Yes, "Pick Any Two" generally applies to content as well

A common complaint from businesses, large and small, is that they have a Twitter feed, a Facebook page, a website, a blog, they’re on LinkedIn and YouTube, etc. and they’re doing everything right in terms of being present in social media, but nothing is happening. 

Upon inspection of their customer source data and other metrics, it turns out that they called that pretty accurately; there is nothing happening as a result of their presence in the digital online world. 

Then you look at what is on their Facebook page, or their blog, or their Twitter feed, and it becomes obvious why nothing is happening. They have little or no content, and/or the content is awful and boring. 

As we mentioned in this piece titled, Business Blog Primer, having smart or funny or informative or engaging or thought-provoking content is key to making social media work for your company, whether that’s on a blog, or on YouTube, or on Facebook, or even if you’re simply participating in a discussion on LinkedIn. And it needs to be consistent, as we mentioned in that same piece from a few months ago. There is nothing more pathetic than a business blog that has three posts in the past 12 months. 

Social media is all about conversation, albeit in a digital vein. And just like regular conversation, if you don’t have something interesting or humorous or thought-provoking or relevant to say, people lose interest and don’t want to talk to you anymore, and they also don’t want to talk about you. And just like regular conversation, if it is interesting or humorous or thought-provoking, etc, then people will want to repeat it to others, in this case online. It will be tweeted, or re-tweeted, quoted, linked to, etc. 

Can you create your own content? Should you create your own content? The answers to these questions are, in the order they were asked: “Yes”, and, “Probably not”. 

Time for some brutal honesty here – most people cannot write very well. And most people are not skilled and creative enough to make good videos or podcasts. You might be one of those people in the minority that can create good (and hopefully, occasionally) great content, but you’re probably not. 

Which is okay; most people that can create good/great content are really awful at calculating P&L costs or managing a call center or doing statistical modeling around account acquisition. Or, for that matter, leading a company or a business unit. 

So, if you are truly skilled in the area of creating content, then you should do it. If you’re not, then you should get as much content as you can for free (legally!), and pay someone to create the rest. 

Why is this worth the money you’re going to spend? 

Because it’s important to your company’s brand and to the bottom line, and the online competition for eyeballs is fierce. Remember this when you’re thinking about social media: When you are competing for someone’s attention online, you’re not just competing with other providers of your product or service (your market competition), you’re competing with everything a person has available to them online. You’re competing with tweets they’re getting from their friends, tweets they’re getting from famous people, visits to the CNN.com website, all the posts and links they’re getting on Facebook, that website about sports they go to every day, emails their friends have sent them that have a link enclosed and text in the email saying, “You HAVE to read this”, dating sites, and on and on and on. There is a finite amount of things any person can look at online every day, and everyone makes an unconscious calculation of just how much time is going to be allocated to whatever single item they’re reading or viewing online. You’re competing with all of that other digital stimuli. 

Furthermore, there are millions of teenagers and young adults that now rely solely on Twitter links or Facebook links to get whatever information or news they receive on a daily basis. They don’t visit news sites or blogs on a recurring basis, they merely respond when something is “pushed” to them by someone they know, with perhaps a descriptive four or five word blurb attached, and then they will follow the link to something on a blog or The New York Times website. Those of you with teenagers still around probably know that some teens visit Facebook dozens of times per day. All done while receiving texts from their friends, by the way. 

If your social media content isn’t good in some way, it will be ignored. Period. You’ll never get anyone’s attention. And, if it is good and you get someone’s attention, and then don’t follow up with consistently good content, they will simply flutter away to some other distraction in the social media universe, like a butterfly that you cannot catch, and will never see again. 

Good content is paramount to effective marketing via social media. Here are the ways to get good content on a consistent basis: 

1)    Create your own.

2)    Get some for free – reprint articles from other sites AFTER getting permission from the owners of the content, link to other content, have guest writers, podcasters, videographers, etc.

3)    Hire talent to create content – either as a full-time employee or hire freelancers.

4)    Allow comments on your blog, Facebook page, etc. so that people can talk to you and each other about your company and its products, people, etc. When someone asks you a question, respond immediately and in a thoughtful way. This is all content as well, in case you’re wondering. 

Don’t skimp. Don’t become lackadaisical and ignore putting out new content. Don’t expect immediate results. Don’t set up a blog or a Facebook page or a Twitter profile until you have first determined where your content is coming from and how often it can be generated. And, finally don’t get discouraged. This is not as daunting as it seems. 

But it is necessary. If you’re going to play in the social media sandbox, you need a strategy for content.

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting, a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area, where he advises businesses in marketing, sales, front-end operations, and strategy. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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