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How to Create a Social First Content Marketing Strategy

Hannah Williams

Oct 22, 2018

What is a social first content marketing strategy?

When creating a content marketing strategy, social media can sometimes be an afterthought. For example, we might use social media to promote our new content, or simply repost our content without much thought.

However, with the average consumer spending over 2 hours on social media a day, and younger age groups spending even longer, social media should be at the forefront of a content marketing strategy.

A social first strategy considers social media during the ideation and brainstorm phase of planning, and takes social media into account of all elements of campaign planning – not just after the content has been created.

Digital overload

Whilst most of us are aware of the huge opportunity that social media presents for business, it also creates a challenge. With so much content out there, it can be difficult for brands to be relevant and visible on the platforms.

We recently published an infographic showing that more than 500 million tweets are sent each day and organic reach across social media platforms are often lower than 2%. Beating the algorithm is a constant battle, and has led to many brands paying for social media visibility via advertising.

Yet this doesn’t guarantee success…

The average attention span of millennials is often reported as less than that of a goldfish. This means it is essential that brands can quickly capture the attention of very distracted social media users.

So in summary, we need to create engaging, social-first content. But how? We recently hosted two events on the very topic with Lucy Hall, founder of leading social media event Social Day and Mike & Roxanna from the award-winning social media agency, Social Chain. We’ll be using some of their expert advice in this blog!

Research & Objectives Setting

Before you do anything, consider what you want to achieve from your social media content marketing strategy. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is your goal? Be specific. I.e. ‘create more sales’ or ‘find 3 brand advocates’ rather than ‘boost engagement’.
  2. Who are you trying to reach?
  3. What does your audience want to see from you? Hint: probably not a sales pitch.
  4. What does your audience think of you? Do you need to change perceptions?
  5. What is the typical buying process for your product/service?

How can you find out these things? 

Once you know everything you need to know about your audience and what you want to achieve, you’re ready to start planning your social first content marketing strategy!

3 Steps to social media content success:

Step 1: Make people feel something


Take this gherkin, for example, chances are it provoked some kind of reaction in you – whether you love them or hate them.

Engagements and impressions mean nothing if it makes people feel nothing, as it won’t provoke your audience to act. Whether you use cute animals, humour or disgust, always keep feeling in the back of your head when you’re planning campaigns.

Whether you have a huge budget or a tiny one, there are always ways to include emotion in your content marketing strategy.

A few inspiring examples for you:

John Lewis’ Christmas adverts, are notorious for making people ‘feel’ something.

Tartan Paint

Tartan paint: The Holy Grail of painting & decorating has been found! Please like and share!!

Posted by Paint Like A Pro on Friday, January 19, 2018

Paint like a Pro created this hugely successful funny Facebook video on a low budget.

stop climate change before it changes you ad WWF

WWF’s climate change campaign provoked feelings of shock and disgust.

Reading Tip: Learn How Meltwater Helped Track Earth Hour, the World’s Largest Grassroots Movement

Step 2: Make it social

Make sure your content is optimised for social media. Whilst this might seem obvious, simply posting the same image or video that you’ve been publishing in magazines or on TV isn’t going to cut the mustard.

For a true social first content marketing strategy, keep the following things in mind:

Ensure videos have captions

On average 85% of videos on Facebook are watched without sound. Either create videos that can be enjoyed without audio, or make sure you’re captioning video content. Facebook has a feature to automatically generate captions within the platform (just make sure you review the captions before you publish the video)

video caption creation screenshot

Post Native content

When posting content, if possible post it to the social media platform itself. Social media platforms, often penalise content (by showing it lower on people’s feeds) that tries to redirect users off their site. Lucy Hall, social media consultant & founder of Social Day, discovered a huge increase in engagement when she removed a link within a video on her clients Facebook page.

Where possible utilise the features within a platform to promote content. For example, Instagram now offers an in-app shopping feature, so we can promote our products without sending them to our website.

Mobile first

With 70% of social media time spent on a mobile device, it is essential that our content is created to be viewed on a mobile device. This means avoiding overly text-heavy posts, keeping text on images to a minimum and considering using vertical video content.

Consider vertical video

With 70% of all social media time being spent on a mobile device, vertical content is becoming increasingly more popular. When creating your social first content marketing strategy, make sure you consider mobile viewing!

smartphones next to each other viewports

Step 3: Create a full-funnel campaign

When creating a social first campaign, it’s worth considering each stage of the purchase funnel. You can use Facebook Pixel to track each stage of your social media ad campaign and retarget based on the content they’ve viewed.

Read about the Facebook Pixel

marketing funnel infographic

So, how do we create a narrative through our social media efforts?

SocialChain told us about a campaign they worked on for Thomas Cook. They created content around the following 5 moments:

Awareness Stage – Inspiring Content

Based on CRM data they already had, Thomas Cook supplied social media content for each stage of the funnel. So, if they knew that their potential customer typically booked each January, they started pushing inspiring content 2 months before the purchase stage of the funnel.

Consideration-  Narrowing down the options

A month later, they targetted ads based on the destinations that their potential customer had viewed.

Purchase – Booking stage

As the booking stage approached, they also sent out offers & discounts.

Loyalty – Enhancing the customer experience

After the booking stage, to keep the holiday excitement going, Thomas Cook created content around the destination that their customer was going to be visiting. For example, suggesting the best day trips, attractions and restaurants for the user.

Advocacy – Sharing photos from the holiday

Now that the customer is away on holiday, they’ll want to share the amazing experience that they’re having. Here, Thomas Cook can engage with, and repost the UGC!

Think about how you could apply this strategy to your own industry!

Final advice for creating a social first content marketing strategy:

  • Consider awareness days, trends on Twitter and other stories you could newsjack
  • “Fail fast, do 70% of what you know works, 20% what might work and 10% wildcard,” says Mike Blake-Crawford, Strategy Director, SocialChain.
  • Involve influencers and your target audience in your campaign
  • Choose the social media channels that your audience engages on
  • Don’t forget about the potential marketing opportunity that dark social presents!