Strategic Communication is an elegant combination of art and science. It’s making sure that the ways you communicate are aligned with your overall business objectives. At Step In … Learn More...
What is a Content Ladder?
A content ladder is our way of thinking about building expertise around a topic or content theme. We use them formally and informally with a lot of our clients to take advantage of the repetitive nature of social media and to increase the shelf life of certain types of content. It’s taking that topic and repeatedly sharing around that topic on all your channels.
If this seems kind of vague, stick with us and we’ll give you an example.
The Elements of a Content Ladder
The content on your channels includes three layers or rungs. You probably have all these in your current content strategy, but think about these against your own system to see where you land. Content Ladders have three layers.
The Base Layer
This includes evergreen content, mission and purpose messages, employees, brand identification and are rarely time sensitive. They can be moved around to meet the needs of the other two layers. This layer usually answers the questions of WHO WE ARE as a brand or organization.
The Campaign Layer
The campaign layer is more timely. It includes events and celebrations, news about the organization, your media clips. They are generally things that are important and timely but may reflect the longer story of your organization, like a capital campaign or fundraising. This layer usually answers the question of WHAT WE DO as a brand or organization.
The Live Layer
The live layer features interruptions to regular programming and while they may not all be traditionally live**, they are the concentrated effort to make your audience STOP SCROLLING AND LOOK! They are moments to try and own a celebration, event or harness a news event or campaign.
**Note: when we say “live” we mean same day, same hour, or in near real time. We work with a number of brands who require an extra level of screening for appropriateness before going live, so we have a process for that.
How Do I Build a Content Ladder?
Before we go into an example of how we built a content ladder, it’s important to note that these are not quick fixes for you if you don’t already have a robust content strategy. This is a way of thinking over time about types of conversations you want to “own” on your channels. Content ladders take time to build, so the example we’ll give next took us more than 6 months to fill out.
Content Ladder Example
Here is an example of how we built a content ladder for Step In Communication, based around our experience in working with influencers and more specifically, the topic of disclosure during paid influencer campaigns. You will see links to some, but not ALL of the elements of the content ladder which can be easily seen.
The Elements of Our Content Ladder on Disclosure (this will be a bulleted list in the blog post)
- In 2019, we wrote a comprehensive blog post on disclosure for brands. See the post.
- Then we posted in social media channels to promote the post.
- We updated the post when the disclosure law changed and featured it in our email newsletter with the story and link.
- We added the post as part of the elements of an online course we developed.
- We linked to the blog post again in a tips video we created on Facebook and YouTube.
- Hosted a Clubhouse Room with an influencer on working with brands (link to Lunch Bunch room)
Some other things you could do to expand the content ladder further:
- Create a “How To” checklist on the topic
- Create quote graphics or testimonials from the blog post
- Make it a blog download and promote that in social
- Create a lead magnet for building your list or marketing other services
- Or add to course materials, seminar or workshop curriculum
How to Get Started Building a Content Ladder for YOUR Business
Don’t be intimidated by the number of items on the list above. While we started in 2019 with our key blog post (which we have updated and are still using), we added elements just a month ago, so it’s been eighteen months of adding elements one at a time.
And in that time, our content ladder has been shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, the website, email, online course, YouTube and Clubhouse. What started out as a signature blog post has become a recurring theme and anchors a significant amount of content for our business. It has also covered all three layers. The base layer are periodic promotions of the post itself. We’ve used the campaign layer in promoting our online course periodically. The live layer has been used to talk about a timely disclosure topic with videos or live streaming audio.
We’d love to hear your questions about building content ladders or an example of a content ladder you’re starting for your business. Tell us about it! (email link?)
Oh, and if you’d like to see a video about this instead, we’re launching a three-part tips video on building content ladders on our Facebook page starting Wed. June 23.
New features on the most popular and well-known channels are popping up right and left. Instagram Guides came out last year and while they are overshadowed by Reels right now, we think you will find Guides are a useful tool and one that also does well in the current algorithm.
Why Use Instagram Guides?
Guides allow you to curate lists or recommendations using content that is currently on Instagram as a wall post or in your saves including Reels and IGTV videos if they have been shared to the wall. There are three categories for Guides: Places, Posts or Products, so you have lots of options depending on your area of expertise or business focus.
Instagram Guides Resources:
Travel destination – https://www.instagram.com/australia/guides/
Cosmetics – https://www.instagram.com/lushcosmetics/guides/
Magazine – https://www.instagram.com/parents/guides/
Gift Guide – https://www.instagram.com/thetreatment/guides/
Construction Materials – https://www.instagram.com/thedeckcompany_colorado/guides/
Video Tutorial of How to Use Instagram Guides
Our top tips if you’re interested in or have just joined Clubhouse, the new audio only streaming app for Apple users. Here are twelve tips to get you started on the right track!
Connect with some of your friends and colleagues from other networks. This is a great way to start a quick stream of content that you know you’ll be interested in.
Join topic clubs – they are topic specific and it will help you find the information you want to learn about or network in your area of expertise.
Get on with a friend and start a private room so you can try out all the buttons! What do they do, how do they work? What does it look like when you raise your hand or unmute? This helps calm your nerves when you want to be more interactive in a room.
Get in a small room to practice raising your hand and speaking. It is much less intimidating than a room with hundreds of people and a large group of moderators.
Fill out your bio – it helps people get to know you, increases your followers on CH but also on IG (make sure to link your IG and TW! in your bio).
Emojis are searchable. Yes, they are. So if emojis are your thing, you might want to check out what that yields for you.
Follow people – when people who speak follow you it moves your profile into the higher “Followed by speakers” group in rooms.
Think outside your business hours! Because CH is global, people are on there in every single time zone. Check out some of the rooms and talks that start up in the early evening or on the weekends. It’s a more relaxed vibe and can lead to additional learning.
When someone “pings” you that you should be in this room, it means that they are in a room that’s happening right now and thought you might like it. Don’t worry if you get the notice and can’t join in. It happens.
Like all social networking apps, it’s powered by an algorithm. The app will show you “rooms in progress” based on both your topics AND the people you’re following. If you’re not into million dollar real estate deals, maybe tweak your followers/followings.
Have fun! Clubhouse is new and changing, learn, try out things, and enjoy yourself. There are so many topics it is easy to get overwhelmed so just pick and choose.
Save rooms you are interested in to your google or apple calendar so you don’t forget.
Let us know what you tried in Clubhouse. We’ve got some invites if you need one to get started!
Yes, we said “auto pilot.” Are you shocked? Well, don’t be. If you’re not a retailer whose livelihood depends on Christmas sales, then this post is for you.
Why You Should Take a Break This Holiday Season
If you are an entrepreneur or, for that matter, any small to medium business owner, you’re no doubt exhausted from the pace of keeping up with social media during a pandemic. For some businesses, it was their only marketing activity and a lifeline to maintain their customer relationships.
But this time of year, the competition for attention is crazy. The retailers are leading the way, trying to gain any sales they can to salvage the year. Likewise, many nonprofits are making one last attempt to get donations to secure their future.
It’s hard to rise above these two forces. It might be the perfect time to take a break. But we’re not saying ignore your social channels entirely.
Here are our 4 key ideas on how to do it well so you can take a break and come back in January ready to tackle new social campaigns!
Engagement erodes beginning around Dec. 15, so take this time to preschedule as much content as possible through to the New Year. One of our past clients, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, had this fabulous Christmas tree in their foyer. Each department created a signature ornament for the tree. We photographed them individually and started scheduling an ornament of the day acknowledging the department, with a picture of the ornament. These were wildly popular among the hospital fans and gave us a break. Some of these creations were full blown dioramas and amazing to see.
If you don’t have that kind of holiday tie-in, that’s okay too. If you’re a nonprofit, you can schedule gratitude messages to volunteers, employees, donors. It’s a great way to wrap up the year. A small business could recognize employee contributions and feature employees each day.
2. Keep It Light
While you’re thinking on how to preschedule everything, make sure to keep the content fun and light. Lots of your fans are mindlessly scrolling, so just give them a little something to remember you by when you resume your big schedule in January.
3. Create a Monitoring Schedule
While you want a break, you can’t completely ignore your channels. Create a sensible monitoring schedule so you just peek in, see if you need to respond to any comments or activity and then go back to enjoying holiday time away from the screen. We manage channels for a number of clients. Here’s what we do at the holidays: each team member has a three day monitoring schedule. For some clients they will check all the channels for fifteen minutes, twice each day on their monitoring day. For others, the channel check is once per day. We have 4-5 of us working in this way, so starting 3-4 days before Christmas, we implement this schedule, so each person only has to sit at their desk for a couple of days! It’s brilliant.
4. Try Using Bots to Manage FAQs
If you haven’t tried using the Facebook bot, now is the time to give it a try. You can set automatic responses to the most frequently asked questions so the bot answers for you. We do this for several clients for things like how do I find a hotel in your destination? What are your holiday hours? Things of that nature. Here’s an example of a “bot” in action on a business page (picture). Especially if you are sold out, closed for the holiday, not reopening until a certain date and time, you can let the bot answer the question and continue to enjoy your time away.
Don’t Go Away for TOO Long! We don’t recommend that you be mentally or physically away from your vital social media channels for more than three weeks but for many small businesses, the two week reset will do amazing things to refresh you. We highly recommend it. Happy Holidays!
A good social media management tool can make your life so much easier. A bad one can be really frustrating. With tools changing ALL THE TIME, how can you be sure you’ve picked the right tool for YOUR business?
We have a series of questions we ask when considering a social media management tool for our clients. While some agencies put all their clients into their selected tool, that doesn’t always work well and you’re forcing your clients into what works for you. Which may not be a fit for that clients’ social media practice.
These same questions are a great starting point for an entrepreneur or small business owner who is looking to start using a social media tool.
What Features Do You Need?
If you’re looking for a new social media management tool, the first feature you will need is something that will help you schedule your content.
This will save you time and help you be more strategic in scheduling your content
The ability to connect specific channels is an important feature.
Not all social networks work well on all third party tools; Instagram is usually always the problem child!
Do the notifications from each social network work for you or your business? Or do you need to get them into a single pipeline? This is the most advanced feature of social media networks and is usually the most pricey.
What kind of data would you like to see weekly, monthly or yearly from your social media channels? Have you set goals against them from which a report would help you see progress?
How Many People Need to Use The Tool?
Many tools are priced by number of people using it or the number of social network connections made inside the tool.
Many of the great starter tools are a combination of both. For example, you can have 2 people and up to 5 networks.
What Else Should I Know About Making the Purchase?
Some tools max out the number of scheduled messages per month but since that number is often really high (like 10,000) it may not apply to you.
Most will quote you a price per month, but if you sign for one year, there is a great price break. We suggest trying a tool for 2-3 months before trying to grab that annual discount. It will make it easier to change your mind if you find it doesn’t work for you.
Jen and Fran recently did a live video on choosing tools. Check out this brief, 10 minute Q and A below.
Still not sure?
We’ve compared 6 social media management tools side by side for you, including average pricing. You can get it by going here.
Let us know if you pick a new tool!
Last week, Instagram rolled out a series of new video features under the heading of Reels. Here’s what we’ve learned about it so far.
Instagram Answers TikTok with new Reels feature
If you’re on the fence about whether TikTok is right for your brand, you’re not alone. While this platform has made inroads by opening up advanced features like an agency interface and advertising solutions, the political controversy about Tiktok and its ownership have quite possibly pushed Instagram to roll out its newest feature, Reels a little quicker than planned.
You can now choose 15 seconds or 30 seconds for your video length!Update from Jennifer Hatton, October 14, 2020
Most people have the music feature – hopefully it is fixed for everyone! If not keep using a work around.
A few updates have been added to the clipping feature to splice video clips together.
Many people are editing their videos in TikTok, InShot and other editing apps and uploading them as a finished product to Reels.
We know more updates and tweaks are coming!
Here’s a tutorial from Sam Shefner on how to use Reels with an evaluation on its functionality. He says that some things are limited for now, but that Instagram might build more as the feature gains in popularity.
The New York Times also did a test and said it stinks. But No one liked Instagram when it first came out either, so it’s anyone’s guess what will happen next.
How Do I Create a Reel?
If you’re ready to jump in, here’s a couple resources to help you try it out.
Instagrammer extraordinaire Color Me Courtney got the feature a week ahead of time and does a great rundown here on her blog. She then updated her blog post when it went live with anything that was different.
After I create a Reel, what should I do next?
Some key Instagram influencers are suggesting you get 5 or more Reels up quickly so that you are favored by IG’s punishing algorithm.
Then you can also brag to all your social media buddies that you were an early adopter.
We’re also seeing lots of recommendations about using hashtags but it’s anyone’s guess how that will function within the current Instagram craze of using numerous hashtags in a post. In Stories, of course, you are limited in the crazy hashtag use.
Here are our hilarious examples of trying Reels :
It’s her first, so be kind!
Maybe you’re not yet ready for Reels, but at least now you know what’s out there and can talk to your boss or clients about the pros and cons of adding it into your social media strategy.
We’d love to hear about and see your first Reels videos.
Part 1 of 2
There’s a lot going on in the world right now and that has resulted in some brands going dark, some changing their messaging, and others pushing on like everything was status quo. No matter what camp you find yourself in you may be analyzing your social profile, finetuning your messaging, and developing a go-forward strategy for the rest of the year.
Are you ready to restart your channels, reinvigorate your commitment to social posting for your company or take your side gig to the next level? Let’s take some time to do some housekeeping that will help make your channels more secure, help you be more organized and put your best branding foot forward for new fans and followers.
Let’s review some things you can do right now to enhance your social media initiatives:
Grab a pen and answer the questions below!
Social Media Channels
1. What channels do you have?
A simple spreadsheet is a great tool to track this and help you stay on top of where and how you’re spending your time.
2. What channels are you consistently posting content on?
Analyze the last 3-12 months, look at number of posts, engagement metrics, and total ROI.
3. What channels should you put on hold?
Use your ROI analysis to determine if it makes sense to step away from a platform and focus your energy on the ones that are providing tangible results.
You have an entire digital ecosystem that includes your website, blog and social media channels. Any time someone encounters your brand online, they should be able to easily get to your website. Afterall, your website is your home turf. You aren’t beholden to changes in algorithms, or other third-party issues that can impact or even devastate your traffic.
Log In’s and Access
1. Do you have a password app or document?
If so you need to be sure if it will keep your data safe in the event you’re hacked.
2. Do you have a regularly updated back-up of the data in case of a breach?
It is also important that you know who all has access to that information.
3. Have you updated your passwords recently?
Most security experts agree changing passwords every 90 days is a solid way to reduce the risk of someone else getting access to your data. Are you using a password generator? The street you grew up on with your child’s birthdate won’t cut it. Most password apps have the ability to generate complex passwords for you.
4. Who has access to your channels?
We’ve all heard the stories of an employee who was terminated but still had access to social channels, or the consultant that was hired years ago that still has ownership of a brand’s Facebook page. Don’t let that be you!
The security aspect is important for many reasons, make sure your reputation is not at stake because you are hacked and inappropriate things are posted to your channels. You also don’t want to lose access to your channels and have to start over losing the branded URL’s that people will use to find your brand or business online.
Many of these things are simple, do take a little time but will pay off for you.
We would love to know which items you tackled – share below.
Check back for Part 2 of Cleaning up your Social Media Channels!
What happens after a disrupting event? Everything Changes. So Should You.
This is the fourth in the series on Managing Social Media through a Prolonged Crisis.
Now it’s time to look at the thinking and process to wake up your social media channels so you are ready when country starts to open up too.
We’re making the assumption here that you may have let your social media sit idle or may have pursued an interim schedule to assist your community or industry. We’re also assuming that you’ve studied your audience changes, their new consumption habits and can see what’s different from last year at this time.
The first thing to do is to test the limits of your social network.
How to Test the Social Network
You can’t just go back to the way things were before this happened. Going into a full posting schedule for most organizations might make your audience’s heads explode.
Instead, try this.
Try one or two test messages at what would normally be a peak time of day for your audience. You know, fly a trial balloon as the military would say. Then heavily monitor the sentiment around those messages, including reactions, comments and shares.
Analyze your results.
What are you seeing? Positivity or persecution? Thumbs up or angry emojis? Or the reaction could be really mixed. Let the data from the reactions guide your next move.
How about another test at another peak time? It may or may not be “safe” to resume a full social media schedule.
Keep doing this until you find your new set point. Hint: your pace, tone and message types could all change ….and might be different for each social network.
If you follow this process, for each social channel you were managing proactively BEFORE the health crisis, you will have sufficient data to justify your decisions going forward.
Then you can look at waking up the channels.
Waking Up the Channels
Our team has frequently taken over a brand’s social media after a key event or taken on a brand’s social network after a period of dormancy. The process described above is part of what we call “waking up the channels.” It’s different for every brand we’ve managed and the pace is wildly different for different industries – health care organizations and travel brands have different audience types and expectations.
When should you do this?
- After a crisis and ESPECIALLY, after a global crisis
- After a change in management team or focus
- After long periods of dormancy in a network or network ecosystem.
By testing before going into “normal” mode, you will get a better sense of what your audience is expecting and what they need.
Resuming a Normal Posting Schedule
Because everything has changed in the ways we do business and our online communication skills have been tested and refined during stay at home time, it’s important to take time to build your new posting schedule.
It might take longer than a couple days. It may be weeks or months before you’re at full capacity again.
It’s important to watch for the clues that your message is resonating with your audience and that you’re giving them what they need. Focus on service information and above all, continue to be a helper in your community. Humility and gratitude will go a long way in this environment. Be extremely cautious when putting on your marketing and sales hats for your brand.
While we all were consuming content at a staggering rate while staying at home, consumers will come out of this more discerning. And by discerning, I don’t mean the technical quality of the content. I mean discerning from the standpoint of authenticity in messaging.
We admired the ability of news media and talk show hosts to carry on from home and we were okay with cell phone quality video and their children’s homemade graphics. Why? Because they had something important to say and they said it creatively. Whether it was graphics made by Jimmy Fallon’s kids or Sesame Street’s ability to do a Zoom call with Elmo and friends for a Playdate, we had empathy for our shared situation. Because we were adapting too. MAYBE SOME OTHER EXAMPLES HERE.
Data to Inform Your Decisions
There are three key points to help inform your decisions on your posting schedule and content.
Engagement is defined differently by each network. And we spend a lot of time analyzing engagement level with our clients for their reporting. You need to look at if the content has been seen or content views or reach. Then you need to review if people have done something about it. Did they click on it, comment on it, like it or share it? Write all these down on a piece of paper. Now ask these questions:
- Is anyone at all engaging with your content?
- Is it higher or lower than the great “before?”
- Compare the same numbers with a similar piece of content from last year. What do you see?
The number of incoming comments can be very enlightening when waking up your social media channels. We’ve seen it take a long time for people to come back and chat, but for other brands, the social audience is there and waiting and so happy to see you. Here are the questions to ask:
- How many comments do you have on this piece of content? Also, look at the shares and count them IF they added a covering comment above your post.
- Compare the total number to a similar piece of content from before. Is it higher or lower?
Sentiment is often defined as the degree of positivity or negativity toward a piece of content or a brand. It is a controversial metric, but it’s useful when you’re testing a new schedule. Look at the comments on your content test piece and rank them as positive, negative, or neutral. Likewise for the reactions on Facebook to see how many likes and loves versus sad and angry reactions. Write all these down on a piece of paper. Ask these questions:
- What is the ratio of positive, negative and neutral on your sheet?
- Compare the same numbers with a similar piece of content from last year. What do you see?
- If it is predominantly negative, dig deeper for the cause. Is it the content type or is it the tone? Is it the timing? If it’s predominantly positive, try another similar piece of content and follow the same process.
By taking the time to test your content and then evaluating the engagement level, incoming comments and sentiments, you are using smart evaluation skills and making data-driven decisions on how to proceed with your social media channels and future scheduling.
Is there anything we haven’t covered in this series which could help you get ready to relaunch your business? We’d love to hear from you.
For many of us, we are at four plus weeks staying at home. It’s given us a lot of time to think, or maybe too much time to think. If you’re holding on to the old notions of how your social channels worked prior to a worldwide crisis, it might be time to start thinking of how it will change your social strategy in the future.
It’s certain you will see changes in your audience as this crisis lingers. Even more so as we slowly begin to re-open business channels. But how do you know? What should you be looking for?
It depends on how you – or your channels — acted during the global health crisis, which I’ve already addressed in part 2 of the guide.
If you were serving the community in some way during the nation’s shutdown, you have quite possibly won new fans, ones who are already developing loyalty and pride in what you did.
If you went dark during the uncertainty, you are exactly where you were before the shutdown, or may have lost fans.
If your communication was tentative or marketing heavy or shared the wrong message, you may have lost parts of your audience and will essentially, be starting over with a smaller group.
Assuming your audience mix will be new, your message, approach and channel preference needs to change with it. Some people left you; some people joined you.
Start thinking about your new audience.
Messages: your tone and type of message will need to change when your demographic changes. Your audience may be younger or older, more urban or rural, so look at your breakout and adjust.
Approach: the pace of your messaging should be dictated by audience need. What do they want know? Look at the demographics from your tools and compare it to last year to see what is different.
Channel preference: Not all your channels changed equally. Maybe Facebook is up and Instagram is down. Or Twitter is stagnant but Pinterest has grown. While you’re looking at your demographic changes, look at each individual channel to see what’s different from before.
Taking the time to get to know your new audience is key to your future social media success.
Next time: Is it time to wake up your social channels?
In case you missed it:
Part 1 in our series: What Should I Be Doing On My Social Channels?
Here’s a refresher: Not Sure Who Your Audience is? It’s Right Under Your Nose
Part 2 in a Series
No one ever expects the kind of crisis that is pervasive to every community and industry like this health care epidemic is right now. So if you’re struggling with how to cope, you are not alone. A lot of organizations are using their social media channels as their first, or maybe their only, method of communication right now.
If you are pursuing a schedule on your social channels during this crisis, MAKE IT COUNT.
Say Less, Share More
Stop promoting yourself and start helping your community. What can you do to be part of the solution? Here are some examples you may have seen in your community.
Restaurants who cannot fully operate have moved to online ordering, contactless delivery and even “make at home” meal kits with key add-ons, like eggs and toilet paper.
Arts organizations are sharing live concerts, behind the scenes tours and developing curriculum to be consumed from home.
Sports teams, who were among the first to take action, have propped up their service workers with pay checks; many sports celebrities are doing public service announcements and other work to help their communities.
Nonprofits have pursued a variety of options – some are fundraising to assist in the health care space or keep vital services going while others are being creative to fulfill new challenges.
Large scale manufacturers have rapidly re-tooled their plants to make key goods and services available to frontline health care workers. Smaller cottage industries have redirected machinery to sew masks and create face shields, which are in severe shortage.
Someone in your online community is doing these things. Instead of talking about yourself, talk about them. And what they’re doing to help us get through this crisis. Because sharing their work can help them.
Say Less, Do More
Be a link in the chain of helpers around the world. Everyone can do their part. Can your organization support one of these community helpers?
If you’ve already shared good works happening in your community on your social channels, what else can you do?
Can you match these organizations with the resources they need to continue?
Can you donate money or help them raise money for what they are doing?
That is what real community is about. This is what the social networks were built to do. Connect each other and help each other. Forget selling, and start helping.
We’d love to hear your creative ideas for helping your community.
Next time: Will Your Get Your Audience Back?
To read more about social strategy from Step In Communication, check out our social strategy posts.