Exclusive: Hootsuite's Content & Social Strategy
As an economics graduate from Vancouver, Roger Graham, Hootsuite's Director of Marketing for the APAC region, has had an exciting career working for start-ups, professional marketing companies and working for global corporations. He joined Hootsuite in 2013 and recently moved to Singapore. Roger shared some insider info on Hootsuite's social and content strategy, as well as some thoughts about what the future of content marketing looks like.
How many people do you have on the Hootsuite marketing team?
Two years ago, we had a very small marketing of two people and I rapidly grew that to eight people, we handle everything from online marketing and paid user acquisition to content marketing - which is a big focus. We have a marketing team back in Vancouver that produces content as well.
Today in Singapore we have twenty four people (eight marketing people), and globally we've got 1000 people. One person that handles social and community and two that are focused on paid user acquisition. In addition to our Singaporean marketing team, we have a team in Vancouver,
What did the marketing team look like when you started? How has that changed over the years?
Back when Hootsuite started, the team really focused on producing great content and social. Obviously using social as a major channel was a big focus. We helped people engage on social, and gave them a platform to do that. We used a global brand ambassadors group that became spokes people for social media as well as for Hootsuite.
What were your major growth drivers? Where should small companies be putting their efforts to get maximum return?
Certainly social has become something that's very effective to get peer groups engaged on what's happening in the world. For us social really became a key part of our marketing mix, as well as producing really good content. We used our blog to help guide people on how to use social, as well as general lifestyle things.
Can you tell us about what problems are people coming to you with? What are your client's biggest pain points? Is it how to use the data they've gathered? Just the basics of scheduling posts? Figuring out to improve customer service?
There are two types of users that we see, the first is a beginner user, and their questions are things like "Which platform do I start with? How often do I post? How do I measure social? How do I grow my follower audience?". With beginners we have to educate them into how to tie social into their business goals, how to integrate social into their overall marketing.
More advanced users are trying to understand things like "How do I integrate with my customer service? How do I get the rest of the company on social media? How do I build a social strategy so that I can run it across my channels? How do I get sophisticated about tracking social conversion down to sales?"
Which is why we're focused on producing content and educating our customers across that spectrum.
Are you producing more heavily localized content?
When it comes to social media marketing & practitioner marketing, the information tends to be applicable for a global audience. A lot of companies across the globe are seeing the same problems, they're all strapped for time and resources. So the content for this has very minor localization.
Part of our role is to understand what our clients are looking for and produce a specific pieces that really suit the local audience, but we're very careful about what we choose & pick - because it's a heavy investment in time and resources.
Outside of your blog where are you publishing your content?
Fortunately there's a lot of different ways to publish, social, SlideShare, YouTube, and then there's partners, where content can end up in webinars or on someone else's blog. We all know that producing content isn't easy, you have to really think about what you're producing, ideate, get writers, editors, photography or video. So you really want to maximize the channels and impact it has. Then you've got to make sure it meets your business goals, for example you may want to gate the content so you can get lead capture. You don't just want to post and pray though.
Creating good content is time consuming and difficult, so a lot of content marketers will re-purpose (create several pieces based on just one event). How many different times do you re-purpose a piece of content?
It really depends on what the content is, for instance the Rugby World Cup we wouldn't use, but something that could be augmented and improved with new information - then we'll repost it. We might tweet about a single piece of content over a few weeks - just to make sure people saw it. But we do track to check every piece of content's effectiveness. If it falls flat, maybe we hit the wrong channel or we need to improve the SEO. Do we need to improve the titles or subject lines of the emails? It might not even be the content piece, it might be the delivery mechanism that you used instead. Sometimes content that performs badly on one channel works brilliantly on another. It's important to create more value when you re-purpose content.
What's the best piece of content you've ever produced?
The Vancouver HQ team has probably produced some of our best, the Game of Thrones inspired video called Game of Social, which got nearly a million views on YouTube. For local APAC content, we did post on the Rugby World Cup and how social plays a role in that. There's been a few successes, but Game of Social was probably our biggest hallmark of viral success.
You mentioned that you got a million views, how do you measure success? Is views your key metric?
At a very macro level there's two types of content strategy, you're either measuring:
- Branding & Awareness
- Business Contribution (leads, conversions & sign-ups)
Especially if you're a SAAS business, these are probably your two biggest focuses.
On the awareness side you're looking at reach, share of voice, measured increase in followers, views/likes if you're using YouTube/SlideShare. For game of social, it was really about views.
When it comes to tracking sales leads & opportunities, it depends on how sophisticated you want to get, but we integrate a few tools (into Hootsuite) that allow us to track from social posts right the way down to lead conversion - and then if you've got a CRM, track all the way into the individual lead.
If you're a bricks and mortar, you might be running a contest to draw people into your place, and measure your foot traffic in person. It just depends on your business, but we certainly pay a lot of attention to brand awareness and track conversion to leads.
An important part of content is promotion. How do you promote? Do you have a formula?
In our office, we produce a piece of content, push it out to our social channels, we use webinars, we put the webinars on YouTube (If it's more appropriate as a blog post, we'll post it on our blog). We run paid ads on social media, specifically creating posts on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter and then boosting them. We also have partners & publishers that we use to promote our content. Over and above everything else though, social media is the single biggest promotional opportunity for content.
There's a lot of different options to choose from, as a small business with limited bandwidth and resources, what should you be doing?
Your strategy depends on your business. If you're looking at a pure digital presence, an ecommerce shopping cart environment for instance, then you're looking to land people directly onto a shopping page directly from social.
If you're selling products, you'll probably need a home base for your content. A blog is usually the first place, where your readers come to view and learn to about your products. It doesn't need to be long form content, it can just be 500 word posts. That's the first thing I'd consider - your blog strategy.
If you don't have the technical know-how or funds to get a good website up, Facebook is a fantastic place for small businesses to start. We see people start with a Facebook page, and sending customers there to gain traction.
So if I'm a small ecommerce business, what should I do? Which post should I boost? Should I focus on boosting, or should I focus on producing on more content?
I'd be focused on your end goal, and then aggressive "testing & measuring". See how it works when you boost a post. Understand how they work with your audience. Try to understand your audience and what they're looking for.
We've seen success from companies that really understand their audience. Like "Vega", a Canadian nutrition brand, they're not selling product on their blog post, they promote yoga and all sorts of other lifestyle elements. It works really well as content for their audience. So understand your audience, test and measure, pay attention and see what your customers are responding to.
When using the "test & measure" approach, it can take time to get things right, meaning early conclusions could be negative. How do you know when to stay the course or drop the program and move on?
Everything you produce is content, if you have a small team producing long form content is difficult and time consuming. Video can be expensive, but today you can just take a video on an iPhone and post it. People's expectation of content has changed. You can produce an iPhone video and it's okay, there are some great pieces that have literally been produced on their phones - which have got tens of thousands of views. The right content is about knowing your audience, then testing & measuring to make sure it's working for them.
You can also find content on the internet as well, generally speaking you can share other people's articles socially, which will help you to grow your audience and show some thought leadership. That's without creating any content, just leveraging existing content. Do add your own comments and thoughts though, don't just blindly share.
Don't give up. Make sure the content you're producing fits within your budget, and that you can produce it regularly. Keep tracking and you'll figure out what works.
For marketers in mid to large organizations, how do you suggest they get organizational buy in for content marketing?
It usually comes from marketing teams that need content as part of what they do. Content marketing is really part of a broader inbound marketing strategy, it's the top of the funnel - acquiring customer leads. We're getting those types of enquiries from companies that want to fit content marketing into their existing digital marketing campaigns. If you understand your digital funnel, and the KPIs you're supposed to be tracking, then you can safely say:
- This is what we're going to produce
- This is where we're going to promote it (YouTube, SlideShare, webinar)
- We're going to share it socially (like this)
- It'll live in our blog (over here)
- We'll attached these CTAs to it
- Follow-on content will be (this)
- Capture a lead & track that through (this software)
The connectivity between social and CRM is solid, so selling this to management internally is just a question of painting a picture of the business need and showing the flow. Marketers these days are really getting to the situation where they need to understand data and marketing automation and digital funnels so they can see that flow and sell up. That way they can convince management to add writers to the team or outsource a designer and get content produced. You really need to understand your funnel and your social goals so that you can be effective
How do you see the future of content marketing changing?
Ultimately the objective is that content is awesome, audiences really enjoy it, and that marketing can track this towards business goals. I think there are three fundamental shifts that are going to happen to enable this.
Firstly, content teams are going to be part of the strategic thinking across marketing teams. The content team is going to get considerably more involved across the business function.
Secondly, tools are going to evolve to make it easier and more inexpensive to produce content.
Thirdly, like automation has come to schedule posts, the ability to track and measure audience engagement with your content is going to evolve quickly.
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