How to Create the Right Content for the Right Social Channel

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most brands, using social media as yet another channel to promote those same campaigns is a waste of time and money, Jim Berkowitz, CEO and cofounder of CRM Mastery, said at the CRM Evolution conference in August.

Social networks have the potential to bring brands and consumers closer together and establish a pseudo-friendship, one that reaches far deeper than a traditional buyer-seller relationship. The most effective way to start building this relationship, which has the potential to evolve into brand trust, loyalty, and even advocacy, is through valuable content, not campaigns.

"When you see a friend share an article that you find interesting, you 'like' it on Facebook, or retweet it on Twitter. When they share some great pictures, you might leave a comment or ask a question. When brands share content in a similar manner, it elicits those same friendly reactions, and makes consumers feel like they're engaging with a friend rather than a company," Berkowitz said. "On social networks, consumers appreciate when [brands] play by the same social rules, and they reciprocate," he clarified.

But just because a brand is sharing valuable content rather than links to product pages doesn't mean it's not ultimately selling a product. When an insurance company, for example, shares a blog post that features tips on choosing the right coverage for your vehicle or shares a coverage calculator tool that can help consumers estimate how much they'd pay for car insurance, they may not close a sale at that moment, but they will establish the kind of transparency that customers look for in a company. "The more value you give ... potential customer[s] before they're even ready to buy makes them much more likely to ultimately buy from you. A good discount can get customers in a competitor's door, but it's trust and transparency that will keep them coming back to you," Terry Block, author of Klout Matters and the former chief enterprise blogger at Skype, adds.

Social media plays a major role in content marketing, and though there is some overlap, most networks are best suited for one of two categories—content creation or content distribution. LinkedIn, for example, is a content-creation mega-engine for B2B marketers, according to Todd Stewart, marketing manager at HourlyNerd, a company that helps businesses find consulting talent. A haven for in-depth, professional content such as case studies and white papers, LinkedIn still maintains a high level of social interaction. Like other networks, it humanizes and socializes the business, but unlike the others, it allows marketers to maintain the level of professionalism customary for B2B sales.

The company's recent updates to its publishing model have extended its capabilities even further. Originally available only to network influencers, LinkedIn's long form publishing was opened up to the network's other members earlier this year. Having the ability to publish content directly to the site allows marketers to reach people seeking professional content and eliminates previously existing barriers. Additionally, LinkedIn's new Sponsored Updates API and Partner Programs provide businesses with greater ROI insights about their campaigns, and also connect businesses with publishers, platforms, and original content producers to help deliver better content under their brand name.

Instagram has become a critical content creation tool as well. Entirely visual, this social network consistently delivers engagement rates that, when compared to Twitter and Facebook, are sky-high. According to a recent report from Forrester, Instagram's engagement rate is 120 times greater than Twitter's, and 58 times greater than Facebook's, most likely because of the casual and personal nature of the 

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