Finding Social Media Sweet Spot: Creation or Curation? Don't Be Average!

Lake Wobegon where all social media marketing is above averageWhat kind of social media marketer do you want to be? You want your marketing efforts to live “where all the retweets are strong, the ROI is good-looking, and the account engagement is above average.” (Apologies to Garrison Keillor!). But where is that Lake Woebegone of social media marketing?

There certainly is no lack of conventional wisdom when it comes to social media marketing. As Argyle Social’s Tristan Handy (Twitter: @jthandy) points out in his post “New Research Finds the Curation vs Creation Sweet Spot,” two of the most oft-heard pieces of such wisdom seem to contradict each other:

“Don’t over-promote yourself! Share lots of relevant links that don’t necessarily promote your products.”

“Content is King! Share mostly great self-created content to show that you provide value to your followers.”

So which is it? Should you primarily share content from others (curation) or content your organization creates (creation)? Most social media marketing consultants will advise you to do both. So is there, as Tristan Handy suggests, a “sweet” spot of balance between the two that produces the best results?

In Tristan’s article linked above, he presents research he did analyzing 150,000 brand-generated social media posts from more than 1,000 Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts. His conclusions? “Posts linking to third-party sites generate 33% more clicks than posts to owned sites.” However, “if you’re looking to drive conversions, content creation is the optimal strategy.”  In the end, he concludes from his data that somewhere around 40% links to your own content is the “sweet spot” for the average social media marketing account.

Don’t Be Average–Because You’re Probably Not!
There is a buried headline in Tristan’s post, though, and it’s critically important. Toward the end he cautions that his conclusions are based on the “average” social media marketing account, and adds, “Beware the  law of averages!” Indeed. Because chances are your account is not average. I don’t mean that as a compliment necessarily (though you’re welcome to take it that way!). Rather, whenever you are looking at aggregate averages, you must remember that a great many data points fall on either side of the bell curve away from the average, and some will be genuine “outliers” one way or another.

In addition, his study does not seem to control for other variables about the particular accounts, such as products offered, posting style, audience mix, frequency and timing of posts, etc., etc., that could affect both click through rate and conversions.

So what’s the real takeaway?

  1. It is probably true that some mix of creation and curation is the best practice for social media posting, and this study does helpfully confirm that conclusion.
  2. However, what that optimal mix between creation and curation actually is will vary widely from account to account.
So what should you do? Test, test, test–then analyze, analyze, analyze. Try out different mixes of content to curation and watch your results over time. Also be aware of your primary goals. Do you care more about traffic (i.e., clicks) or conversions? What mix best feeds your goals?
Finding Social Media Sweet Spot: Creation or Curation? Don't Be Average! by

Mark is Director of Digital Outreach for Virante Inc. Mark helps businesses build strategies to increase brand influence and attract natural links and social signals. He has a special reputation as an expert on Google+ and Google Authorship. A former teacher, Mark has worked directly in Internet marketing since 2005, but has been involved in social media and online community formation since the mid 1990s. When not helping Virante clients improve their online presence, Mark participates in competitive storytelling, plays with a Dixieland street band, and (surprise) spends more time on the web.

Comments

  1. Good article Mark. It is always a smart idea to have strategy when posting content or curating it. Another method to create content is through commenting on blogs and websites. This might open the door for engagement much better than retweets and likes. For instance, I have noticed that a lot of traffic is referred to my company’s site through Disqus and the bounce rate and time spent on site from this referral is usually pretty good.

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