, I try to narrow my clients down to about six final messaging pillars.

6. Stack rank your vetted messaging pillars
What are messaging pillars that are most important to deliver. What are those that are easiest or hardest to deliver? This ranking will help you figure out which messages to start with. These stacked ranked messages drive your content plan. I recommend that clients launch their social media plan with 3-4 messaging pillars.

7. Acquire the right tools
A content management system is a great start. For individuals or small businesses, I recommend Buffer
or Hootsuite , but there are tons of other options for larger businesses. They can save you time and give you that data you need to measure your progress. If your content pillars indicate that you will likely be sharing content from a trade publication, make sure that you have an active digital subscription to that publication. Also, make sure you have access to licensed images, three subscriptions that I would recommend are:

iStock photos

8. Prepare to get it mostly right
A good strategy should help most of your messaging pillars resonate with your audiences…as measured by engagement (likes, comments, shares, etc.). But one or two may not. And that’s OK. Just swap out the one that is not resonating with one of the previously vetted, but unused messaging pillars.

9. Engage, engage, engage!
When it comes to content “Build it and they will come” really doesn’t apply. You have to engage with others. Like, comment and share other’s content and they will often do the same. Almost always engage with commenters on your content. This is particularly true if an executive doesn’t have a well-established base of followers…even a simple thank you. You have to work hard to get yourself noticed. I often recommend paid promotion of content to help build engagement and a follower base.

10. Measure, measure, measure!
Another basic that often isn’t clearly articulated, how are you going to measure success? Do you have the right tools to measure, such as a content management plan? It helps by establishing performance metrics upfront. I recommend they be established as you are vetting your preliminary messaging pillars.

A well thought out content strategy can lead to great success in your social media efforts. While these tips are not comprehensive, they should help you build a successful content strategy.  If you want to learn more, a great resource is the Content Marketing Institute.

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