Brian Kotlyar, VP of marketing at real-time marketing software and solutions company Dachis Group says community managers are the most important part of a brand or agency’s social marketing engine, and it’s vital to ensure that they are “creating timely, trend-sensitive material that appeals specifically to users and advocates in a brand’s audience.”
To help facilitate that, Kotlyar and Dachis marketing specialist Julia Bass have coauthored a white paper titled “Content Planning For Community Managers,” which discusses the path brands need to follow to produce timely, real-time content.
“Social media has created an opportunity for companies to directly communicate with consumers, and community managers are uniquely placed to facilitate these powerful interactions in real time,” the report says. “Community managers must learn to find trends relevant to their audiences and respond in creative ways in near real time. Acquiring this skill won’t be easy, but it’s critical for the future of brand marketing.”
The report adds that while about 60% of companies now employ some type of content creation in their marketing strategies, “simply creating content isn’t enough—audiences eventually tire of the same old product shots, cat photos and holiday posts.”
The solution is to be more innovative, and the report cites two examples of brands that jump into real-time social conversations that had nothing to do with their products but wound up getting huge exposure. The first was Mini Cooper, which posted a “clever, time-sensitive graphic” during the U.K. horse meat scandal earlier this year. “They successfully positioned their company as a witty commentator on a broad national discussion and received a massive brand benefit as a result.” Interactions with the brand topped 1 million in just a few days.
A second example involved Starbucks in the U.K. and the chain’s participation in the online conversation surrounding the birth of the royal baby. “The brand joined the conversation with a humorous, but not particularly inspiring piece of content that was timely and appropriate to the whirlwind of social activity.” The report said while a typical Starbucks U.K. tweet generates 10 to 40 retweets and 20 to 50 favorites, the royal baby tweet yielded an increase of more than 3,300% in retweets and 2,000% in favorites.
The whitepaper says about those two examples: “Even if social content isn’t perfectly crafted or clever, it can deliver results.”
Community managers, who oversee the real-time marketing process, are typically publishing at least one piece of social content per day, and usually more. But the report points out that even one post per day each on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube adds up to about 240 posts per month, and that’s a lot of content.
The whitepaper then offers brands and community managers “Six Steps To Timely Content Management.”
Plan For Real-Time Flexibility
Two emerging practices can help brands become more timely. The first is to designate slots for timely content on a daily calendar to participate in social conversations and publish trending content. They can follow trending topics throughout the day by using tools such as the Brand Trend Dashboard. The second is to introduce a daily idea report each morning that consists of ideas and trends worth being transformed into timely and relevant content. If a timely idea doesn’t receive a green light to act on, then evergreen posts can be used.
Organize Your Tools and Systems
Community managers should identify reliable sources to go to each day for the manual curation of audience-appropriate trends. A pipeline needs to be set up between the community manager and an agency skilled at producing strong digital content, and in a quick response time. The content needs to be created before the relevancy window closes and the content approval process needs to be rapid.
Know Your Audience
Community managers should be constantly analyzing how social-savvy their audience members are, and putting out trending content before audiences have had the chance to see it elsewhere. Community managers can use tools such as Feely and RSS feeds that supply content relevant to the audiences they are managing. They can also subscribe to the Twitter accounts of community members and familiarize themselves with the demographics, psychographic and platform usages of their audience.
Know Your Platform
Social trends are platform agnostic, meaning finding great trends on Twitter doesn’t mean they can only be shared and reproduced on Twitter. Community managers should repackage trending topics for other social platforms.
Focus On Creativity, Speed and The Right Tools
A community manager needs essential skills like copy writing, image editing and an understanding of Web analytics. Community management teams must be experts in using platforms on a variety of social networks. Tumblr, for example, behaves very differently than Instagram. Trend identification software can take some of the burden off the community managers to find trends and this will let them focus more on finding ways to engage audiences with their created content.
Just Do It
Practice makes perfect.