Lessons for success and caveats for the unwary social media traveller

Herman Singh explains how professionals can use their social media to build their network and career (part two).

Read more: How to and how not to successfully build your social media platform

Your content management strategy will have an operational and a creative component. The five key operational steps for any content management strategy are to analyse, collect, create, publish, and manage.

Step one is to analyse the task at hand to ensure that the content management task is aligned to the need. This includes analysing the nature of the audience, their needs, the business needs, attributes of the platform and to define what success will look like e.g., 10,000 views a day or a hundred likes per item published.

Collecting appropriate content or researching background is the second step and this involves extensive scanning and research to identify key trends, core narratives and what would be compelling to the target audience.

The third step is to create compelling content, but more on that in the second part of this article.

The fourth step is to publish, and this will involve deciding when, where and how to publish. Mornings are great on LinkedIn, but bear in mind that this varies per region so decide when to post an article depending on the region targeted. Weekends are slow on professional apps, but weekends differ in Islamic countries and Israel, so that’s an important fact to bear in mind.

Multi-channel publishing might be important depending on the audience or message, so you might want to use Twitter for short messages on weekends, Linked in on weekday mornings and YouTube for longer, more detailed content. Podcasts work best for seven to 15 minutes of audio, while YouTube is best for four to seven minutes of video. Twitter has a tighter message length restriction than LinkedIn, so consider this carefully in developing your publishing strategy.

“Manage” is the final operational step and this involves monitoring the life cycle of the piece from the time that it is published. You will want to look at which platforms are working best and why. You may also decide to adapt pieces that are not accelerating well and republish with a new media plan.

Sometimes it’s a big news day and it makes sense to publish at a quieter spot so as not to be drowned out by the noise. Monitoring which stories are trending can help you shape the next edition of pieces to go out. This is a highly iterative process given the need for relevance in the creation phase.

Let’s go back to step three: create. Content creation is probably the most important part of the content strategy. What follows is an analysis of lessons learned from an experiment of over 10,000 articles published over a 10-year period. My best performing articles shared a few attributes, as did my worst performing ones. And it’s helpful to unpack why.

Relatable content:

  • You connect best with an audience when you create content that is relatable. This means that it must be relevant, and it helps if the subject area is trending. Understanding where the zeitgeist lies and what occupies the minds of an audience is key. Where are they at? What makes them anxious or happy and where are they focused now? This helps to attract their attention with an appropriate headline. Your opening sentence or title is by far the most important part of any piece. So make it powerful.
  • Unique perspectives: Followers are interested in what makes you unique and different, so merely agreeing and sharing whatever is there already is not insightful. What makes you unique is finding unusual content to share, making intriguing comments on other content, extracting an unusual perspective on a subject or even connecting items that may not logically be connected. It is this that will entice and seduce the users into following you. This requires that you work on yourself. This is not formulaic at all. It requires that you invest in research, self-reflection, analysis and creation in order to produce contributions that are share-worthy.
  • Provoke discussion and debate: Part of what you need to do is to create more traffic on your content and one way to do that is to create provocative insights that are designed to drive a discourse. This is not being argumentative for the sake of it. It is not about creating disagreements or being disagreeable or of always taking a contrarian point of view. One is not seeking conflict for conflict’s sake. One is seeking to create alternative ways to view the world and new insights from fresh thinking or facts. This requires that the tone of your contribution be respectful and professional. You need to encourage and not stifle novel thinking.
  • Incite curiosity through imagery: The use of imagery and video can be very powerful. Connecting words to pictures brings both to life and creates unexpected connections in the viewers’ minds. This is a powerful and emotional way to both create aha moments for others, but also helps you to both connect emotionally to others and to build a relationship of trust. This opens elements in the minds of others in the same way that art does. It bypasses the pure logic channels and allows you to conquer minds through the heart. It is a powerful tool in the hands of the skilful content creator and is strongly encouraged. It incites curiosity and draws the audience into your world. A picture truly is worth a thousand words!
  • Personal experience and insights: One form of sharing for professionals that is greatly valued is when you share the benefits of insight and hindsight from your own working and professional experience. This could be lessons learned, key principles for success or even caveats for the uninitiated. All inputs to help those that follow you to stand on your shoulders. This form of sharing is very valued especially if you have been mindful in your own career and been able to distil and extract that. This is generous sharing and is expounded on next.
  • Give generously: Giving generously or selflessly seems like charity but this is not a pity share. This is very much about self-interest, but designed in a way that gives away vast amounts of information and asks for a little in return, some unconsciously. A great deal for the consumer of content, in fact. Giving away in this fashion engenders a strong feeling of goodwill and is rewarded implicitly but not explicitly. It could be a reward of trust, loyalty, belonging, community, business, eyeballs, leads, etc. There are many ways of identifying and extracting value for the professional.
  • On-share with interpretation: You don’t always need to create the content, but you can often create powerful value when you help to interpret the content to explain the “so what”. This assistance is a great way to build rapport with others and aids with sense-making. This is itself a very powerful skill.
  • Emotional connection: Creating emotional content is by far the most important part of any piece. It is often said that if it bleeds then it leads, but you need to decide whether you want to constantly be the harbinger of doom. Good news really does sell among professionals and most want to learn from success and what works. They are sponges for wisdom, so leverage that to your advantage.

Content deserves a book on its own and this is just a brief dip into what is key to consider for any professional trying to become a publisher with an audience. Not all professionals will want that but for those that do it is good news that this is certainly an attainable goal, but only if one can stand out from the 660 million users, at time of writing, and almost as many publishers on the platform. Content is the key differentiator here.

Here’s how I developed a sizable and distinctive presence on LinkedIn, and leveraged this into a great business success story. These lessons have been stress tested in the field and proved to be valid and reliable as they have been developed over a period of 10 years on a profile that is one of the one percent top profiles on the platform.

I started as one of the first five percent of users globally and built up a base of 40,000 contacts and many more tens of thousands of followers with some posts having had over a million views. This has resulted in over 40 million views per annum of all posts combined with 100,000 likes from 200 countries, 10,000 on-shares and all this from 2,000 discrete items published annually.

These statistics are noteworthy for a business platform as they rival the performance of billion-dollar firms in their online presence on the platform but with zero budget! There are five key elements that have driven this success, and this will be expanded on next.

Profile and identity
This is the front window of your “shop” as you sell yourself. It is important to present a detailed and accurate overview of who you are without being boastful. Remember that smartness is about what you achieve, but wisdom is about what you become, so get a balance between the two. Try to explain where you are in life and how you got there. Emphasise the most important aspects of your career or competence. Try not to expose a fragmented or unfocussed persona that is a mile wide but just an inch thick. Use the profile ranking feature in Linkedin to experiment and trial various elements to tweak it.

Reputation building
These platforms are great for building up your reputation and what you are famous for. Ensure that you highlight your distinctiveness and try to get others to endorse you for that, especially others who are also good at the same thing. You want to be perceived as a leader of leaders in your field. We will all be the best in the world at one thing. It’s what makes us unique. Make sure that this is clear and highlighted.

Consistent and authentic
It is important to ensure that your profile is consistent with your engagements and content shares to demonstrate internal harmony between who you say you are and how you act on the platform. If you are only sharing humorous content, then this might clash with your profile as a thought leader – and vice versa, of course. Views expressed should remain consistent over time and not be contradictory. One should also strive to be real and not to pontificate or to create an artificial persona, as that will be difficult to maintain over time. It is far easier to just be yourself than to try to be someone else consistently over time. Personality conflict will rapidly expose itself through debates and other engagements as well as through the type of information shared.

Connect and engage
The objective of all online presence is to build up a large, engaged community of like-minded individuals. This requires a single-minded focus on the task of outreach and connection as well as continuous communication to maintain relevance. Recency of contact is a key component of that. This means that you need to seek out key individuals to connect to.

Having a community of 30,000 teenagers versus 30,000 senior leaders, managers, entrepreneurs, and professionals are two totally different outcomes so one needs to act with intent. Sometimes you will need to request a connection, sometimes it will be requested from you based on the way that you show up in a search, but most often it will happen because of something that you did. Your actions to share, like, comment, create and opine have a huge impact on the number of followers that you will accumulate.

Compelling content strategy
Content is both king and queen and it is what sells. New marketing strategies are all built around compelling content that draws the user in and locks them in for the future.

The results achieved were quite noteworthy outside of the pure statistics. Likes, views, shares, etc could often be seen to just be vanity metrics. What is more compelling as a measure of success is how successful this was as a business tool and in achieving the objectives targeted. T

The profile built up allowed the author to secure several global contracts through contacts built up, to enter into collaborations with other professionals, to create partnerships with businesses, to both promote and launch a book (which went on to become an Amazon bestseller in its genre for three months) and a podcast (which reached number two most popular business podcast in the region for a few weeks) successfully and to leverage all of this into a role as a professional influencer/promoter/publisher/director who is able to add value to corporate clients for webinars, masterclasses and conferences beyond just being an invited speaker.

This is a valuable and remunerated opportunity of great value to the organisers especially if you can influence a very powerful community to attend. The return on marketing investment for the corporate brand can be immense,

These are powerful business outcomes especially considering that the only investment was time! The lessons for other professionals should be clear by now.