7 Content Development Steps That Bring Together Search and Social Media

by Jason Peck on May 18, 2011
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Content CreationSocial media and search marketing are becoming more and more intertwined. Content marketing is where they meet.

Almost three-quarters of businesses with a social media strategy use content in their campaigns according to eMarketer.

Content is definitely not free. It takes time and resources to obtain or produce. It’s important to have the right plan in place for developing content that resonates with your audience and helps you meet your goals.

The best fishermen in the world do not go fishing without finding the right fishing hole, bringing proper supplies, bait, and a tested knowledge of how to fish. As marketers, we should be just as prepared when diving into content marketing.

Here are seven steps for successful content development for search and social media.

1. Identify key topics

With any content initiative, you want to make sure you’re giving people what they’re looking for. The first step in developing content for search and social media is to figure out what your key topics are.

Looking at search results and trends is a good way to tell what types of topics people are searching for and interested in.

Put your main keywords into Google Adwords to get monthly search volumes for those keywords and other related keywords. This will give you an idea of the topics that people are looking for; these keywords also should be used in content titles, tags and text to maximize the visibility of the content you’re creating.

Another way to find key topics is to tap into social media research to see what people are saying about your industry.

Many social media research tools let you type in a search term that describes your main topic or industry (e.g., boating) and will give you a list of words people are using connected to this term (e.g., safety, season, sailing, lake, weekend, etc).

These tools may also show you what the most popular content is around your main keywords. You should use this knowledge to help find what topics your audience is interested in and are sharing with their friends and family.

2. Identify content purpose and types

If the type of content you’re creating doesn’t fit with why you’re creating content in the first place, your efforts probably won’t give you the results you’re looking for.

You have to figure out your content’s purpose. Is it to increase your awareness? Is it to try to change perception? Whatever it is, you should make sure there’s a purpose. Also consider whether you’re going to give all your content away for free or if you’re going to require something in return for access (e.g., money, an email address, a tweet, etc.) to specific content.

After you have identified why you’re creating this content, you should think about the types of content you should create. Most content falls into three main categories:

  • Informative
  • Newsworthy
  • Entertaining

Depending on who your audience is and what your goals are, you may want to have a mix of the above types of content, or you may want to create more of one type and less of another.

3. Determine your resources

Understanding what resources you have is crucial to moving forward with the rest of your plan for developing content. If you only have one person available to create content, then a plan that calls for 30 videos to be created each day probably isn’t realistic. Make a list of the people in your organization who can help with content creation.

Also make a note of what their strengths are. Some people may be better suited to creating videos, while others may feel more comfortable writing blog posts. Ideally you want a mix of talents and abilities, but in all likelihood, you won’t have everything you need.

You may have to outsource certain aspects of your content creation (e.g., video editing) or you may have to just focus on what you have now and make do.

Another thing that goes along with resources is understanding what content may have already been created that can be repurposed. For example, maybe your company has done a webinar series. There may be a lot of great information that could be repackaged into a series of blog posts or an e-book. Make a list of what you have to see how it can be repurposed for another use.

4. Identify your key channels

The next step in the content development process is to decide what key channels you’ll be creating content for. Understanding what kinds of content your audience creates and consumes is crucial.

Definitely do your research and look at blogs, tweets, video results to see what people are paying attention to. For example, you can search your main keywords on YouTube to see how many videos there are about your topic, and you can filter the results by day to see how many new videos about your topic are being uploaded each day.

Search your topic on Google Blogsearch and Twitter search to see what is going on. If you have a good social media research tool, you should be able to see the breakdown of blogs, tweets, forum posts and other types of results about your keyword to get a better understanding of the main channels you should focus on.

Look at what channels you competitors are using to see where some extra opportunities may exist.

When you’ve done your research, make a list of your key channels and how you’ll be using them. Consider the unique aspects of each channel. For example, Twitter is probably better for short bursts of information, while photo sharing may make more sense on Facebook or Flickr.

An important thing to note is that you should treat each channel as a unique property. Sometimes it’s ok to post the same thing to multiple channels, but for the most part, you will want to create unique content for each channel.

5. Put together a schedule

Now for the fun part. You’ve figured out your key content topics, types, resources and channels. It’s time to lay out a schedule and make some decisions about the specific content your going to create and when it should be posted.

Your schedule should include dates, tentative titles for topics, names of who is responsible, and what channel the specific piece of content is for. If possible, you should plan on getting things done at least a day or two before something is going to be posted, so you can edit and tweak content as needed.

This schedule should be pretty close to what you actually end up creating and posting. But don’t afraid to be flexible and add more content or make changes, especially if there is a major event in your company or industry that you want to address quickly.

How far out should you plan? For the most part, I prefer to create monthly schedules and evaluate results at the end of each week.

It’s pretty simple to look at your analytics and see what’s working and what’s not working so you can adjust your plan as needed. You may have an idea of what you’d like to post in three months, but make sure it’s still relevant before you create it.

Also, pay attention to the seasonality of your business. For example, if you know that it makes sense to create a lot more content in summer than in winter, plan accordingly.

6. Create a promotion plan

Creating the content and posting it is an important step, but it’s not the only thing you should do.

It’s important to make sure you have a plan in place that details how you’re going to promote specific content that is created. You’ll want to make sure to promote content in a way that makes sense for your business.

This may include posting links in your email newsletter, linking to content from your website, banner ads on other sites, pay-per-click ads for especially hot topics, tweets with brief descriptions and links, links in Facebook page updates, blogger outreach, links on Q&A sites such as Yahoo Answers and Quora, etc.

It’s important that you have a promotion plan for your content to give your content a chance to reach the most people (or to restrict access, if that makes sense for your business).

7. Measure results

You’ve created some great content. Now it’s time to see how it’s working for you. Depending on what your goals are you may want to look at a combination of business metrics, website metrics and social media metrics.

From the business perspective, you may want to see how your content is affecting conversion rates, average order size, purchase frequency, new leads, email subscribers, etc.

When looking at website data, look at things such as:

  • Links to your content from other sites
  • Whether or not content has affected your search rankings
  • Unique visitors to your site
  • Time spent on site

Social media metrics shouldn’t be the only thing you look at, but they are useful. Look at data such as:

  • Clicks on links posted to specific channels (and day/time they’re occurring so you can make tweaks to improve your content promotion)
  • Number of views (videos, pictures, etc)
  • Your following on specific sites and its growth rate
  • Number and type of interactions your content is generating
  • Interactions per day and per week for specific channels (e.g., average number of likes posts on Facebook generate)
  • Number of mentions you’re receiving, sentiment of mentions and share of voice vs. competitors

Following a process for content development for search and social media and tracking your results is crucial to success in online marketing. This process will go a long way in helping you create content that your audience will love and that will generate results for your business.


What do you think about this process for content creation?

Post Author

Marketing at @GoCanvas. Textbook author. Meat smoker. Tar Heel alum and fan for life. Past: NC. Now: Arlington, VA He's also a huge UNC Tar Heels fan and is working on a textbook about social media for sports marketing students....

  • Jonathan L.

    Very insightful post, Jason. Thanks

  •  Great stuff!

  •  A combination of search and social techniques is essential for any websites that wants to have a chance at beating out their competitors.  Great job showing the importance of content strategy for both!  

  • Hey Jason, thanks for detailed in-depth post! I’d like to share some of my experience with Content Development Strategies.

    Step 1: Identify your goals.

    If you ask me, I start brainstorming on my next piece of content by identifying the goals that I want to achieve. Do I want to concentrate purely on getting high traffic? Do I want to make a buzz on Twitter or Facebook? Do I want to get some attention of the bloggers? Do I want to make leads? Or maybe sales? In each case I need different types of conent and different promotion techniques. Speaking about types of conent:

    – To get traffic: Everybody knows that sites like StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, etc. are ideal for getting really huge traffic spikes. Well, people on that sites really like the content which is fun, inspirational and higly engaging. They also like lots of visuals: pictures, graphics, videos. That is why, when you aim to get traffic you need to come up with some proper content.

    – To make buzz: You might want to get some “likes” from Facebook and tweets from Twitter. Those signals do affect your search engine rankings and besides you can grow your fanbase on Facebook and followers number on Twitter. Well there are lots of studies of what gets popular on each particular site. The biggest takeaway is that “posts about Facebook are really popular on Facebook” and “posts about Twitter are really popular on Twitter”. There’s more than that of course, so do a little search for optimizing your content for Facebook and Twitter before you actually create it.

    – To get attention of the bloggers: The best way to get some attention is actually mention them in your blogpost. It’s because the first thing people care about is themselves. So once you need a piece of content that will be noticed by some bloggers – write something about them and link to them. They might get those pingbacks and trackbacs and you will not even have to notify them about your post (especially considering the fact that many of them have Google Alerts setup for their names).

    – To make leads/sales: even a child knows that the highest converting traffic is the search traffic. So in case you want to make some leads/sales, you need to determine your highest converting keywords and build really valuable pieces of content around them. This will give you some of that nice “longtail traffic” from the search engines, which will be higly convertible.

    Step 2: Promotion, Promotion, Promotion.

    Even the most powerful content is nothing if noone sees it. Well I suggest you to analyze your promotional channels BEFORE creating your conent! That will actually help you to shoot more precisely.
    If you look at the content types broken down by the aim, you can quickly guess that each piece of content is promoted differently. I’d like to split the promotion techniques into two groups.

    Fun: once you have some fun/inspirational post, you can easy promote it by submitting it to all the social networks and bookmarking services that you know. You may even ask your friends to give it some “likes/votes” to make it more prominent. Some sites have “Community News” section, which you can leverage to spread the word about your post. This should definitely help you to get that buzz going.

    Value: valuable content is not that popular in social networks (except maybe for Twitter). So the best way to promote it is participating in various Q&A sites, answering questions on Forums and commenting on blogs. This way you can reference your posts and get some higly relevant links together with highly targeted visitors.

    Step 3: Hard work.

    When you have the goal, and you know what can be promoted really well, it’s time for hard work. There’s nothing much to say in this step. Just work hard and get new experience as you work! :)

  • Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing and stopping by. 

  • Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing and stopping by. 

  • Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing and stopping by. 

  • Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing and stopping by. 

  • Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing and stopping by. 

  • Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing and stopping by. 

  • Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing and stopping by. 

  • Thanks, Kristi.  :)

  • Thanks, Kristi.  :)

  • Thanks, Kristi.  :)

  • Thanks, Kristi.  :)

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  • Blake Harper

    I enjoyed reading this post! It is exciting for me to connect these techniques with new public health campaigns for education, outreach, etc. Great stuff Jason!

  • I have content on my blog that’s pretty popular.  I know that the audience likes reading about those topics but how much can I write about a topic?  

    For example, I can’t write an article every day about blogging for profits.  At any rate, that’s something that I’ve been thinking about lately.

  • No, but don’t feel bad about always circling back to a central point. Or set of points. Think of those key search traffic topics as your hub and everything else should be spokes, relating back to these central points. But they do not have to be about those points.

    Also, create some cornerstone pages around key topics that link to all your articles on that topic as a guide page. Think About.com. Copyblogger also does this really well.

  • Thanks for our reply.  Now you’re gonna have me thinking. 

  • Sunes Godwin

    This is a great piece, Jason. I had earlier wanted to just scan through, but your simplicity and a hearty concern for folks like me who sincerely want to become more skilled and of course profitable, really got be stuck to the end. straight way, i’ll apply your approach. Thanks Jason!