A fundamental part of social media for B2B inbound marketing is sharing others' content - providing useful information to your readership, followers, clients and potential customers. So how do you go about it and what should you be looking for?
The first thing to do is to get a decent search routine going. If you are using HubSpot, the Monitoring section has a facility to search Twitter for key terms, which is a good starting point and should give you some articles to consider for sharing.
I like to supplement this with a couple of other programs. One of my favourites is Feedly, which makes it very easy to create streams of constantly updating articles. You can use it to search for subjects - it will then lists blogs covering those topics and allow you to subscribe to the ones you choose. Adding a blog feed is easy - you don’t have to know anything about RSS or even locate the RSS feed, Feedly finds it for you and adds it to your subscriptions.
On the tablet, I also like FlipBoard, as it’s very visual and makes searching for shareable B2B content a lot more enjoyable - almost like looking through a magazine on your favourite business subjects.
So what sort of content should you be looking for, and what criteria should you be using when considering sharing it with your audience?
First and foremost, you are looking for content that is useful to your target audience. It always comes back to answering that one question that your readership, followers, clients and potential customers will be asking: “What’s in it for me?”
To answer that you need to share content that they will find useful or inspiring, something that helps them with their everyday job or helps with planning (or dreaming) for the future. So you should be looking for:
Practical articles or how-tos
Statistics or surveys
Articles on trends in the industry
Thought pieces by industry leaders/commentators
Quirky or humourous pieces
2. Timely content
Check the date on the article you are going to share - is it recent? If not, is it still relevant? Statistics, surveys and trends have definite lifetimes - your followers won’t be impressed if you share something that is out of date or irrelevant. Technology moves on rapidly, so technical articles need particular attention paying to their date of publication. If you can’t find a date on the article, move on. Look for something else that you can be sure is up to date (which, incidentally, is a good argument for always displaying the date on your blog posts).
3. Authority and quality
Have some idea of the authority of the writer/publisher of the piece you intend to share. Is it a known source? A person or organisation that has a track record and a reputation within the industry? Or some unknown that’s never published on this topic before? There is so much content on the internet - much of it re-hashed from elsewhere, or worse, purely "written" to supposedly improve SEO, that you need to filter out the unreliable or unsubstantiated.
Don’t forget that what you share reflects on you and your organisation - so make sure it is credible and professional.
It’s important to do a quick check on the article’s quality of writing too - is it easy to read and free of spelling and grammatical errors? Sharing a badly-written article will reflect poorly on you. Is it in good taste and competent? Again, if it’s juvenile or offensive it will work against your reputation and trustworthiness - potentially causing your business real harm.
There are some subjects, and some news items, that get covered multiple times by multiple websites and by multiple writers. Unless you can find a new angle on a news story, it’s probably best to look for something different, a news article most people have missed, or a different take on the news. Trying to find unique content to share can be difficult, but it will be more rewarding.
If you do share a popular topic - or at least, one that’s been covered by a number of people, try to find the original article. It’s always better to share the original source rather than a subsequent copycat article. Not least because a minor form of Chinese whispers can occur, where details and facts can be altered, enhanced or ignored (unless, as mentioned above, the subsequent article is a different take on the subject, or it has better images - see the next point).
Anyone who has been reading my recent blog posts will notice that I’ve been looking at the importance of images and how to use them to their best advantage in a post. Well, given their importance, it’s probably going to come as no surprise that you need to look for posts to share that have good images associated with them. And then to make sure that image is featured in your sharing of the post.
6. Complimentary, not conflicting
It is probably obvious, but I am going to mention it anyway in the interests of completeness, that it’s not a good idea to share posts from direct business rivals. After all, you don’t want to drive your customers and potential customers into a competitor’s arms.
But notice I said direct competitor - there is no reason not to share posts from someone you are not directly competing with. For example, a competitor in a distant location (if your business is location dependent), or one in a different sector of the market - perhaps dealing with much bigger clients than you, or charging much higher prices - if the content is genuinely useful to your readers.
If you are in any doubt on this score, it may well be best not to share. But sharing such articles from organisations within the same industry makes you look strong - showing that you are not afraid of the competition. And it also shows that you are co-operative in nature, rather than combative - which customers and potential customers will find more attractive than an aggressive approach.
It is also not a good idea to share articles that give away trade secrets, go against the way you are doing things, or anything that might in some way negatively impact on your relationship with customers or potential customers.
People generally like positive, inspiring posts and have little respect for negative or complaining posts. So always look for articles with a positive approach - articles that solve problems and address the issues; rather than just listing them or complaining about them.
While it may seem strange to share other people’s posts, by doing so you are helping your customers, giving them useful information. This both adds to your standing as an authority within the industry, and to your reputation for being helpful. This will lead to customers being more likely to contact you when it’s time for a product enquiry or purchase.
But you also need to share the right articles. So these simple guidelines should help you choose articles that help to increase your social media impact. And the more you use them, the quicker you can become at applying them. Remember that a potential shared post should be failed on any of these counts - so if an article fails at the first one, reject it and move on to the next potential story. Sharing the right content provides a genuinely useful service to your clients and increases your reputation and authority.