It’s been a great week for content. In addition to the formal launch of our agency’s Content University program (teaching corporate executives how to write and tell their stories more effectively to advance their business), I had the chance to join Jack Hadley, partner in social media company MySocialPractice, in making presentations on content and communications at the 2015 Annual Session of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) in San Francisco today.
Of the things we presented, I particularly liked Jack’s discussion on the characteristics that make for great content. As it turns out, he maintains, not every piece of content needs to accomplish every business or marketing goal. It is perfectly fine (even preferable) for different posts to achieve different objectives as a company communicates with its customer base.
His remarks were geared to orthodontists, of course. (And yes, orthodontists are entrepreneurs. Research estimates that as of 2014 there are 9,000 orthodontists in the U.S. alone, with many earning wages higher than CEOs, according to the WSJ. And demand for orthodontic services is steadily increasing.)
But the principles hold true for every professional services business. Your business success relies on your ability to communicate and market, and regardless of your profession, today’s digital and reputation-driven universe requires that you communicate effectively. To that end, here are the six characteristics Hadley identifies that will compel a piece of social media or thought leadership content to fare exceptionally well.
Jack Hadley, a partner in MySocialPractice.com, teaches entrepreneurial practices to develop content that rocks.
- It Engages. And sometimes, for a service business, simply writing a post that engages is purpose enough. For example a photo of a container that says “How many smile brightening tubes do you think we have in this bucket?” may invite your audience to vote through the week and at the end of the week you provide the winner with an iTunes card or a certificate to Starbucks. Not every post needs to answer the deepest thoughts of the universe or even the deeper questions of your professional services world. On some days, simply engaging an aligned audience and getting them to connect with you for a note and a smile is enough.
- It Provides Value. These are the educative pieces that teach your audience about the things you know that they would find interesting or would derive a direct benefit from knowing. For example, what are the most effective ways to keep your orthodontia clean? What should you do if you experience undue pain in the hours or days that follow your visit? Are there facts about your follow up care you should know? (For example, how critical is your attention to post-orthodontia follow up care? If your child loses or forgets to wear their retainer, how much progress is lost, and how should you respond?) These are the posts that inform and benefit your audience not only now but for the perpetual future as they become part of the growing body of work that will draw your audience to you as a source of credible and interesting information again and again.
- It Shares Practice (or Business) Culture. The information you share on social media is better when it doesn’t promote, but your audience will enjoy the posts that showcase your company culture. For example, in one practice, the service staff takes a monthly break to get manicures and pedicures together. The pictures and posts of these visits is fun not only for participants, but fun for patients and customers who see the familiar faces of the people who serve them in a personal way. Customers connect with their service providers as individuals and friends when they see these stories and they appreciate their service even more fully when they see the business appreciating and enjoying its members as well.
- It Boosts Clout. A great post boosts clout for a business in a number of ways. When a post provides authoritative and useful information, the emotional stock in the company rises. Additionally, the search results and social media reach of credible and useful information increases the company’s search engine and social media clout that raises the company higher in results when compared to its peers. Your ability to provide meaningful information as opposed to hype and promotion becomes exponentially more helpful to your business and revenue growth over time.
- It Demonstrates Passion. A great post should make it clear that you and your employees are passionate about your customers and passionate about what you do. It is not only appropriate, it is vital to let your enthusiasm show in front of your customers and others.
- It Strengthens Relationships. The strongest posts are not a one-way megaphone, but are invitations for meaningful dialogues with the audience you serve. Perhaps the question a customer asks you can become the genesis for an indepth post that provides your answer for all. Likewise, Hadley notes that it is highly beneficial to include your patients (or customers) in your content and postings as often as possible, and as a rule of thumb, perhaps include a client in at least one in six of the pieces of content you create. Get your client’s permission, of course, and be certain that the appearance is a thing they’ll be proud of.
Hadley also raised a point in his presentation about an issue that is important to public-facing organizations everywhere: If your customers are posting with or without you (instagram pics of your treatment rooms, the light, the chair, the sink and finally the “selfies” of their faces and smiles during care), what is your responsibility for protecting the privacy of the records they may see or may catch in the background of their photos, especially where it pertains to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Privacy Act) concerns?
Yes, as a practitioner in business these are issues that create a cause for concern. However, the information on screens, on white boards and sitting on tables and surfaces should always be treated with care, regardless of the ubiquitous photos and phones. A responsible practice will keep records out of view in all cases. And, of course, a patient who snaps and posts a pic of herself during treatment is making the proactive choice to share (or overshare?) these details on her own.
So yet again, Hadley advises, it’s not only the quality of your business and service that matter. Your ability to communicate your company’s quality, your unique expertise, and your passion for your clients and a culture of service will determine the ultimate success of your business as well.
And about that WSJ data on orthodontists earning more than CEOs… does the world not yet realize that orthodontists Vision Linen Orange Wear Lo Women's Neon Street Canvas are CEOs? Here’s to continued success for CEOs and business owners in all of their flavors. Increasingly, we’re living and working in an entrepreneurial world.
Cheryl Snapp Conner is author of the new Forbes eBook Beyond PR: Communicate Like a Champ In The Digital World.