Dr. Susanna Gebauer, The Social M’s: “Social Media Content is All About Learning by Doing”

In our latest eBook about Social Media Content “The Art of Social Media Content Creation” we’ve included an interview with Susanna Gebauer, Founder & Marketing Consultant at The Social M’s. Read the whole interview below and find out what Susanna is doing to convert Social Media traffic, what KPIs she is focussing on with her clients and what is the most underestimated thing when it comes to great content on social media platforms.

Could you be so kind as to tell us a bit more about your professional background and what your current role at The Social Ms is?

Susanna Gebauer: Funnily enough, I don’t have a marketing background or business background at all. I’m actually a mathematician and I used to work in scientific research for a while. Then I turned to management consulting for a couple of years, but I already had the plan to found a company, which I did in 2010, together with my brother, Jonathan. That was a publishing platform, exploreB2B. We had to learn marketing, because we had to make the platform grow and grow fast. We turned to being marketers out of necessity. Unfortunately, we simply had to shut it down. Growth wasn’t the problem, but we couldn’t make enough money and make it to a second investment.

Then, we had to sit down and think what we could do. That’s when we turned to what we can do best, marketing, and founded The Social Ms. That’s basically a blog, but we use it to market our own information products, marketing eBooks and online courses, and, of course, we do marketing consulting.

1. In one of your blog articles, you explain why sales in social media marketing should not taste like sales (great article by the way!). How should social media content be and what should it convey so that it converts without being salesy? Would you have some best practices in that direction?

Susanna Gebauer: Sure! Being in social media marketing, you have to get people to listen to you first. Nobody likes listening to sales messages, so people won’t listen to you if you talk about your own products and try to promote your products all the time. The way to go to build an audience and have people want to listen to you is to provide information that they really want to have. Selling is only the second step. The best converting content for sales is closely related to your products but not trying to sell them. Your products should be like an upsell to the content and information you provide. For example, when you have a Twitter tool to offer, you can have a lot of content on how Twitter marketing works. People wanting to do Twitter marketing will then see your product as a way of getting Twitter marketing to work.

If you have an attentive audience and they like what you provide, then they will listen to you when you talk about your products and do a little bit of sales in-between. However, you will lose a lot of attention if you talk too much about your products. It should be balanced.

2. When it comes to social media, marketers sometimes have the drive to be everywhere, on every channel, follow as many KPIs as possible and try all the new platforms. Would you say this is a good approach or should they be highly focused on 2-3 channels, 2-3 KPIs for a determined period of time and then switch to others?

Susanna Gebauer: The thing with social media marketing is that you can be present on hundreds of channels and not see any results at all. On the other hand, you can have one channel where you are really getting it right and that brings you huge success. I would strongly recommend to start with a couple of channels (it can be one, two or three, if you have enough time) and really focus on getting those right. When it comes to the KPIs for those channels, they may change. In the beginning you’re looking for more followers. The second step would be to look for more engagement. In the end, you’re looking for more website traffic from Twitter, so KPIs have to develop as your marketing develops. When you have one, two or three channels, you can use them to help you start the next ones. You can transfer some Twitter followers to your Facebook fan page, and that will give you a headstart in the next channel you want to start with. You should never try too many channels at once if you don’t have time to do them right.

3. In your opinion, what are the core attributes of great social media content that converts? Is there any special recipe that you follow here?

Susanna Gebauer: The first would be to think of your target audience. The main objective of your content should be to catch the attention of your target audience, have them listen to you. Usually, that’s achieved by providing value with your content for your target audience.

The second thing is that you also need to keep in mind your own topics, so that they’re close enough to your products. Then you have to choose a format that also matches your target audience. For example, if you target elderly people, I’m not sure that infographics or videos are always the best choice.

The content you provide should also be really easy to access. Every additional step required for accessing your content can diminish the size of the audience. It should be easy to consume and share, because you want people to spread the word about it.

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Another aspect is that it should be engaging, because you don’t want to just speak at people, but talk to them. Building relationships is one step closer to converting. One thing about great content that a lot of people forget or underestimate are headlines. The problem with most social media channels is that people originally only see the headline. They don’t know that there’s great content behind that headline. Of course, the content should deliver what the headline promises, because that’s what really makes people visit your content.

If you share content, share it with a headline that people would be interested in, especially for your own content. You should be able to test headlines. If you have a great article that doesn’t get the attention that you expected from social media, just try another headline. It may not be the article at all. It might be that the headline doesn’t work on the social network you’re using or doesn’t speak to your target audience. Headlines are all about testing and learning.

4. We see technology moving at a fast pace and disrupting entire industries. If you could take a glimpse into the future, what would you see as being a big disruptor for social media? In other words, what’s the next big thing? (in what concerns both social media in general as well as social media content in particular)

Susanna Gebauer: That’s always hard to tell! Social media is really getting accepted in every part of the real world, so I expect something that we don’t connect to social media right now to be brought in the social media world. What I’m seeing in social media right now that’s getting really strong is real-time engagement and one-on-one interactions. There are videos on Instagram and Snapchat Stories where you really can see people.

Another thing that I think has a lot of opportunity is local social media marketing. For instance, local shops can use Bluetooth connections and push notifications to get information on people’s mobile phones. I think there’s a lot of potential in chatbots, but so far I’ve often got stuck in the conversation.

5. Could you tell us what social media channels are the best fit for a B2B context and elaborate a bit on the B2B content strategies that you see as successful on these channels?

Susanna Gebauer: The B2B marketing should focus a lot on getting information to the target audience. The best channels for B2B marketing are still the ones focused on information spreading. That could be YouTube, which as the world’s second largest search engine is used by a lot of people for searches, but also Slideshare, where a lot of people search for information. That’s probably why LinkedIn acquired Slideshare in the first place, because business-based networks put a lot of focus on information spreading. One social network that doesn’t really spread the information itself, but links to information, is Twitter. This is a great place to start for B2B marketing.

Twitter was the key to success for us when we had the B2B publishing platform. You can really target on Twitter, people like getting information from there, and any niche can be found on this social network. After that, you really have to research and see where your target group is. It could be something totally different like Quora. Many people have a lot of success on Quora where they ask and answer questions, and connect to other people. You also have to build followers and an audience there, so you need to spend some time on Quora to really be successful. As for LinkedIn, it is for B2B, but it is more for the networking part. You can go for LinkedIn Pulse that won’t give you a large audience, but will give you a very targeted one.

A lot of companies expect big results far too early and are not willing to invest enough time and money into building an audience before looking at the monetary results. I see on a lot of social networks that this part of investing into audience building is not a favorite for companies. For advertising, they want to pay an amount of money and then count their revenues at the end, but that’s simply not how social media works. It only picks up very slow in the beginning, it’s going to scale later on, but that’s what people still don’t accept.

For startups it’s fun, because they’re willing to take risks and try things. Companies don’t want to take risks, they just want to see results.

6. It’s said that empathy makes good social media marketers 🙂 would you say that social media content should come from a place of empathy (putting yourself in other people’s shoes) or more from a place of research and A/B testing? Is there a right mix?

Susanna Gebauer: I actually think that they belong together. Empathy gives you a starting point, as you’re making an educated guess as to what people want. It’s only guesswork, but you shouldn’t stop at it when doing social media marketing. You could do something for ages, and it only works because you made the right assumption in the first place. You should always test your assumptions, and A/B testing and research are the right ways to do that. Evaluate your assumptions and your target audience and change if it doesn’t work. A/B testing is telling you that your audience wants something else. You should actually test everything!

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Even if you think you know your audience, making assumptions can be very dangerous. Not testing also means that you’re flying blind because you don’t know what is going wrong. In marketing you really have to test each step of the marketing process. Measure, monitor and get data for the answers!

7. Social media evolves and changes quite rapidly. What are some blogs/ online publications/ books that you could recommend to social media managers out there so that they stay one step ahead of the game? (maybe some that you also read on a daily/ weekly basis)

Susanna Gebauer: Of course we recommend The Social Ms blog. We really try to answer a lot of marketing questions. We also still read a lot of other blogs, but there isn’t one blog that we would recommend for every marketing question. For marketers overall, I’d go with Neil Patel, who writes on several blogs: QuickSprout, neilpatel.com, and he’s also guest posting. He really knows what he’s doing!

For Facebook marketing and advertising, there’s Jon Loomer. I don’t think there’s anybody around who knows more about advertising on Facebook than Jon Loomer. As for corporate marketers, there’s Mark Schaefer’s {grow} and Jay Baer’s Convince and Convert. For content and inbound marketing, there’s the Content Marketing Institute, Copyblogger, the Hubspot blog. For lonepreneurs, one-person businesses, there’s this podcast from Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income. That’s awesome! We talked a lot about converting and sales, and SumoMe provide share buttons and a lot of conversion optimization for blogs, and they have an awesome blog. Once you read these, you will find other blogs, because they’re guest posting on each other’s blogs. What we like and what we read always changes!

The best bloggers read a lot from other people, but they also do marketing themselves. I think you can tell the difference from people who just know the theory and people who do it themselves. A lot of these people are marketers from the ground up. They’ve all learned it by doing, building their own business based on this marketing. I think those are the best blogs you can find. They know what could happen if you get it wrong because they made the same mistakes that you make. We all make mistakes, we all test and realize what doesn’t work.

I got an email recently from someone asking us what she should do. She wants to have a career change. She reads all about social media marketing and now wants to be a social media consultant. We said: “Well, just start doing it and you will get better!” I’m not such a friend of reading or studying about social media marketing at the university, because that’s far too much theory. You just have to do that! You should try things and be bold, have ideas and maybe get it wrong. It doesn’t matter, you need to try!

About Susanna Gebauer

Susanna is a mathematician, turned consultant, turned entrepreneur and marketer. She had to learn marketing from necessity when building her rst startup together with her brother Jonathan. She now provides marketing expertise to other entrepreneurs and marketers. In her spare time she is a (trail) runner and loves everything outdoors. She loves huge dogs and is a rescue dog handler.

About The Social M’s

The Social Ms at its core is a marketing blog that Susanna runs together with her brother and business partner Jonathan. They publish information on social media, content marketing, growth hacking and SEO. The Social Ms’ Mission is to provide marketing knowledge that can make a difference to all those who cannot pay for full blown marketing consulting projects. They provide marketing online courses, consulting calls and information products that anyone can afford. You can follow The Social Ms on Twitter.

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About the Author

Florian Hieß

Florian Hieß is Head of Digital Marketing at Swat.io, a Social Media Management solution that’s helping companies to improve their customer support & content management on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. Swat.io is currently used by companies such as 3Österreich, Hitradio Ö3, ÖBB, Focus Online and Burda Intermedia.

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