Quick question: Is your company's social media content engaging? Relevant? Compelling? Do your blogs draw comments and really resonate with your audiences?
If not, your content is holding back your social media efforts---and if it's really weak or misdirected, it could be even be damaging your business.
I've often wondered why most company content is still so weak. After working with many B2B companies, I've come up with two simple reasons. First, most employees trying to blog aren't writers. Secondly, they don't have time to blog; they're scrambling just to hold down their "day jobs." We've tried to impose our egalitarian pipe dream---that everyone should blog---and it hasn't really worked.
So about three years ago, I began doing the unthinkable (at least if you're a social media purist). I began bringing in writers and editors to help. Turns out the old publishing model (revised for the social media age) works well.
My focus here are motivated bloggers---they can and want to blog but just aren't up to it for the reasons I mention. There's another group of those who can't or won't blog. This might be senior management or top subject matter experts who don't have the time or want to fuss with it. These require a more one-on-one attention and hand-holding approach.
Start out by sitting down with the bloggers and social media manager to understand their goals. Are they trying to build a brand or awareness, drive sales, or something else? Conduct an audit to determine their level of skills. On a scale of 1 to 10, what are their blogging/writing skills? Subject knowledge?
You want to qualify your bloggers if you're just starting. (Only once did I have a blogger outside the United States whose writing was so bad we couldn't use him---but it happens.)
Then you set up your editorial support system. This would include:
- Basic research and marketing intelligence---Have them start using listening tools like Google Alerts and Radian6 to identify related blogs and conversations, so they're well-versed.
- Story angles and suggestions---This is where you act as a sounding board and keep them on track with industry discussions. Too many times business bloggers revert back to their comfort zone subjects. In some cases, you might offer high-level outlines to provide suggested angles and structure.
- Light editing---You're serving as another set of eyes to catch major mistakes or tweak a thought or two. Avoid heavy editing. It's their blog, remember?
There's a lot more but this will get you started. Other support services might include strategies for marketing the blog, along with commenting, and SEO tips and strategies.
You need to develop a framework that will keep the trains rolling, starting with an editorial calendar. Deadlines, schedules, and structure force bloggers to work with you to crank out copy systematically. You might set a schedule for starters of simply one blog per blogger per week, and build from there. I'd suggest an editorial meeting weekly initially, and then bimonthly as you develop a cadence.
The goal is to provide your social media types with the framework and resources that make it easier to blog, tweet, and so on---and do it well. But you don't want to lose their "voice" in the process; that's the trick.
One caveat: I've worked on these programs for several companies, and it's never fast or cheap. You'll have to balance this against budgets and resources, and figure out how to make the program scale.
You should be able to slash the blogger's invested time at least 50% with a publishing model, with your editors picking up the slack. Do it right, and you'll get a steadier flow of higher-quality content at a consistent cost. You'll also sleep better at night knowing you're not just throwing content over the wall.
Mark Ivey is a consultant and vice-president with the ION Group, a marketing communications company specializing in social media strategy. He helps companies tell their stories and connect with their key audiences in the new interactive online world. He shows them how to use a blend of social media and traditional marketing and PR tools to build communities, develop thought leadership platforms and promote their brands.
Mark brings a unique multi-dimensional perspective based on 20 years of industry experience spanning journalism, marketing, PR, media and executive communications. He worked as a writer and bureau chief for BusinessWeek magazine for almost a decade and in the late 90s served as a consumer media spokesman for Intel, part of a unique national education program he developed for families--Intel's first "human brand" program. He's a published author (Random House) and former nationally syndicated newspaper columnist who has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows.
The ION Group specializes in digital marketing and communications consulting services, along with building interactive websites, blogs and other social media platforms. The company is based in San Jose, and primarily works with Fortune 500 companies in Silicon Valley.