An illustration of social media hub-and-spoke model
Marketing Social Media

Content Marketing’s Critical Role in Social Media

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Interest in content is surging and, thanks to Skyword and Unisphere’s “Content Marketing Gets Social” research, we know that many organizations have formalized content strategies—almost 50 percent of the research respondents, in fact.

A complete content strategy ensures that content is portable, so that it can follow to audiences wherever they choose to go. Today, the balance is tipping toward social media, where the audience is hungry for regular content.

Image and video sharing platforms such as Instagram (owned by Facebook) and Vine (owned by Twitter) have a combined 190 million active users. Social media is constantly updated, meaning those 190 million people return regularly for fresh content. It’s no wonder respondents to “Content Marketing Gets Social” ranked social media as the fourth most important marketing channel overall (behind PR, but ahead of organic search). Increasingly, brand messages are discovered and shared via social media.

Social Discovery

So how does content get discovered on social media? And how can marketers effectively fuel their social media channels with engaging content? Facebook Data Science has actually written a paper describing how content goes viral. The research reveals two distinct paths for viral content: Either the content spreads within a large and established audience, or the content inspires great depth of sharing between groups.

Reach social audiences of great size: For this to happen, your content must be seen by many people. This audience can be an existing fan base or it can be targets reached through paid social advertisements. Accessing a large audience seems obvious, but most marketers know that spending big on advertising does not guarantee activity.

Achieve great depth of sharing in social: Depth refers to how your content passes from one audience member to another in unbroken chains of sharing. The depth of the chain is critical to your content going viral because it indicates the level of influence that your message carries. As people reshare your content, they attach their own credibility to your message. On Facebook, a savvy social media marketer might achieve depth by reaching out to complementary groups or business pages to reshare content. This sharing by industry players gives the content authenticity. Many brands on Twitter are enlisting well-known experts to share branded content, passing along their influence and credibility at the same time.

Lacking a Team and a Process

With content as their new currency, marketers are achieving their objectives via social media. In fact, 70 percent of the research respondents report promoting content socially after first publishing it to their companies’ websites. More than half are investing in creating original content specifically for social media. However, only 12 percent are creating enough content in order to post one or more times per day. While social is a legitimate and critical component of content distribution, brands have a long way to go before they are creating enough content to fulfill audience demand.

The lack of content is a symptom of meager resources set aside for social media. Despite the growing strategic importance of social media, only 27 percent of respondents handle their social marketing with dedicated internal social media staff. Even when staff are present, the budget is low. Fifty-seven percent of respondent organizations allocate less than 5 percent of their annual marketing budget to social media.

What could be the most important marketing channel in just a few years is seriously neglected in most organizations. But through the lens of content marketing, the power of social media as a channel for growth is becoming clearer by the day.

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