Great Social Media Requires a Bigger Trash Can
Great Social Media Requires a Bigger Trash Can
Great Social Media Requires a Bigger Trash Can

As companies look to make their foray into “social media” too many times they look to the social network to generate success. They are asking “is Twitter or Facebook right for my brand?” This approach is fraught with problems because at the end of the day the social media network doesn’t matter. That’s right, I said it. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Vine or any other social media channel you are using will NOT generate success for your company. Ridiculously amazing content is what generates success.

In marketing circles we’ve been talking about content marketing for a few years, but for some reason it hasn’t resonated with executives. And it’s partly on the shoulders of marketers who ask for budget approval on a “social media” campaign instead of a content marketing campaign. It also doesn’t help that content marketing isn’t a big company that the news stations can report on. It is a disparate, disconnected, organic being that safely hides behind the curtain generating success or failure of online campaigns. Respectfully, it is the elephant in the room. When a marketer’s social media campaign fails too many times they chalk it up to the social network being wrong versus the fact that their content strategy was wrong.

We need to stop talking about “social media” and start talking about digital content marketing. Because content is the backbone to any successful campaign or strategy. The best digital marketing strategy will fail every time in execution if the content behind it sucks. The problem is creating amazing content consistently isn’t easy. It takes focus, creativity, a willingness to test and a preposterous threshold for failure.

To Be Successful You Need a Bigger Trash Can

What’s the key to success? A really big trash can. I know what you’re thinking…Wait?!? What?!? We can barely create all of the content we need with our resource limitations, now you want us to throw hard work in the trash can? Yes! If you aren’t throwing away more content than you publish you don’t have a high enough standard for awesome.

If you don’t completely rework blog posts, have debates on whether or not a video hit the mark, or simply throw stuff away you aren’t doing it right. There is a big debate between quantity versus quality. A lot of companies chose quantity to increase their SEO rankings, to create a consistent presence, and to always have something new. Personally, I chose quality. Quality content that has staying power, that means something to the audience long after it’s published, and that builds social credibility because it gets shared so much the person on the receiving end has received it 5 times before. That’s meaningful.

Quality Beats Quantity Every Time

Awesome doesn’t come every day. And it certainly doesn’t come on a schedule that conforms to your content calendar. It comes from practice, practice, practice, testing, testing, and more testing. The best way an organization can start to consistently deliver awesome is to produce more….WAY MORE! But here’s the key. You shouldn’t publish everything you create. Just like my home team The Ravens don’t practice in public, neither should your mediocre content. It’s no secret that there are big challenges with producing more just to throw away more to publish on the same schedule. Content is the number one barrier holding companies back from doing more in the digital channel as it is. This is just going to make that even more difficult.

Awesome Content Doesn’t Roll Off an Assembly Line

That’s true. But I’ve never seen awesome roll off a proverbial assembly line. Awesome must be unique. It is art that is crafted with the hands of an artist. That requires passion that is empowered with guide rails that allow the content creator to test and try things out. But it also requires the empowerment to fail without being penalized. That means creating content that never sees the light of day, but provided a lesson in something that didn’t quite hit the mark and helped the team learn what’s good versus what’s great.  It requires measures of success that actually shows whether a piece of content did resonate. For example, instead of focusing on site traffic for awhile, focus on comments and shares. If the content isn’t good enough to comment on, is it good enough? Because sometimes amazing content just isn’t amazing enough to generate a conversation, and is that really amazing after all?

At the end of the day it requires a deep understanding of the audience the content is being created for. The best content may actually be created by your customer, someone who is your target audience, who lives and breathes the problems your product solves and who actually understands what they feel is awesome. Because isn’t it possible that the best marketer can’t spot awesome if they aren’t the customer? And sometimes, yes, it requires the finesse of a brilliant marketer who knows how to resonate and strike a chord. There isn’t a single answer that applies to everyone, except this. It requires resources.

Being Awesome is an Investment

The biggest cost in social media and digital marketing is content production. You have writers, editors, graphic designers, videographers, and more. It’s expensive. And when you want to be awesome it costs more. Because while writers and designers may be considered somewhat of a commodity, people who understand vision and know how to translate it into awesome content are not. They are a special breed and they charge accordingly. Companies can either hire employees to fill these roles, or they can outsource content production. The companies I’ve seen be most successful do both. This means companies need to have a healthy line item in the budget for content creation, just like they do for website development, SEO and Google Adwords.

No One EVER Questions the ROI of AWESOME!

Here’s some good news. It is much easier to justify an expense and show the ROI of amazing content than it is to show the same thing for “social media”.

Why? Because they get their feel-good metrics and stop asking questions. But here’s the secret. It’s also because amazing content actually performs. You’ll have the metrics you need. And recognize social media is a marketing channel that someone may touch on their path to purchase, but they’ve also touched several other channels along the way. Social media contributes to the creation of a sale, but so do other campaigns and channels. But content is the one consistent hub that we can measure. The expectation is different. We don’t expect a blog post to create a sale, we expect it to answer questions and inform our potential buyers. We expect a blog post to assist with the process of generating a lead. We expect a blog post to generate website visits from people who didn’t know about us before. The rest is a matter of determining which content was viewed along the way to conversion and what the most optimal path to conversion is. That’s easy and is a good problem to have. But you’ll have to create the content first.

SECRET! The ROI of Awesome is…AWESOME!

So as you are looking at it and isn’t working in your current social media strategy, maybe it’s time to consider whether or not the fact that you are isolating the social media channel as a contributor. Maybe it’s time to think about whether the channel is the strategy or whether content is the strategy and the channel is just a place we distribute it. And maybe you should start throwing more content away. Because when all of your content is great it doesn’t matter if you post every day. Your audience will get excited whenever you do post because they know it’s something worth their time.

Imagine that. A world where we create content that our audience gets excited about, that they can’t wait to open the email to read, that they share with their friends because it’s amazing. Now that’s something special. That’s something that makes all the content in the trash can a worthwhile investment, don’t you think?


What do you think? Is your team creating AMAZING content or skimming the surface of mediocre? Do you have a big enough content budget? What is your biggest barrier to rocking some awesome content? Leave a comment and join the conversation!

About the Author

Nichole Kelly
Nichole Kelly is the CEO of Social Media Explorer|SME Digital. She is also the author of How to Measure Social Media. Her team helps companies figure out where social media fits and then helps execute the recommended strategy across the “right” mix of social media channels. Do you want to rock the awesome with your digital marketing strategy? Contact Nichole
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  • Awesome article post! The world of internet caters to all kinds of contents, name it you can have it. But I hopw that companies should focus on producing great social media content.

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  • Great article Nichole. As a new blog out there, I really try to focus on producing quality articles that provide real impact to my readers. The quantity vs. quality debate is one I often find myself wrestling with but agree that, in the end, relevant content that gives good value is the way to go. I think your point about content being the strategy and the channel the means to distribute it is bang on. Thanks for posting. 

  • Fantastic post Nichole. I couldn’t agree more, the importance of trial and error is so terribly underrated these days. I think the companies who are thinking progressively by combining social, content, and PR into one team are the ones that will have the best chance at success moving forward. 

    • Jason – Thank you! Integrated teams are usually the most effective. Some of our best clients are the ones that have a meeting between us, PR, SEO, web development, and Marketing at one time! We collaborate on how we can help each other generate more success through better content. It’s an amazing progression and the results are out of this world! Rock on brother!

  • Awesome, killer, epic, amazing and true. Definitely not trashing this inspired piece Nichole. Love all the points you made and the last one really resonated… “Share with their friends because it’s amazing.” That really nails the ROI mystery for me: Was it shared? Good stories are the ones that get told over and over, right?

    • Barry – That’s so true. The long tail content you have on your site is the stuff we should be producing more of! It’s the stuff that just keeps on giving. Thanks for diving in Barry!

  • Dara Khajavi

    This is such a great article. There is always intense competition to adapt to new social media sites, but not every social media site fits every company. Companies should focus on producing great social media content. Instead, many companies just produce social media content for the sake of having content. When this happens, companies’ content really suffers. 

    • Dara – I’m so glad you liked the post! Yes, let’s start focusing on content and forget about social for a little while. :-) When we get content right we can start talking about social media again. Thanks so much for commenting!

  • I love this article. It’s so true. Create great content requires work and money. Most businesses would go with the easiest, quickest and cheapest way, not the best and most effective.

    • Thanks so much commenting! Yes, a content budget is key and often overlooked.

  • Craig Kessler

    I agree with your statement that quality, not quantity matters, but I disagree at the simplicity you state it.  Great content is important, but social media as a program only can really work and show ROI on a mass scale.  You can produce great content, but if no one is there to view it, whether it’s a FB page, Twitter handle, site, blog, etc. then no actions can be taken on that content.

    That is the big misconception of using social media.  People think it’s easy, cheap, and a quick fix.  The same way a brand works hard and spends money building an email marketing database for future email marketing programs, the same approach has to be taken with social media platforms.  Once you have a sizable base, then only great content will be effective.

    • Craig – It’s the chicken and the egg scenario, isn’t it? What comes first, the audience or great content? I’d argue that it’s way more difficult to amass an audience of any size with mediocre content. When your content is great it is much easier to build the audience because you get more referrals that drive a larger following. 

      The point about building an audience is a great one. But here’s the reality we’ve seen. Building an audience, at least on Facebook, is way more dependent on advertising than people realize. Slapping up a Facebook page and expecting people to go looking for it is not effective. The tips Ben provided in this post are key for building an audience on Facebook. When we look at other channels like LinkedIn and Twitter the approach may vary slightly, but mediocre content still won’t build the audience. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you build audience first. At the end of the day we look to organic and PPC search to start the audience building on the website and then into the social networks and advertising to extend the audience.And in my opinion the ROI isn’t dependent on audience size. You can have 1200 extremely engaged followers who are valuable customers and generate a very positive ROI over 10k non-engaged followers. But I do agree that if you have a larger and engaged audience its easier. 

      What do you think?

  • Nichole – good post. I’m not sure if this is a type or not:

    • Jon – Thanks so much for pointing that out! It’s been fixed. 


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