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Last Sunday night, I saw my Facebook and Twitter feeds explode with posts from fellow patriotic Americans. What did I miss? Is today a holiday? As I soon learned, the death of Osama Bin Laden was the culprit behind all this chatter. And apparently I’m not the only one who found out via social media.

With each major news story these days, it’s increasingly clear that the spread of information online is evolving... and social media is playing a huge role. If you’re using social media as a part of your marketing strategy, you can learn something from this. It’s really quite simple, and goes back to a concept you’ve probably heard before; content is and always will be king on the web. Big news stories, entertaining advertisements, funny YouTube videos... for the most part, they spread like wildfires through social media because people are legitimately interested in or entertained by the content that they've been presented with.

Now, having an international news story at your disposal every time you wanted to post something on Twitter or Facebook is about as possible as getting more Twitter followers than Justin Beiber overnight. That’s not the point here.

The point is, if you really want to harness the power of social media, posting content that is interesting and relevant to your audience is extremely important. Too often, companies get into social media and think of it as another traditional marketing outlet and push out everything from traditional press releases to constant sales pitches for their own products or services. While content like this can and should be part of a social media strategy, it won’t work very well if that’s all you’ve got.

If you’re struggling to come up with sources for good content, here are some ideas to spark your creativity:

  1. Your company culture - People love to see what’s going on behind the scenes... especially if you have pictures. If your company holds events for staff or clients, if you have employees attending or speaking at industry conferences, or if some of the staff just happens to head out and enjoy a happy hour together, you’ve already got some great photo ops at your disposal. Break out a camera, start a Flickr account and post away. If your lucky, maybe your Director of Technology will even share some photos of his ridiculously awesome facial hair.
  2. Listen for hot topics - Finding relevant conversations that are already happening and chime in. We’ve found Twitter to be the best tool for this, and with tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck you can set up targeted keyword monitoring to keep your ear to the ground for relevant and interesting conversations. Recently, some of the O3 team attended a speaking panel where the monitor gave out a topic hashtag (#web4nonprofit), and encouraged people in the audience to use it for posting to Twitter about the event. During the panel, a few of us set up a keyword monitor to stream any posts containing that hashtag, and joined the conversation right there on our phones.
  3. Setting up RSS feeds - Seeking out and posting articles or blog posts that are relevant to your industry and audience should be a no brainer... but can be time consuming. Save yourself sometime by using tools like Alltop or Google Reader  to compile feeds from blogs and other resources that you utilize the most.
  4. Don’t forget to pay it forward - Hopefully the better you get with your content, the more re-posting and re-tweeting love you'll get... so don't forget to return the favor. Re-post some good content from someone who follows you or give them a mention from the company account. Using the Follow Friday hashtag on Twitter (#FollowFriday or #FF) to mention some of your most engaged followers is a simple way to show your appreciation, and helps build loyalty among your fans and followers.

At its core, social media is meant to be a multi-directional channel. The consumer and producer of content and media on social channels are essentially one in the same... any person who comes across a post can comment on it, pass it along to their own network, or choose to completely ignore it. So, even if you don’t have a monumental news story like the death of a wanted terrorist (which... would be a little concerning if you did) to share with the world, putting social media to work starts with the content you post. And in this ongoing process, the followers and fans you collect will be the ones who can make or break you.

Hit us up @O3World, we love to chat.

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