This is part of a new series titled “How I Work,” in which I’ll reveal the tools and practices I use on a regular basis. If you’re just getting started with inbound marketing, this will help you figure out “what” and “how.” If you’re an experienced inbound marketer, you might find a new tip or two or (even better) be able to contribute some of your own ideas. 

social media audienceThis series about social media will cover a lot of ground. Over the next few weeks, I’ll talk about:

  • Where I play: Which social networks do I use and how do I use each one?
  • Who I play with: How do I build and prune my audience?
  • What I play: What do I share with my audiences?
  • How I play: What are the tools that I use?
  • When I play: When and how frequently do I post?

This week’s article covers what kind of content I share with my audience(s). But before we jump into my tactics, I need to repeat my standard disclaimer: Tactics are only effective when they’re part of an overall inbound marketing strategy.

The nature of the content you share on various social networks changes based on the audience as well as the medium. Let’s start with the audience. The primary goal of social media is to build an audience that wants to hear what you have to say. In order to do that, you need to understand your audience and what they care about. Then you need to find and/or create that content and share it with them. But you don’t necessarily want to share the same content on every social media channel. They each have their own nuances, which need to be understood.

In this week’s “How I Work,” I’ll talk about my audiences (yes, plural) and the channels I use to engage with them.

My Social Media Audience(s)

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Here’s the deal with my audiences: I really have one overarching target audience with multiple segments. It’s important to understand how your audience is segmented between different channels. The main audience I’m trying to reach is solopreneurs, small business owners and marketing professionals. The common thread throughout those is that they’re all responsible for marketing but are too busy getting stuff done to spent a lot of time researching the latest trends and developments. That’s why I describe my social media mission as “spreading inbound marketing goodness.” I spend a great deal of my time doing the legwork to understand the changing landscape and latest strategies and tactics so you don’t have to.

Obviously, that audience is fairly large and I access different segments on different channels. Here’s how those segments (mostly) break down:

  • Twitter: The vast majority of my Twitter audience is comprised of other marketing professionals. Small business owners generally aren’t heavy Twitter users and solopreneurs on Twitter are probably more inwardly focused.
  • Facebook: I think Facebook is a pretty even spread of marketers, small business owners and solopreneurs. But I’d still say the marketers are the most active.
  • LinkedIn: This medium is much more heavily used by the small business owners.
  • Google+: Almost exclusively marketers. And mostly the bleeding edge variety of marketer.
  • Pinterest: Seems like this is mostly female solopreneurs and some marketers; a very specific slice of my audience.
  • Slideshare: Since most Slideshare traffic comes from search, this is a fairly evenly spread audience of small business owners and marketers.

Once you understand your audience, it becomes a little easier to understand what to share with them.

What I Share

Before I talk specifically about what I share, I want to talk about what NOT to share. The Golden Rule of social media is not to talk about yourself (too much). Nobody really cares about the new project you just completed or the real estate listing you sold or great meeting you had with a new client. I might be happy for you but it doesn’t make my life any better. It’s not remarkable.

What is remarkable content? Remarkable content educates, inspires or entertains. Great content does all three!

So that’s what I try to do with my social media posts; educate, inspire and entertain. I scan hundreds of articles every day in my RSS feed and pick out articles that meet one or more of those criteria. Then, I share them with my audience in the channels I think are most appropriate. For example, I probably wouldn’t share a deeply tactical article about search engine optimization on LinkedIn or Facebook because small business owners should be more focused on and interested in strategy. Those are the types of articles I’d post on Twitter and Google+. The opposite is true for posts about entrepreneurship and business strategy. Those would go on LinkedIn for the most part (although Twitter is sort of a catch-all where I share pretty much everything).

If you’re interested in the mechanics of how I find all of this stuff and the tools I use to post everywhere, next week’s article will cover that in detail!

About Social Capital

You may have noticed earlier in this post that I said you shouldn’t talk about yourself too much. That’s a very important distinction because I’m not saying you can’t brag or talk about yourself at all. But you need to strike a balance. The best way to think about it is to treat it like a savings account.

When you first open up a savings account, it’s empty. You can’t make any withdrawals because there’s nothing in it. The idea is that you make a bunch of small deposits over time, you earn interest (at least you used to in the pre-quantitative easing world) and make large withdrawals when needed. Think about your “social capital” in a similar way. Every time you share remarkable content with your audience, you make a deposit with them. You build credibility and earn trust slowly over time. After you’ve accumulated a decent balance, you can make withdrawals from time to time and your audience won’t mind.

What do I mean by a withdrawal? I’m pretty much referring to any sort of direct sales pitch where you’re asking them for a favor (answer my survey, share with your friends) or going directly for the sale (buy my product, sign up for my class). As long as you’ve got a sufficient balance, your audience is OK with you making these withdrawals from time to time. But if you try it too much (i.e. bring your balance to zero) or too early (i.e. before you’ve saved enough equity), then you’ll lose them.



And so I think those are the three keys to a successful social media strategy; know your audience segments, share the right kind of content and maintain a positive social capital balance. Here’s one final tip: There really aren’t any shortcuts. It takes time and hard work to build a valuable social media asset. But isn’t that true of anything that’s worth doing?

Next week, I’ll share the tools that I use to make my hard work as efficient as possible. If you’re not already, be sure to sign up for my weekly newsletter – The Inbound Marketing Inquirer – to get the entire series delivered to your inbox.

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