Bringing Sexy Back To Your Content Strategy: Actionable Tips From #SESSF Day Two


Welcome back to AIMCLEAR‘s continuing coverage of #SESSF 2013! After a stimulating day-two keynote with Patrick Thomas and surprise guest, Matt Cutts, talking tough calls on content this morning, it was a seamless transition for those who stuck around for Driving Value from Earned Media through Quality Content. Read on for actionable tips and best practices on how to create the right mix of posts, articles, blogs, tweets, and photos to engage your consumers (no matter how sexy/unsexy your brand may be).

Moderator, Laura Roth, Head of Content, Incisive Media, jump-started the session by introducing speakers Jim Rudden, CMO, Spredfast and Jennifer Slegg,  CEO, JenSense. Jennifer took the podium first, kicking off how to drive value through earned media of content.

Content Marketing In A Social World
Quality content is the backbone of any social marketing program, and like any support system, there may be growing pains at times. Jen noted the following as the biggest problem areas with content and social media:

  • Lack of cohesiveness
  • Lack of planning
  • Relying on traditional marketing to do social media work
  • Not thinking outside of the box (or blog ☺)
  • Screwing up
  • Limiting yourself to only 1 or 2 social media platforms
  • Not running with popular content for more traffic, shares and links.
  • Dealing with a market area that is simply unsexy
  • Competitive analysis

Finding out it’s just not working well when applying to social media can be a real pain-in- the-you-know-what. We all know many examples of people completely botching social, but unless you drool over power tools, how do you make a hardware store sexy to other people? (Answer: We’ll get to that.)

Create Cohesiveness
One major slice of knowledge Jennifer served is to make sure you are sending the same brand message across the board. Seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised to find out how many different messages companies send out, just by their social media branding. All platforms should be consistent, using the same logo/watermarks, branding, and messaging to ensure a cohesive bond of content.

The first example Jennifer shared was Kraft Foods. When looking at their Facebook page, one will find a wall bursting with content tailored to their audience… and what kind of content would Kraft fans like to see, you may ask? Recipes. Each recipe not only contained a colorful image, but also boasted hundreds of shares and likes, as well as engagement through comments. Moving on, Jennifer jumped to Kraft’s Twitter wall: Spammy coupon posts repeated for six days in a row with no interaction in between (#facepalm). It’s no surprise that when they finally posted a successful Facebook image into Twitter, interaction was less than stellar. Words of wisdom: Make sure people find your content useful.

Managing Social Media
Don’t stymy creativity. You want team members to be able to contribute in a timely manner. If everything has an approval delay, your once “breaking news” worthy content will become a thing of the past, leaving you back at square one. With that said, if you champion an open posting environment, it is crucial that everyone on your team has a clear understanding of your brands socials media do’s and don’ts.

Planning – Editorial Calendars
What upcoming events should you be building a social campaign around?

  • Jennifer recommends planning out a month or so in advance, covering multiple areas. Don’t be afraid to move based on trends and popularity!
  • Ensure you are covering multiple platforms.
  • Ensure you are covering multiple formats.

Platforms like WordPress and Google Calendars are a great way to help plan out weekly columns or series in a timely fashion. It fosters feedback from executives without having to get individual stamps of approval, and also keeps writers honest about their due dates.

Competitive Content Analysis

  • Always watch what your competitors are doing.
  • Add their popular content ideas to your future editorial calendar. Obviously, it cannot and should not be the same – but rather use as inspiration.
  • Recycle: If a competitor has published a blog post with glowing results, 3 weeks later repurpose and package (an infographic, for example).
  • Don’t be blatant. Although imitation may be the highest form of flattery, no one likes a copycat. There’s nothing wrong with repurposing, but repurpose with the intent to make it: a.) Better, b.) Your own.

The Best Content Isn’t Always Traditional Content
Unless you’ve been living under a digital rock for the past year, you’ve heard about Oreo and their famed “Power out? No Problem” Superbowl tweet of 2013. There’s a reason this tweet received huge accolades, and we’re not just talking about the 15K RTs, 5K+ FB shares, 19K FB likes, and other news publicity it received. It took the marketing team only 12 minutes to respond to blackout. If they had to jump through hoops and wires before publishing their tweet, there are slim chances it would have gotten the same reaction.

Another great example Jennifer included was Wal-Mart’s “Kit Kat vs. Reese’s” voting post during the Halloween season. It had all the elements: relevance, engagement, candy, and with around 300k people getting exposure to the Wal-Mart brand, I think it’s safe to say there was one clear winner here.

When Things Go Badly
Alas, for every instance of exceptional content, there are always going to be a few more that exemplify exactly what not to do. We’ve all had that cringing moment while reading a company’s tweet and asked ourselves, “Did they really just post that?” Between Celeb Boutique’s hashtag thoughtlessness during the tragedy of the Aurora shooting (+ taking 4.5 hours to delete tweet/issue an apology) and AT&T’s 9/11 memorial (where product placement in image triggered backlash), it is critical to learn from our mistakes.


When things go badly, the best thing you can do is something. Don’t stick your head in the sand or retreat to fetal position. Fess up and apologize immediately. Deleting it won’t stop the retweets, shares and news stories. Remember: Media will report whether or not you apologized, the sincerity level of apology, and how long it took to rectify.

How you and your team handle a faux pas makes the difference between people thinking “dumb employee” and “horrible company.”

We’re all human, and to err is human – just be prepared for it. Creating a red-alert social media team of people who can respond to social media PR crises can mean a matter of reputation life or death. Have a plan slated for when employees are off the clock or away from the office.

So How Can I Repurpose In Different Mediums?

  1. Twitter tips
  2. Short video
  3. Webinar
  4. Infographic
  5. White paper
  6. Refresh popular content from the past.

Zombie Mania (Making Boring Subjects Sexy)
Jennifer shared the case study of a popular infographic entitled “Zombie Survival Gear” that REI published. It spread through media like wildfire. Little did most people know that it’s roots dated back to a post they created in 2010 and repurposed. Soon, Kotaku was talking about it, generating 36K views and over 150 comments. REI kept the fire ignited by repackaging again, creating in-store “Zombie Awareness Classes,” getting the attention from writers at Wired, and news anchors on ABC. REI saw an opportunity, took it by the horns, and rode it out for as long as they could. Ace Hardware also jumped on the zombie train and created a “Zombie Preparedness Center” campaign…including hammers, nail guns, screwdrivers…you get the picture.

So what’s the secret sauce? The above companies had success because it connected to their business model. They are incorporating their inventory into repurposed material. (Tip: Solicit employee’s ideas and offers incentives. Take trends and see how you can make it work for you).

With that, Jennifer turned it over to Jim who began his slideshow entitled “Back to (Social) School”. Jim shared his mantra that “brands invest in social because they want to create unique things – not just for momentary traffic spikes, but because they believe a collection of social experiences creates lasting memories.” Well put.

Brand Challenge 1: History
We’ve heard the “listen first” schpeel, but what if you already know what your community is talking about? According to Jim, it’s monitoring. By monitoring conversations taking place across social networks relevant to your brand, you are reaffirming your purpose for being there.

If you have an engaged community, not only do you have the opportunity to be a participant, it your job to be at the heart of it. So listen. Listening gives you the chance to answer customer inquiries, influence purchasing decisions, and address negative experiences.

Brand Challenge 2: Government
How should we organize our social? Will one person manage it? Will there be a team? This is where it’s time to lay down the law and set parameters. By establishing rules, guidelines, and procedures, you are upholding and protecting brand activity in social media. Be purposeful in your social organization. If you are highly local, be organized that way. If you’re a big, spread out company, organize by team and department. If you are in a company that is ever changing, organize by business and impact focused social.

Brand Challenge 3: Music
Now that you have the conversation and organization, it’s time to coordinate brand activity, contributors, and interaction on social media channels. Orchestrate your voice from corporate to local.

Whole Foods Case Study
Whole Foods’ lens is 2-fold: A mission around organic food wellness, and a mission around global and local. Not only do they have global brands, advocating key platforms they believe in, they also have HUGE local presences – over 150 Twitter accounts! It is their belief that interaction at the local store level is as important as interaction on the social level. To cultivate local interest, you have to have content in social that relates to each individual store.


  • Social presence = Brand + 350 Local Stores
  • Brand content focused on lifestyle choices
  • Local content provides reason to visit store
  • Trust local teams to produce content
    • When you’re doing well at a high level, you’re empowering people to drive great local content.

Final point: Resist bright shiny object syndrome. There’s always going to be a new tool, and you should try them, but if you are testing something you should communicate you’re testing. When you’re in a social channel as a brand, your community expects that you’re in for the long haul, so don’t make promises you can’t keep.

Brand Challenge 4: English
Creating and curating content or participating in a conversation to fuel social program activity and engagement comes next. Commit to be present in conversations your community has in social, and always remember your 3 C’s: Curate, Create, and Converse.

Brand Challenge 5: Social Studies
Now that you have the content, it’s time to define groups of similar audience members and direct specific activity and conversation directly towards these groups. Don’t be all things to all people. Connecting psychographics, locations, and demographics to your mission can determine whether 1-1000 people share your content.

Brand Challenge 6: Student Council
Create an inspiring interaction between your brand and its social networks. Are you delivering value into newsfeed on a regular basis? Are you rising above or just barely keeping up? In addition to recognizing in-the-moment content, build content that matches your message to the market. Best content doesn’t solely come from in-the-moment posts, but connecting with your community. Remember: It’s not an overnight thing. You need to earn their trust.

Brand Challenge 7: Math
You’ve built an engaging, interested community. You’ve shared your meaningful content and fueled conversation. This means your done, right? WRONG. Now, you need to measure all the hard work you’ve done. By collecting and measuring social metrics, you have the ability to assess the business impact of your social media programs. If you’re about lasting value, think about measuring actions such as shares. If you have a small following or are in growth mode, measure fans and follows. Just make sure fans are coming from your targeted demographic.

Last but not least, don’t forget to amplify. Test and optimize, then test and optimize again.

Activate your influencers and give them the opportunity to be an authority of content.

A round of applause for Jennifer and Jim and their fabulous moderator! Those tasty content takeaways will leave us with a hunger to create, create create 😀 Stick around the AIMCLEAR Blog for more coverage straight from SES San Francisco!

Nerd sexy image © Style-o-Mat – Fotolia (dot) com
Baby © Mitarart – Fotolia (dot) com

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