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The Design Train blogs are a series of articles researched and written by Andrew Knapp for submission to various publications and sites. The articles cover a wide range of topics and can be adapted and edited for use in various styles of media application.

  • Writer's pictureAndrew Knapp

What did you say? Why great content is crucial to your social media marketing.

“Content is King” is a well-worn expression in the digital marketing world. Whatever the size of your business or your campaign, and whatever it is social media, website driven, (or a combination of both), content is the driving force behind successful digital marketing. This blog focuses on content in social media.

Personally, I love creating content. The research process and gaining knowledge on a topic and creating relevant information for my target audience isn’t a chore, it’s a pleasure. Hey, but that’s me! For those of you who don’t think they have the time or creativity to create great content, read on.

First we need to examine why good content so important? To answer this we have to examine a couple of factors.

Looking at an obvious example, if we were to post the same picture on Instagram continuously or repeat the same Tweet every day on Twitter, it is going to lead to reduced interaction and audience boredom. The same applies to your Facebook page. If you send out exactly the same message to your followers over and over again, they will start to develop ‘post blindness’. On going through their newsfeed they will be more inclined to scroll straight past you post if it is the same information and image that they have seen before.

The amount of information, advertising and offers that appear on newsfeeds daily has resulted in an attitude of indifference, and even fickleness, within our target markets. Unless your content is fresh and relevant to your viewer it is doubtful that you’ll generate any interaction. And remember, this doesn’t only apply to paid advertising, but to your organic posts as well.

To further understand content importance it is essential to understand some of the behind-the-scene technicalities that evaluate your posts.

Facebook uses an algorithm called EdgeRank. Simply put, every time you post something, you create an ‘edge’. Your EdgeRank determines if, how often and where your post or advert will be seen apart from on your own newsfeed. The algorithm is constantly evolving with the advent of new social media trends and revised posting regulations, but it is based on the following factors:

Affinity: This is calculated by tracking the actions taken by viewers on a particular post. This includes liking, commenting, tagging, clicking, sharing, following, friending, or any ‘Call to Action’ (CTA) that the post is promoting (download our e-book, subscribe to our newsletter etc.). Each action that is taken on your post affects your affinity to a certain degree. If you get a comment on your post your affinity score increases. If someone replies to that comment, it increases even more. You get no affinity ‘points’ if a viewer sees your post and doesn’t interact at all. Obviously then, it should be your main goal to promote interaction, and this is mainly achieved by posting good content.

Edge Weight: Each edge ( or post) has a ‘weight’ value. For example, likes don’t have as much weight as comments which don’t have as much weight as shares etc.. Videos and live streams have more weight value than posting a photo or just a link. This is great news for those businesses that can easily use video clips or live streams in their posts. Those who don’t have this option need to be especially aware of their content’s effectiveness.

Time Decay: This is pretty much self explanatory. The older the post, the less relevance it has. It is important to post regularly and respond to comments timeously. Logging in once a week and leaving a boring post isn’t going to put you at the top of the list.

But how do you go about creating good content? One of the easiest ways is to look at your target market’s buyer persona (see ‘Who do you love – Understanding the buyer persona) and list their pain points. A pain point is a problem (real or perceived) that your potential customer has related to the product or service that your business is offering. If you can target your content to address their pain points, you are on the path to creating valuable content.

Let’s unpack this a little further with a few examples. You market a pet-friendly guest house in a tourist area. Ask yourself what makes the guest house different from the majority of others in your area (your unique selling point, or USP), and what pain points do your potential customers possibly have? When examining the ‘problems’ within this market sector you might find the following:

· Finding pet-friendly accommodation,

· Where can I take my dog? (hikes, events, restaurants / bars)

· Vets in the area in case of an emergency

· Are pet supplies easily available?

You now have a number of opportunities for creating some valuable content aimed precisely to your target market without too much effort. You could put together a simple ‘pet-friendly’ guide covering walks and hikes in your area where pets are allowed. List restaurants and bars in your vicinity where dogs are welcomed along with their location and contact details. List the local vets with their operating times, directions, and emergency numbers. Do the same for shops that stock of pet supplies or pet shops in the region. It may seem simple and pretty obvious, but within this list is a wealth of content that will interest your target market.

Now you can create a series of posts that targets those pain points and invites action from your viewers. A post heading such as ‘Wondering where to take your fur-baby this holiday? – like and comment on our post and we will message you details of our pet-friendly packages’. Or, ‘Take a hike!- Details of walks and hikes in our area that your dog will love’. How about ‘Take your dogs to dinner! - Restaurants and bars that will welcome your pup as a valued customer’. Finally, ‘Essential pet emergency information when bringing your ‘kids’ on holiday’.

With each of these posts you can prompt the viewer to respond to your post and receive information that is valuable to them in return, either by messaging their email address to you or emailing you directly. It goes without saying that you must always include your contact details and links to your website when applicable. These types of posts will not only promote engagement, but are specific to your target market and therefore generate a higher EdgeRank. As an added bonus you can now start building a list of qualified leads that you can start directing your marketing to.

Social platforms, like Instagram, don’t allow link sharing. There is a way around this with an app called Linktree. You can include a list of links that is accessible through your Instagram ‘bio’ page. It’s free and well worthwhile exploring. Always make sure of any restrictions, rules and regulations enforced on the social platform you are using.

Pain points are industry specific. The cake shop that offers regular recipes or cake decorating tips is offering more than just cakes. The builder who offers personal supervision and daily site clearance will appeal to the client more than one who doesn’t mention them.

Another method of engaging viewers is by asking a topical question in your post. For example:

· Because of the impact of drinking straws on marine life, we no longer serve straws with our beverages. Do you support this initiative? Please comment Yes / No.

· On a scale of 1 – 5 how likely is it that you will convert your home to solar power in the future?

· We are donating 10% of our sales to charity this month. Please post your favourite charity below with a brief reason why they should be our beneficiaries.

Originality is essential. Resist the temptation to just copy and paste information from someone else’s page. It could be copyrighted, and therefore considered plagiarism. If you need to present information that has been well covered on a number of other sites, try and re-write or restructure it in a way that is fresh and speaks in your own style, or ‘voice’. If you do want to quote someone else’s content, get their permission first and give them credit for it.

Earlier I mentioned videos and live streaming. Statistics have shown that both videos and live streaming generate far more engagement than static posts. In my studies I was amazed by the statistic that 100 million viewing hours of Facebook video posts is watched every day. That equates to a mind blowing 11,415 years worth of viewing! Daily!! YouTube reports six times that figure. Couple this with the fact that 74% of advertisement recall is achieved within 10 seconds of Facebook video campaigns, and you will understand why this method of getting your message across can be important to you.

Surprisingly, a simple ‘ views of our area’ or ‘behind the scenes’ video shot and edited on your smart phone is not only acceptable, but preferred over a professionally produced masterpiece as they are perceived as more authentic and less advertising driven.

Live video is available for most social media platforms. As casual and off-the-cuff as this medium appears, it actually needs a lot of planning. Know what you are going to film, in what order and have a rough script in place, above all, keep it relevant to your business. Video and live streaming is also ideal when your business has an announcement to make, is celebrating a major milestone or is launching a new product.

Creating a content schedule or calendar is important when planning a campaign. Doing this allows you to focus on when you are going to promote what. This is particularly advisable when your campaign culminates a specific time of year.

For example, a home improvement service could start a campaign mid-year by offering fortnightly DIY tips info or ‘how-to’ video clips. The complexity of tasks could gradually increases throughout the year, building up to quite intricate projects. The culmination of the campaign is a package offering that will ‘do it all’ for you for a fixed price. This offer is timed to correspond with annual company bonuses being paid as this is normally the time of year when larger investments and home improvements are traditionally budgeted for. What the company has achieved is to build up a firm following over a six month period by offering valuable content. Their brand is seen as authoritative, helpful and caring, therefore an obvious choice to contract a project too, or take up the ‘all-in-one’ offer that they are promoting. All it has taken is thought, time and a clear content calendar.

Another source of inspiration for creating content is Google Trends (, which allows you to see what is trending on the net in real time. Your trends search can be broken down into topic and area. As I am writing this, the Winter Olympics is trending in third place globally. If I sell sport or fitness related products I could create a post around the Olympic theme. For example, ‘Non-Olympians also deserve recognition! Get your professional Riedell 910 ice skating flair boots at a 15% discount, and let your talents shine! This offer lasts until the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics’. This is topical, trending, and also introduces a limited time period to encourage your viewer to take you up on your offer. This is also known as the FOMO factor (fear of missing out), and is widely used in marketing.

Social listening is also a good method of picking up on what is being discussed in your industry. Join some social media groups related to your business to regularly read what others are saying and what services your competition are offering. You could identify pain points or get promotion ideas that you hadn’t considered.

Measure how well your posts are working for you by using Facebook Insights to monitor them. Here you will be able to see the numbers of visitors, interactions, likes, post reach amongst other metrics. It also lists your various posts with a breakdown of how they have performed. When I first started using Insights I was interested to see that when I included a picture of an attractive woman in my post, my audience was 80% men and 20% women. When I posted an info-graphic, the numbers changed with 65% women as opposed to 35% men. So now I chose my image to appeal to a post’s target market. Facebook Insights can seem confusing for the first time user, but it is worth getting the hang of, as it is a finger on the pulse of your marketing efforts.

I hope that this has helped you in your quest for the perfect content. Yes, it does require some time to be invested, but I am sure that you’ll see that the results in your ROI.

If you still feel that you can’t tackle this yourself, speak to your favourite digital marketing expert about creating content for you. After all, that’s what we’re here for!

Happy marketing! – The Train Driver.

Andrew Knapp (aka The Train Driver) runs a digital, social and traditional marketing service, the Design Train, in Fouriesburg, South Africa

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