By Paula Wethington / @WethingtonPaula
Digital / social media strategy is like a recipe for a chocolate birthday cake. If you do everything right, you create awesomeness that wins blue ribbons and bragging rights.
(Been there, done that!!)
But if you miss a step or key ingredient, the friends you are serving the cake to might realize it’s a bit off or they’ve had better. The challege is they might not understand what is wrong; and if they do, they might not tell you. If it’s a really bad result, they’ll politely ask for apple pie the next time.
And unless you have been paying close attention while assembling and mixing the ingredients, you might not figure it out either.
Here’s how the creation of an awesome chocolate birthday cake is like the creation of awesome digital media strategy:
The cake (website) ingredients
Here’s the list of ingredients I’ll assemble:
- Eggs = The basics: who, what, when, why, where and how and specific keywords. People use search engines to find answers to questions. This is why content, headline, subheads, description box, photo captions, and photo alt tags must be filled out with words and phrases that present the message.
- Butter = Accurate and reliable content is like choosing the very best ingredients in your cake. Don’t trade butter out for cheap margarine, and don’t take shortcuts on this step. This helps build trust factor among the audience.
- Sugar = Sweeten it up. Look for interesting topics, or an interesting angle on an otherwise routine topic. When you localize or explain national statistics with a reference to your community, for example, it becomes more appealing to the target audience. They’ll be more likely to read the content, understand the overall message etc.
- Vanilla = You’ll notice if vanilla is missing from the cake recipe. And you’ll notice the same error when failing to include an image or photo on a website story. Yes, technically, it will work. You can post an article on the website without a photo. The reality is it will not work as well. Photos grab attention on an email newsletter and on social media; there also are content highlight spots on many websites that need photos. Branded or one-off graphics are easy to make if you don’t have live photos or file art that works. Bottom line: Don’t forget the vanilla!
- Flour = A cake will not become cake without the flour. This is reliability and consistency. You apply this idea to website programming by having timely content available when people are looking for it it. Stay a step ahead and plan for topics that are recurring or seasonal; and act fast during breaking or trending news in your niche, to build the reputation of reliability.
- Baking soda = This ingredient makes the cake batter rise. But it’s a little box and a usually a teaspoon, so it’s easy to forget. On a similar note: don’t forget the alt tag descriptions on your images. You’ll understand why that’s important the next time you hit “image search” when doing a Google search.
- Salt = This is meant to help enhance the flavors of the cake when the batter recipe calls for it. Does your content call for the context of an author’s note to explain that this is something special or different? If so, add that.
- Cocoa = This is what makes the cake chocolate flavored and not vanilla. If you want your content to be “not vanilla” in comparison to what can be found elsewhere on social media on the Internet, then explain the content just a bit better, go a little more in depth or take a little extra effort in the visual presentation. This is what multimedia embeds such as quizzes, Google Maps and Storify can do. People linger a little longer on pages that have such content.
Now it’s time for mixing the cake batter. But while you do that, double check your list of ingredients to make sure you did not skip anything.
Selecting the shape and size of the cake pan you will pour the batter into is like selecting what category keywords you want that content to be found under. The 8-inch circle pan size is the most common presentation; and maybe that’s exactly what you want. But a heart-shaped pan is a little more special. And the sheet cake pan bakes the treat in potluck party-friendly format.
Putting the filled cake pan in the oven is like posting it on the website. It’s in the “baking process,” so to speak when you hit “post” or “send.”
The icing (social media) ingredients
You can eat an unfrosted cake after it is taken out of the oven.
But you probably want icing to top it off.
Think about this: If you offer the spatula covered with icing leftovers and one covered with cake batter leftovers to a friend who is working with you in the kitchen, it’s likely the icing spatula will be cleaned up first!
This is what social media does to website content: social media attracts and interests a larger audience. Do some research on how much traffic comes to your website via social channels than search engines!
With a popular modern buttercream chocolate icing recipe as the theoretical example (I personally use a 1940s-era cooked chocolate icing recipe!), here are the ingredients to creating the social icing:
- Butter = Just as with cake, butter in the icing mixture represents quality. Get your “quality” message across with coherent writing and appropriate visuals. Include a “call to action” if appropriate of what you want people to do after reading the message.
- Powdered sugar = Just like with website content, social media content needs to be interesting. That’s what sugar can do. But powdered sugar is not the same formulation as granulated sugar. Do some research on preferred writing and visual presentations for the social networks you are working in; it really is not the same as writing for SEO purposes. Paying attention to those little details makes a huge difference on how much of a response you’ll get with your social media efforts.
- Cocoa powder = Again, cocoa powder is what makes the icing chocolate flavored and not buttery vanilla. Brainstorm and settle into your unique perspective and brand personality so that you stand out from others who are posting on that same topic.
Blend all that together and frost your cake!
The decorating (social media extras) steps
Now did you decide to put birthday candles or candies on that cake so it is extra special? Of course! It’s a birthday cake.
You can also give your social media efforts an extra touch by adding in Facebook advertising on occasion to boost a page’s reach or awareness; sending out Facebook page invitations to people who have previously liked your content and creating a branded look to your social media.
And now I think it’s time to make a cup of coffee to accompany my theoretical piece of chocolate cake!
I work as a reporter and social media team member at The Monroe News in Monroe, Mich. Years ago, I really did win a county fair blue ribbon for a chocolate cake.