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Top tips on using social media in your content marketing project

N.B: This post first appeared on The University of Surrey's Social Media blog during the author's time of employment.

Each year the University of Surrey has produced an Annual Review to capture the academic, student and research achievements and highlights of the previous year, in addition to a summary financial review. While we had progressed to a landing page and a short (outsourced) film, there were no goals in place to give the Annual Review purpose, and no way to truly measure its impact.

In August 2015, with these challenges in mind, I set about developing and putting into motion an ambitious plan designed to change attitudes towards the University of Surrey’s Annual Review. As the project manager, this process began with pulling together a team that included a designer, filmmaker, social media coordinator, internal communications officer, content writer and senior marketing colleagues.

After taking a close look at who our key audiences were, what information they needed and how they wanted to consume it, two things became apparent:

  1. Our audiences are time-poor and a large document (either printed or in PDF) was not meeting their need to access the most relevant information to them as quickly as possible.

  2. The story of 2015 was made up of the achievements of thousands of people in the university, and therefore it is the staff who should be front and centre when it comes to sharing that story. We needed a new format for the Annual Review that gave them greater ability to share the highlights of the year most relevant to them to the audiences closest to them.

Armed with this information, we transformed the humble Annual Review into a multi-channel, digitally focussed content campaign comprising:

  • A slim-line, glossy publication available in print and PDF

  • A 3-minute film and 15-second teaser

  • A purpose-built microsite

  • A series of four infographics highlighting the key statistics and achievements of the year

Key to the success of the campaign both in terms of engagement and measurement was social media. Our Social Media Coordinator worked with us to deliver a comprehensive social media plan that delivered outstanding results:

  • Facebook: 29,090 post engagements for the release of the film including 1,140 shares, 3,489 likes, 249,556+ impressions and 81,000+ film views

  • Twitter: engagement rates of between 2.2% and 7.2% with a high of 10,805 impressions and 162 video/image engagements.

Our tips for successfully incorporating social media into your content marketing campaign:

  1. Consider social media as a key part of your content strategy, not just a tactic to be added on at the end. Suddenly realising that it might be a good idea to put a post on Facebook on the day of your launch won’t give you the results you are after.

  2. Brief them clearly. Just as you would for a graphic designer or an agency, ensure your Social Media Coordinator/Manager has a detailed brief including objectives, target audiences, timelines and expectations.

  3. Invite the Social Media Coordinator/Manager to the table right at the start – consider them one of your project team and get them involved in planning the content.

  4. Plan, plan, plan. Timelines are critical so plan these out with your Social Media Coordinator/Manager as early as possible and in as much depth as you can – even the hour of the day you intend to post can have a great impact.

  5. Ask questions so you can understand what content will work best for the community you are targeting. The Social Media Coordinator/Manager knows what works for various audiences so seek their guidance early and frequently.

  6. Keep them updated. Ensure those who are looking after social media are included in progress reports and team meetings, and are aware of any issues, impending deadlines and changes.

  7. Produce great content. Last, but certainly not least ensure you and your team produce compelling, entertaining and useful content. It really is ‘King’ and holds the power to make your campaign bang rather than whisper.

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