Designing Content for Social Media Marketing

Social media networks support multiple content formats and there has been rapid growth in the use of interactive formats, for example, carousel ads on Facebook. This flexibility of format (text, image, multi-image, video, carousel etc.) gives marketers the ability to experiment with different types of content to gauge how best to attract and engage social users.

If people are the heartbeat of social media, content is the blood. It’s your content that people see and respond to, and that communicates your values and messages.

But what content works? How do you plan what to talk about, on which platforms and in what formats?

Producing and sharing content is no guarantee of success. Smart content marketers understand the need to align social with other channels to ensure there is a consistent style of communication with customers and the stories they are telling, and that is driven by a clear plan rather than scrabbling each week to find something to share.

Why is it important to get your content right for social media?

Social media is most often used for personal reasons to connect with friends and family, or to be part of conversations that align with your personal interests and passions.

If you serve content to people with this mindset that isn’t appropriate, relevant or useful, it can have the effect of turning people off and driving them away. Similarly, if you blast people with a constant stream of content, it can be overwhelming and come across like a shouting match.

You need to take the time to learn what people want to read/watch and make it digestible via the formats and channels they find most useful.

Why you need an over arching comms & content plan

Start with a clear comms and content plan that is aligned with business goals. This isn’t social specific; it should govern how you communicate with customers across all channels. Social can then inherit this plan and adapt it to suit social networks.

For example, you may have a campaign launching a new detailed guide and social is used to seed snippets from the guide over X weeks with a hook to download the full content. So the overarching plan guides what is being talked about and when, then the social media plan decides how to tell the story to a social audience based on content format, style and execution.

Before you start posting content, you need to answer the following questions:

  1. What are we trying to achieve on social media and how does this align with core business goals/objectives/targets?
  2. What stories do we want to tell and how can we make them relevant to our social audience?
  3. What is our social customer profile and what types of content to they respond best to
  4. What’s the current state of the market – how do competitors and comparators perform socially and what content works for them?
  5. Who needs to be involved in content production and marketing?
  6. How will we measure the success of social content?
  7. How will we optimise and improve what we’re doing?

Competitor analysis for social content

Imitation is flattery.

By this, I don’t mean copy what your competitors are doing, but if you are fighting for mindshare amongst a similar audience, it pays to know what content that audience currently consumes and responds to. You can then factor in popular topics and content formats into your social content plan.

By knowing what competitors are doing, you can also quickly identify content gaps:

  1. What topics aren’t they covering?
  2. Which topics are they covering poorly, with low-quality content?
  3. Which topics are they covering but not comprehensively, so there’s an opportunity to establish a niche foothold?

Originality is inspiring.

We decided to create inspiring content through other people. We ran a series of inspirational events featuring speakers who had a success story to tell, to demonstrate that success is unique to each of us and what makes each person successful varies but people who achieve have some things in common e.g. drive and ambition.

This helped generate unique content that drove social engagement:

  • Announcements of new free events at our London base (with Eventbrite registration)
  • Announcements for new speakers and a profile (amplified by them sharing with their personal networks)
  • Live tweeting to share quotes and insights from the speakers, via the hashtag #shedevents
  • Post-event write-ups and photos for visual content
  • Quotes from the speakers for short social posts
  • Post event interviews with some of the speakers around topics related to inspiration.

Creating a social media content marketing calendar

Keep this simple. Work on a quarterly basis and build out the content plan month-by-month aligned with your overall content calendar.

You should have a set of stories that need to be told, then break down for each month which story components are the focus and the content formats and social channels that will be used to distribute the messages.

Optimising content for a social audience

Businesses produce a lot of content; don’t restrict your social channels to content the social team produces. Think laterally.

For example, customer service teams create a lot of helpful content for users, answering FAQs and enquiries. They often add to the business knowledge base, and this information can be really helpful to social customers e.g. care instructions for a product. However, the content may not always be in a format and style that’s suitable for a social audience, so you can take the raw content and repurpose for your social channels.

Let’s use the example of care instructions. You could turn this into ‘Tip of the day’ for Twitter, using short-form, take-away advice that can link to more detailed content on your website.

Creating regular hooks

Find a content format that can be used to create regular posts that encourage people to come back for more.

ncreasing content reach

You want the biggest reach possible (amongst relevant audiences) so that you optimise your investment. This means finding ways to encourage other social users to share your content with their wider network. Below I look at 3 techniques to enable this:


You’ve got something but there isn’t much left and people have to hurry to get it. Scarcity is often a marketing veil but if used well can drive social activity. A good example is popular events where tickets sell out quickly – publicising the ticket launch date well in advance drums up interest.


If you offer something that people can’t get anywhere else, and it’s relevant to them, you stand a good chance of getting their attention and increasing engagement with your social content.


Find influencers who have their own engaged audience (don’t just think ‘people with millions of followers’, the followers need to actually listen to what they’re saying). Come up with a value proposition for them that encourages them to listen to what you’re posting and then share your content.

Test, measure and learn

How do you know what content works in social media?

Even without web analytics or social media analytics, you can very quickly look at engagement metrics for individual posts e.g. likes on Facebook, RT on Twitter.

However, to know how content contributes to your digital KPIs and ROI, then you need to ensure you’re measuring a much wider set of metrics. A few tips:

  • Add campaign tracking to all posted links (using a consistent tracking taxonomy)
  • Use social reports in web analytics to monitor social sessions and conversions
  • Use referral reports to compare social domains to other domains for referral traffic
  • Use landing page reports and then apply social segments to gauge social impact for key content pages

You should also use social network specific analytics to explore the impact of your content. For example, on Twitter you can compare month-on-month for total engagement and drill down into tweets with the most impressions and engagement.

Make sure you define the KPIs you will measure success against and then ensure reports are set-up to provide the data for analysis. Don’t go into the analytics tools with no idea what you want to measure – you’ll waste a lot of time!

Useful tools

It helps to use a toolkit to coordinate and automate social content marketing. That doesn’t mean remove the human element and personalisation, it simply means use tools to help you get your messages out there efficiently, for example queuing Tweets to be sent at times that are most likely to get engagement from your followers.

There are lots of free and paid tools out there. Below is a small list of ones I find really useful:

Social media aggregation platforms to help you coordinate your streams, schedule updates to multiple platforms and monitor keywords/hashtags to see what content other people are posting/responding to.

A great queuing system that helps you plan bulk updates and set a publishing schedule for each social network, as well as providing URL shortening and tracking (though you can of course use your own).

For identifying key influencers based on topic, location etc., really useful for connecting with people who can amplify your content.

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