Social marketing….where content is king.

I’ve has so many conversations recentlyabout the intersection of public relations and social marketing, ranging from official presentations to casual chats over lunch, I’ve begun losing count.  They have been as helpful for me in helping me crystallize a point of view as I hope they have been for friends and clients who we are either working with, working for, or hopefully will be working with and for in the near future.

The ultimate bottom line for me in all of this is that to make this work in the long run, CONTENT will be king.

In the late 90’s the great race was to develop a website.  Everyone had to have one.  So when you finally got one it was like the Grizwolds in the original “Vacation” movie when they finally made it to the Grand Canyon.  The stood there, put their arms around each other, took a deep breath, looked at it natural beauty….and then quickly got back in the car and moved onto the next thing.  In the case of the website, it was having that same scene in front of the monitor and then beginning to design the second website.

I’m sensing the same “flavor of the month” fervor that we need to try to avoid.

Social marketing is for the long haul.  It is about building meaningful relationships.  Just building your Facebook fan page, creating a Twitter persona, firing up Flickr and YouTube channels are great but they are not the end as is the case with the average website, they are just the beginning.

So content and the planning, writing, editing and executing of it in a planned, measured but at the same time adjustable and dynamic way will be the long haul play and where the ultimate opportunity lies.  I’ve been experimenting with this approach on the THP Facebook fan page (please become a fan) and it is still a work in progress.

I’m sensing partnerships between clients and their social marketing counselors instead of the “we can do it all for you approach.” 

Can we write blog posts for clients, yes.  Should we do that, I’m thinking no because of a lack of authenticity.  Can we “tweet” for them, yes…but we need a mixture of the interesting facts that Peter Shankman talked about in his Richmond talk and the authority that only someone close to the information can provide.

On Facebook, can we plan out well thought out information campaigns like media relations campaigns with information including pictures and video that changes on a regular basis, yes.  But only if we are disciplined enough to commit to changing that content regularly, making it informative and valuable to the audience and then encourage that audience to share in the content and conversation.

This will take a partnership and consulting approach from the social marketing counselors who will work as content managers and collectors but also an understanding from the client that they to have to make this commitment as well.  They will need to identify folks to will help provide the content and meet their counselors in the middle.

This will help both sides.  The investment of time and money on the client side while important will not be overwhelming and overly expensive, and for the counselor it will mean while they might not be able to buy the new condo at the beach, they will be able to have a sustainable business model.

The final challenge for both sides will be to find the cost-effective way to produce that content.  High-end audio and video costs a lot of money and in some cases Flip cameras won’t cut it.  The middle ground may be the best place to play and ability to produce at least some of that content in house is something I know we’re seriously considering.

It’s a bit of a gamble and the ultimate question about social marketing and ROI is still to be answered.  But if content is king then it may be a gamble worth taking.

I welcome your thoughts on this matter as it helps us more than you will ever know.  Thanks.

Jon Newman

In 2002 Jon cofounded The Hodges Partnership and has helped to grow it into one of the country’s largest public relations firms (based on O’Dwyer’s annual rankings). Jon has taught communications as an adjunct professor at VCU, speaks regularly at conferences and meetings and blogs and tweets about public relations and marketing issues.

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