The latest figures released at this year's South African Social Media Landscape briefing paint a very clear picture - brands that are winning at social are winning at original content creation. This is illustrated by the fact that the platforms seeing the biggest growth are those that demand originality - namely YouTube and Instagram.
Gone are the days of getting away with lazy content. Unoriginal content that begs for shares, likes, RTs and jumps on hashtag bandwagons with no context, simply falls short of the benchmarks demanded of brands in this space. Even by Facebook's own standards, such content is frowned upon by its algorithms.
But content curation has been the bread and butter of brand pages since the me-too era of social marketing began. So how do we break out of the rut? By changing the way we see social content altogether. Mind shift
Without compelling content, as a brand, you can't truly have a community. In fact, an analysis of the top 300 South African brands in social media shows that the vast majority are measuring social success based on engagement and interactions rather than follower numbers.
These brands are also investing significantly more in content strategies than straightforward community management. In SA, 73% of top brands are or will be deploying a content marketing strategy in the coming year and more than 50% are planning to increase their social media budgets - pushing more spend into quality content creation.
So what should brands be doing to master their content strategies and be at the forefront of social for the coming year? Here's where to start:
- Get visual
Of course not all platforms are the right fit for all brands. But if you want to do social properly, it's time to start seriously considering a YouTube presence and dipping your toes in the Instagram pool. These platforms can't be simply added to your existing portfolio of channels and expected to thrive though.
They need to be deeply integrated into a cohesive content strategy and linked to your other platforms for effective content dissemination. These platforms require content that stands out, that makes users stop mid-scroll to see what its about. And simply saying 'let's make it viral' without backing it with a solid strategy and the required spend is a recipe for disappointment.
- Microcontent hubs
Your social content that is so carefully crafted and agonised over has a very short and limited lifespan if it only exists in the social space. This is why another major trend successful social brands have pioneered is the creation of 'content hubs' or 'microcontent' hubs that act as the locus for brand content of all shapes and forms.
These portals create content experiences, not fleeting engagements. More than 'blogs' in the traditional sense of the word, they contain a wide variety of content that caters for all kinds of users. From articles to videos, whitepapers and case studies to quotes and photos, a microcontent hub can be the source of content for your social channels.
Acting as distribution networks, your social channels should then be focused on directing users back to the hub where they can see the feeds from all of your channels in one place and engage with your content in a context where you can define the experience.
- Have a newsroom attitude
Let go of the comfort zone of the posting plan that defines content a month in advance. To rock the social space you need to understand the social space - and that involves spending time listening to the conversation.
Again, the top brands understand that a newsroom approach is essential for generating original, relevant content. You should be on top of the latest trends in your area every hour, on the hour. Oreo made it into the history books of social awesomeness when they tweeted 'You can still dunk in the dark' during the power outage of the US Super Bowl. They have mastered the art of creating content on the go.
What's the lesson? Loosen up. Use a posting plan only as a loose framework. A solid content strategy will be all the guidance your content team needs. Spend less time planning and more time listening for the opportunities to break through - and seize them.
- Get the right team
Creating breakthrough content is a team effort. It requires different thinking, different input and different skills. The team behind your brand's social presence needs to be essentially a fully skilled content production team. One day you may need a beautiful video, the next you may need some witty copy. It's no longer going to be a single person sitting behind your Twitter handle churning content to meet quotas.
The key to success is having a multi-skilled team of content creators at the ready, plugged into your community and target market, capable of turning around content fast and on the fly.
Forget about waiting for approval from your manager's manager. It's about acting timeously and jumping on opportunities as they arise and letting your brand find its social voice.