The four types of quality social media content: my July Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly column

Every month, for the past four years, I’ve written a column about social media for Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly. Here’s the latest.

The four types of quality social media content

"Playing on the computer" by John Watson on Flickr

“Playing on the computer” by John Watson on Flickr

Last month, I identified quality content as one of the greatest differentiators in determining an organization’s success in using social media. As I mentioned in that column, your audience puts a high value on substantive information that addresses their needs. It can come in a lot of different forms – video or blog posts, to name just two examples – but even more important than the format is the degree to which it connects with those you’re trying to reach.

Almost without exception, all social media content that successfully engages the audience falls into one of four categories:

1. Discounts/offers. This one doesn’t apply to all types of businesses, of course. If you’re a retailer, however, there’s a good chance your social media audience connected with you in hopes of getting access to special offers or discounts on your products or services. You might provide a discount code for online purchases or an in-store coupon but, in any case, customers will always value the opportunity to save a few dollars in exchange for some of their attention.

2. Information. To say that your audience wants “information” sounds obvious, but it’s important to remember that they often just want a quick answer to a question. Let’s imagine, for example, you’re a hardware store retailer. This time of year, it may help your audience to know you sell pool supplies or fix gas grills. There’s a fine line between telling them something and pushing too hard in trying to sell them something, but a simple reminder of what you offer may be welcome when they are considering their options.

3. Education. This is similar to information, but it differs in one important way – it’s more substantive. Education consists of in-depth information designed to help the audience solve a problem. Let’s use the example of the hardware retailer. A video explaining how to install a deck or how to fix a leaky faucet, if done well, may position you as a top-of-mind choice when the customer is looking to purchase products related to his or her project. Furthermore, it establishes your business as eager to help and knowledgeable about your industry.

4. Entertainment/inspiration. It may be surprising to learn that audiences welcome content from brands that is purely entertaining or inspirational. The truth is, however, people aren’t always particular about the source if they find content that helps them spendºº their discretionary time well. The challenge for brands is that a sales pitch is not entertainment, so you should share any product/service benefits implicitly, not explicitly. If it feels like marketing, it will be much less likely to come across as authentic.

Here’s the catch: doing this isn’t easy. As the audience continues to expect higher quality content, and as the field for their attention grows more crowded, however, it’s becoming more important that your organization make content creation a central part of its social media strategy.

There’s one silver lining that may help make this seem less daunting – while content creation may seem like a new phenomenon, it’s likely that your organization has been doing it for years with newsletters, photos, news releases or profiles of your employees, you’ve been in the content creation business. The key is to translate that experience to the social media world while understanding the needs of your audience. Start by considering the four types of content to which they will respond and, then, take the time to create more of it.


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