The average adult internet user spends more than 36 days a year engaged on social media platforms – that’s over a third of the total amount of time we spend online. Including instant messenger apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger the average UK internet user has 6.8 active social media accounts.
Even if you are trying to cover the top 4 or 5 platforms your audience uses – when you consider both newsfeed and stories, just posting once a day on each channel (which arguably isn’t enough) means you need to come up with 200-300 individual post ideas per month. Imagine standing in front of a whiteboard and trying to come up with 200-300 solid creative ideas – we usually start to struggle after coming up with the first 3 or 4!
Yet, that’s essentially what we are asking ourselves to do each month when we allow ourselves to live out on the social media platforms from post to post. I call it living in the trenches – it’s a horrible place to be! It’s no wonder social media can feel like a ball and chain. It’s such a heavy burden that we can never escape from – and no matter how much effort we put in we just can’t seem to be able to generate the type of sustained and meaningful audience attention and engagement we crave from it either.
When we allow ourselves to live out in the trenches we have a tendency to post content that is simply not worthy of our audiences attention. The time pressure to get something out this morning… and then another thing this afternoon… and another thing this evening means that we typically end up falling back on one of three default behaviours every time we post:
1. We Sell Too Much
We speak the language of our products and services fluently – and it’s in our DNA to sell – we need to keep the tills ringing after all. But the busy digital citizens we are trying to reach spend less than 10% of their total online time thinking about buying stuff – and that includes everything – from the car insurance renewal – to this week’s grocery shop – to the widgets we sell. So the truth is that the share of their attention that’s receptive to hearing about our amazing new product or killer deal is less than a fraction of one percent.
2. We Talk About Ourselves Too Much
Our audiences live in a hectic and busy digital world where there’s always too much to do and not enough time to do it. The people we want to reach and connect with don’t even have enough time to think about and take care of the people and the things that they care most passionately about – so it would be arrogant of us in the extreme to assume that they have any time and space in their hearts to care much about us. The truth is they don’t care about our new vans or our shiny new facility or the award we won last night – there’s just no value or relevance to them.
3. We Throw Some Fluff At The Wall In The Hope That It Might Stick
“I need to get this Facebook post out and I need to come up with something to say… right now… this’ll do.” Realistically, what are the chances of that idea you just shot from the hip under the pressure of everything else you have on your plate this morning actually hitting the spot and resonating in a meaningful way with your audience – or more specifically providing any kind of value to them?
We live in a world where there are a billion versions of the truth. There’s more content being published in an average 24 hour period than was published in the entire decade of the 1960’s! There’s more competition for our audiences attention than ever before and there are no signs of it slowing down any time soon. If we want to cut through all that noise, gain attention and build trust, surely we have to offer something more than “do you want one of these?” “look at me, look at me” or something random that we just scribbled on the back of a fag packet.
The secret is to think and act like a media company. In his widely read blog post, Having a Media Company Mentality, influential digital and social media commentator Gary Vaynerchuk puts it this way “There is no reason to do anything other than act like a media company in today’s digital age.” So what can we learn from actual media companies like the BBC or the Huffington Post?
The first lesson is that their content does not live on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. They publish larger more substantial pieces of pillar content in the form of articles, audio and video content and they give that content a home on their own media platform i.e. their own website. Then they tap into the fact that a huge amount of people’s attention is focused on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin and Twitter and they go there to interrupt some of that attention and drive it back to their own domain.
As well as being much more focused, applying the same type of approach to your business is far more operationally efficient too. Instead of the 200-300 ideas you had to come up with each month when you were living out in the trenches you might decide to use your blog or an audio podcast as your pillar publishing platform – and you might decide to put out a couple of new posts or episodes a month. Not only have you just gone from the need to generate 200-300 content ideas to just two per month – you can now see and feel and touch those pillar assets – so coming up with lots of creative ways to talk about them on social media becomes a lot easier.
What’s more, every time you add a piece of uniquely valuable and engaging content to your website you are adding value to your own domain and the search engines will love you for that too.