Kim Ervin, Pyramid Communications Senior Social Media Strategist, provides a monthly column on digital storytelling.
Competing with Llama Drama
This week the internet was fascinated by llamas running through the streets of Arizona and “the dress.” Huh? I mean, how on earth is one supposed to compete with and capture people’s attention about things that are actually important, right? Things like getting out the vote, or alerts to public safety. Well, frankly — and by no means is this meant to discourage — you can’t. The fact of the matter is that more than ever in our job as communicators, we’re constantly battling short attention spans, notes from family and friends, and silly internet memes. It’s the world we live in and it’s not gonna change any time soon.
That said, it’s not time to give up. It’s time to dig in and get smarter than those daring llamas. Sometimes you gotta break out of that trailer and run free. In this post for Digital Storytelling, I’ll share some guidance around how to make sure you’re building a content experience that lets you do just that – run free!
Set Clear Goals
The first thing to get clear about is your goals. Sharing meme after meme in the hopes of chasing “likes” really doesn’t matter at the end of the day, if it’s not helping you achieve what you’re hoping to achieve. Otherwise you’re just wasting your precious energy and resources. Be intentional about the work you want to do and stick with it.
Understand Your Audience
In the same vein, be thoughtful about who you want to engage and reach. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have if they’re not the people that you need to connect with. You should use that clarity around your audience to not only guide the content you’re producing, but also the channels where you’re sharing it.
Key Messages vs. Audience Expectations
Essentially when thinking about your approach to content, you want to look at two things:
- What are your key messages or priorities?
- What does your audience want to hear?
Finding the happy middle should ensure you’re getting the things across that you need to, while giving your audience what they want.
Two Types of Content
Now that you have an approach that meets your needs and your audience’s desires, you can get to planning. It may seem counter-intuitive, but having a plan can actually set you free! With simple guidelines in place, you can bring in more focus and creativity to the types of pieces you know you wish to share.
A helpful frame to think about is building out “always on” content and “trending” content. Here’s how I like to think about the two:
- “Always on” content: These are your milestone pieces. These are the various types of content and messages that you know you’ll need to communicate on a regular basis. These may originate from your department, or they may originate from your community, virtual or real. You can count on these pieces to keep your social media channels relevant, timely, and fresh.
- “Trending” content: These are the unexpected opportunities (or in some cases hurdles) that come up. These trending pieces may come from the same sources as the “always on” content, internal teams or external audiences. They may relate to things happening in the general social sphere (i.e. llamas on the loose), or news in your local community. These pieces can be an important way to demonstrate that you’re an active participant of the community you’re building.
Additionally, whoever is leading your social and digital content creation, should also be playing a role as content curator. Much of what can help bring balance to your communities can be found in a diversity of voices. If possible, try to seek out content from sources other than yourself or your organization to add some fresh points of view and information to your communities. An example of this might be sharing a retweet from someone who found a valuable solution to their problem on a government page, and responding with a “Happy to be of service!”
There are a number of best practices out there to bring some fresh ideas and approaches to what you’re sharing, once you build your balanced content mix. Here are a few resources that I found valuable:
- “4 Step System for Writing a Great Blog Post” by CoSchedule Blog
- “The Ideal Length of Everything Online, Backed by Research” by Buffer
- “New Data: What Types of Content Perform Best on Social Media” by Hubspot
- “Moz: Social Media Best Practices” by Moz
Editorial Calendar Is a Must
A final comment on planning. As you’ve likely noticed, these recommendation truly only succeed if you carve out time to actually build the plan and put pen to paper, or fingers to keys. I highly recommend using an editorial calendar to help you manage the day-to-day once your plan is in place. An editorial calendar will help you continue to bring some thoughtfulness to what you’re sharing, how frequently your sharing, and how that aligns with your established content strategy. It’s an opportunity to start planning your content way ahead of when it needs to be published. It’ll help you insert ad hoc requests into a place that makes the most sense based on everything else you’ve got scheduled for the week, or month. It’ll help you explain to others who demand something go out right away, what else you have in the pipeline and where it might be better slotted in.
We’re fortunate to live in a time where we have the opportunity to share important information and experiences so easily, and so effectively with these new digital tools. The challenge is learning how to outsmart the tools and think beyond the tactical about why you’re there, what value you can bring to your audience, and, at the end of the day, how to build relationships with people that matter.