The internet has long allowed us to have fluid, dynamic conversations, so why is it used like a postal service?
In technology we have a gift, before which we couldn’t have envisaged we needed. It’s called disruption – a marketer’s dream. As it has morphed, we now know it as the ‘internet of everything’, a utopian dream for collective consciousness – its backbone being, ‘connectivity’. It allows us to self-publish and manage thousands of conversations concurrently. Strikes me as bizarre then, why Comms Pros still use Editorial Calendars as a basis for their Community Management. For me, they’re ill-equipped for connecting, so much so I’d suggest they’re likely to have the opposite effect. They were born in another time, for a different purpose.
The Editorial Calendar was first created as a way for journalists to plan their features and publishing sales’ people to sell advertising. With the advent of social media though, we are all publishers. This new found responsibility means as Comms Pros we mustn’t neglect the Golden Rule – understand thy audience! It’s something our friends in the media know well. Sadly, it’s something I see forgotten outside traditional publishing too often. An Editorial Calendar in the context of non-traditional publishing only serves to reinforce anti-social behaviour.
With content growing at a rate of more than 40 per cent each year, it will double in two years with around 80 per cent of it being unstructured. In other words – a lot of it is coming from individuals and organisations posting stories, pictures and videos online. According to WordPress, 33.7 million new posts are being produced each month. With 81 per cent of Aussie marketers creating more content than they did one year ago; 38 per cent – significantly more, it’s clear a not insubstantive amount now comes from sources outside traditional publishers, like Comms Pros. You start to see how content can quickly get out of hand. Add to this the increasing variety of channels to communicate across and a Calendar, while well intentioned and appearing to make sense on first glance, doesn’t make the most of the magic, because it doesn’t allow for organic germination of secondary content. Basically, it doesn’t cater for a conversation – which is a fundamental measure of engagement. If you are a Comms Pro and you have an Editorial or Content Calendar that looks something like this:
You need a Conversation Plan, and it’s markedly different. Here’s why:
It’s focused on conversion rate: A recent AOL / Nielsen study shows 27 million pieces of content are shared each day, yet only 52 per cent of organisations have a documented content strategy. That leaves a hell of a lot of content produced for the sake of producing content. If conversation is a measure of engagement, engagement must link to conversion – of a sale, or as mentioned in one of my earlier posts sales meetings. Enticement is one of the four EEEEs that has to be front of mind in your plan.
It’s personalised to individuals, not just channels, or communities: There are so many measures for the effectiveness of your communication, but once you have a measure, what do you do with it? I think too often people put it into a pretty chart and not into action. Sentiment shifts. So, what are you doing about it? What are you doing with all your Likes, Favourites and Comments? These need to fold back into your plan. It’s why a calendar makes a mockery of personalisation. It makes too many assumptions.
It’s flexible, with options embedded, based on secondary phases of conversation: Where I work, we call it Social Pollination. It means no content should be created that doesn’t have as a primary purpose – to be shared, or commented on. It needs to be ‘snackable’, but for snacks along a journey – following the sales cycle. Content is a primer. The only way you can have this is by creating a bank of content that specifically talks to ‘what’s in it’ for your target audience. It’s like an onion peel. There are many layers. Sometimes it means producing less content, not more. It’s about setting the breadcrumbs down, and then learning what you can about how the audience consumes them.
It’s provocative, innately respondable: And when someone does respond, your role is continuing to fuel the flame.
Without giving you a template, there is a checklist for a good Conversation Plan:
- Are you doing audience profiling of influential community members?
- What are their hot buttons?
- What complementary content can be seeded to follow on from Likes or Shares that will help build out the conversation so their relationship with you becomes more tactile?
In the end, you don’t simply want to be a source of information – you want to be a trusted advisor who helps them process it. Only then will your Communication Program make use of the playground that is, the internet of everything! Only then, will the executive team sit up and want to understand your plan because they can see it drives strategic business outcomes. When you have a Content Calendar that is interwoven into your CRM system, you have a Conversation Plan.