I often get asked to help an organisation come up with a content strategy for social media. The implicit assumption in most of these requests is that the strategy will be defined in terms of defining the output – a bit like a conventional editorial schedule.
However, this is a bit like asking the editor of a nightly TV news programme to define their content strategy in terms of output. The editor would probably turn around and say “well, I don’t even know for sure what’s going to be leading tonight’s bulletin, let alone what our content is going to be tomorrow or next week”. You can’t answer the question from an output perspective, you can only answer it from a process perspective: the same editor would be able to tell you in great detail about the process he or she has put in place in order to be able to produce relevant content for tonight or next week.
To a very large extent it is the same with a social media content strategy – you can’t define it from an output perspective, only from a process perspective. You can’t plan the content in advance, but you can have plan a process that ensures the the content you do produce is appropriate, based upon what your monitoring is telling you your consumers or customers are talking about, or want to talk to you about. Again – it comes back to the fact that social media has to be defined by process, not by output.
Interestingly, the failure to grasp this is being played out, very visibly, across many brand Facebook pages. The new Timeline format makes it easy to see, on the left hand side the ‘content’ the brand wants to talk about and on the right you can see the Recent Posts By Others – i.e. what consumers actually want to talk about. There is usually next to no correlation between the two. In fact, what this usually reveals is that consumers don’t want ‘engaging content’ as we are all encouraged to believe, what they want is relevant, specific information and answers to questions. This is why I am also keen to banish the word ‘content’ from social media altogether, and replace it with the word ‘information’.