I have always stressed my belief that ‘content is king’, particularly when it comes to corporate/brand approaches to social media. Unlike social media marketing, social media engagement starts from content and builds on that.

From that point of view, there are 5 basic roles that brands can build on, using content.

Content creation
Create original content and complement it with adequate content marketing

The oldest and the toughest to work on. Content creation needs a good understanding on the target audience being addressed and even better knowledge of the brand’s theme for communication. Usual tools used to share such content created include blogs, Facebook, Twitter, websites etc. In most cases, content creation should be complemented with a content marketing plan that looks at how the content can be put in front of as many relevant people as possible, without making it look like an intrusion.

Content consumption
Go beyond monitoring and derive actionable intelligence out of content.

There is tremendous value in content consumption, for brands online. The web is a treasure trove of information and opinions and I had explained this in detail in my post on ‘The Opinion Economy‘. Content consumption should ideally be part of a larger plan that decides on what to do with the intelligence gathered from such consumption. For instance, it could be used in content creation or even in content curation.

Content curation
Bring the best content in your space to your audience consistently.

This is one of the much-ignored roles, but one that holds amazing value. Given the almost-infinite amount of information on the web about any given topic, a brand could opt to become a curator for content relevant to its business. This helps at 2 important levels – depending on how good and consistent the curation is, it could help the brand seed the image of an expert in its chosen space. Two, by adding its own views on the content it curates, it could build a thought leadership position – this is part-content creation too, of course. Usually, having a consistent channel to communicate/share curated content helps. Content curation, done well, over a period of time, could be the starting point to building an online community.

Content collaboration
Work with your community to inspire or instigate appropriate content.

Social tools allow brands to play the role of content co-creators or content collaborators, where the main engine driving the content on a brand-owned platform is its users. The brand could instigate or inspire user-generated content via assorted methods (sometimes using paid advertising) and merely act as a collaborator or manager of such content in its community.

Content conversation
Enter appropriate conversations to build engagement and trust through content.

Content conversation assumes many shapes. At a basic level, social CRM and online support are intrinsic uses of content conversation, while such conversation could also take place from a mere community management/building perspective for the sake of relevant engagement. Content conversation is a vital step in humanizing the brand online and a relevant decision here is to plan and execute a consistent tone of voice that could help target audiences identify with the brand.

The realization and awareness of these 5 broad buckets of content usage could help in many ways. A few use cases to ignite your imagination.

– It could help your brand start, for instance, with just consumption alone and not get into any form of engagement till it has been planned for a specific objective.

– Sequencing the above five could help too – you may decide to start with consumption and then proceed to conversation directly instead of creation, depending on your requirements.

– You could perhaps opt for curation as a first level of content creation – it is content created by others, no doubt, but by consistently making it available to your target audience, you could start building your community and be known as the go-to source for a particular space/vertical. It could then be extended by content that you start creating on your own.

– If you happen to own a popular brand that has existing communities created by your fans, you could start with consumption (understanding the nature and kind of user-generated communities you have) and move on to collaboration, to join, encourage those communities, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel and alienate your existing fans.

The opportunity is limited only by our imagination…but it is nothing but smart, appropriate content that we are working with as raw material.