social media how toSure, social media takes a lot of time.  Merging Facebook, Twitter and all the other social media options can be challenging.  But what if you could cut that time down significantly by cross-leveraging content?

Too many companies are reinventing the content wheel for every social outpost they maintain. A better approach is to create a content ecosystem that allows you to repurpose and cascade your best information.

Instead of a series of self-contained initiatives, build yourself a content ladder.

Here are 5 steps to get there:

#1: Understand Taxonomy

If you want a new pair of glasses, the Yellow Pages is a frustrating neighborhood. Look under “G” for “glasses.” Not found. Look under “E” for “eyeglasses.” Nope. Only when you look under “O” for “optometrists” do you find what you need. It’s an example of an industry with poor understanding of taxonomy—the words and phrases used to describe products and services.

Taxonomy is incredibly important in social media because it’s the most direct link between the worlds of social and search marketing. Remember, one of your most important customers is Google, and your content ladder needs to maximize your chances for search success.

When creating and promoting social content, include relevant keywords and search phrases wherever possible. (This is especially important now that Google and Bing are incorporating social content into real-time search results.)

Find keywords and search phrases to include in these three places:

Google Analytics (or whatever website analytics program you’re using)

Look at your keywords report to find phrases that are driving traffic to your site. I recommend using a mixture of your top 25 phrases and some that are highly relevant to your business, but perhaps aren’t sending as much traffic as you’d like at present.

Social Mention (or a paid social media listening package like Radian6, if you have one)

Search for your company or product name (in quotes), and set the pull-down to “all.” You’ll then see a search results page that shows a comprehensive list of places you’ve been mentioned on the social web.

social mention search

On the left-hand side, you'll see a keywords chart that lists common terms associated with your name in social media. Consider adding some of these to your list if they differ from your analytics results.

Twitter Lists

How your company or product is referred to in consumer-created Twitter lists can yield important taxonomy insights.

Go to your Twitter account, click on “listed” next to your followers count and see how the lists that include your Twitter account are named. Consider including some of these phrases to your master keyword list.

Incorporate these phrases into your social content wherever possible, but only when relevant. Nobody appreciates keyword spam on the social web.

#2: Seek Content Inspiration

Creating successful social media content isn’t just status updates. Take your top keywords (including your company name, product name, etc.) and search for them on Google, Bing, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and SocialMention.

What shows up in these search results? How much photo and video content appears? Content from your competitors? From fans? You’ll be amazed at how many content creation ideas this simple exercise can generate.

YouTube search results

#3: Understand Your Frequency Ecosystem

The key to a content ladder is organizing your rungs. Your scenario may vary of course, but for illustration purposes let’s assume you have a Twitter account, Facebook fan page, blog, and email newsletter.

To create an efficient ladder, you must understand the comparative publishing schedules that you typically employ for each of these outposts. Ordered from most frequent publication to least, let’s assume that your program looks like this:

social content ladder

* Twitter (5x/day) * Facebook (2x/day) * Blog (3x/week) * Email (1x/week)

Create your own integrated frequency schedule to better understand how your outposts interrelate.

#4: Test and Track

Create a piece of content (remember to include your key phrases), and post it to the first rung in the ladder (Twitter, in this case). Use a tracking system (I prefer ) to determine how popular that specific piece of content was with your audience.

Remember, however, that many factors influence popularity at the individual content piece level. Don’t make assumptions about these factors, test them. Vary time of day, day of week, phrasing, link placement, and other options and thoroughly document your results.

Social media scientist Dan Zarrella has some excellent research on social content best practices.

#5: Tweak and Repurpose

The content pieces that are most successful on the first rung of your ladder should be appropriately tweaked and redeployed on the second rung of your ladder (Facebook).

Test and track content success on Facebook using (or number of likes and comments) and add the most effective content pieces to the next rung on the ladder (blog). Note that as you move down the ladder, your repurposing will be more complex—a blog post requires substantially more content than a Facebook update in most cases.

If a piece of content is successful on your blog (measured by visits as determined by Google Analytics, perhaps), add it to the next rung—your email newsletter.

By understanding how your various social outposts can work together at the content level, you can develop meaningful efficiencies. Also, because a sprinkling of the content included in the lower rungs of your ladder has already proven successful on higher rungs, the relevancy and popularity of your content should increase for most fans/readers/subscribers.

Of course, this content ladder approach assumes that you do not have the exact same audience for each of your social outlets, and I believe that to be an entirely realistic assumption. You may have some overlap (especially with Facebook and Twitter), but consumption of status updates and consumption of blog posts and email newsletters are meaningfully different activities, and attract different groups of fans.

What are your thoughts? Have you tried an approach like this?  Please comment below.

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  • Hi Jay,

    Great article! I like the rungs of the ladder analogy. My ladder looks exactly like yours. I will definitely be looking at testing and tracking and moving my content down the rungs. I know I also need to analyse time of day/day of week etc better too. Lots to think about and implement.


  • Natebw

    Hey Jay! As an Optometrist, I can particularly relate to your example in point #1. This will be great for our social media for Optometrists, Facebook group!

    But aside from that, your point is well taken. We are all busy and understanding how ideas fit in from campaign to tweet is something that we should all spend some time thinking about.

  • Hey Jay, interesting concept of the content ladder. It’s definitely a more systematic method than the one I’m using now – which is no system! Will be trying this out.

  • Hi Jay. Loving the ladder!. Thanks for the post – will be taking the learnings from it an applying them!

  • Lori

    Great article. Like Louise said, it’s a lot to think about and implement, but it makes enough sense that it’s definitely worth a try. Thanks.

  • Like that post! Don’t like tequila!

  • Jay,

    My ladder looks like yours, too. Thanks for pointing out the importance of “testing and tracking” — many businesses who are “doing” social media don’t build in time (or budget) for that piece of the puzzle. I’ve found that testing different Twitter “teasers,” in particular, gives me a great deal of valuable information about the types of updates/links people are most likely to click.

    With your permission, I’d like to use your ladder in a social media course I’ll be teaching next week. I’ll give you credit and include a link to your post, of course. Thanks much.

  • Hey Jay, this is great info. Thanks! I like specifically the ‘organizing your rungs.. make me think about tying all things social into a workable social networking..

  • This is a good lesson in basic marketing. Have a strategy (the ladder), track the results, tweak and repeat. I particularly appreciated the timing defined down the funnel I agree with the previous comment that few make time or budget to do the testing. It shows up when clients get frustrated with little results. Keep up the great work.

  • Jay, this was fantastic, practical advice that I can actually IMPLEMENT (the best kind of article in my opinion :)). I’ve been waiting for an article just like this to help me organize and track my social media sites. Thanks so much for taking the time to share these tips and tools!

  • Looks like a really useful article. Thank you!
    I will have to get busy working some of these ideas!

  • How bout scotch?

  • Some great ideas here! Will start introducing this ladder to help us have more focus and understanding of our social media impact.

  • Lars Gram

    Nice piece of structured approach. Articulates some ideas that’s been bugging me for a while. Very useful – thx

  • Thanks Barney. Please come on back and let us know how it goes.

  • Hi Louise. Thanks for the comment. Yes, I think many people’s ladder will be structured at Twitter>Facebook>Blog>Email. Would love to see some other arrangements. Maybe we’ll get some comments with alternative approaches.

  • Ha! Sorry Nate. Nothing personal. Actually, it’s the Yellow Pages fault.

  • Thanks David. Give it a shot and let us all know how it goes.

  • Yes Lori, this is definitely not one of those things I talk about that you can implement today. I was actually a little hesitant about writing this post, because it’s a bit heavy. But, I’m anxious to see more people put it in practice, so I threw it out there.

  • You can learn to love tequila. Keep trying Jorgen!

  • I don’t mind Scotch, and have been drinking more of it lately. It reminds me a bit of fine Mezcal (the VERY smoky agave drink that is similar to tequila).

  • Go for it Laura. Happy to have you use it. If you don’t read him, definitely check out Dan Zarrella’s blog for a lot of goodness on social testing.

  • Dewita, it’s all one thing. Social isn’t a silo. Let me know how it goes for you.

  • The nice thing is, the testing and results can be near-immediate. I used to work in direct mail many years ago. Talk about a long-term testing approach! Thanks for the comment!

  • Thanks Esther. I try to keep it practical, especially here at SME where that’s definitely the game plan. I sometimes mix up a little bigger picture stuff on my own blog. I’m so glad you like this post.

  • Do it up right and let us all know how it works for you please!

  • Thanks Ali. I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

  • Hey there Lars. Thanks much for finding it useful, and I’m really glad it helped you organize some things you were already thinking about. That’s what I try to do – not necessarily invent the concept, but make it achievable.

  • Ben

    Gotta give props for the ladder analogy as well – really good stuff.
    Reading lots lately about content being distributed across multiple channels, and how the tracking and analytics are (in theory) simplified. Even as I type this I see the following just above the “comment” box: Disqus / FB connect / Twitter / Open ID / Yahoo
    There are brand sites (or “channels” in the new parlance) that are starting to work this way as well. Content pushed to mobile, FB, YouTube, Twitter living alongside UGC. Interesting stuff.
    Read a piece in AdAge about a “channel” (there’s that word again) created by ThisMoment for the movie “Kick-Ass”. Pretty neat, check it out here:
    Read the article a week or so ago and it has come up in conversation at least a dozen times since. Crazy man.
    Thanks again for publishing. Cheers.

  • Single malt Scotch is my vice indeed!

  • Jay, I am new to the marketing side of the interment and need some clarification on point three. At the bottom of the funnel ladder you have twitter 5x’s, facebook 3x’s … do you mean we should repurpose each post and put it on twitter 5 times, or just get our brand on twitter 5 times each day? The reason I ask is that I follow Guy Kawasaki on twitter and he republishes his content at least 5x’s for each article over a day or two just on twitter.

    Thanks For The Time

  • Great post.. right now my ladder is a rope ladder .lol I’m working on strengthening it..

  • Your process is much more structured than the process I typically use. Being a visual person, I really like the content ladder. Your approach make total sense and is obviously scalable. I will definitely incorporate it and retrofit it to include videos and bookmarking. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jay, Great post, love the vetting process of ramping toward a blog post.

    Question: Are you a fan of having Facebook and Twitter tied together? Do you feel these should be separate channels? For my personal account, I have my Twitter pushing to Facebook, while some friends tell me they don’t know what I am talking about (when they see @’s bitly’s, etc) others find my content there that would have missed it on Twitter.

  • daveblack

    Jay, thanks for the professional advices. It is a great compilation of data.
    I will definitely put your advices and tips into practice and some others I’ve been able to collect through popular sites and Q&As.

    BTW, I recommend all readers to join the conversations on for business related questions. They have already built a great community of experts and startups seeking for advices and tips.

  • benjaminlaw

    Jay, thanks for your great post.
    That is really informative. I will show this to my clients as their social media guideline.

  • hakan2

    Thanks Jay. This is a great post and I sure have a long way to go to get my blog known!

  • lesterzaleski

    Expenditure Management Made Simple !

  • Guest

    5 Easy Steps to Creating Reusable Social Content

  • The taxonomy idea is great advice. I can’t count how many sites I’ve seen that have optimized for certain keywords only to find that their target visitors are searching for something else! Using analytics is a good way to get keyword ideas from actual searches, and something as simple as Google’s keyword tool can be very helpful for generating related content ideas that do not already show up on your site.

  • Exoticfamtravel

    Great article. thx for sharing. I’ve been thinking the best strategy to drive traffic to a FB fan page about travel, and I think some answers lie within your article. We’ll give it a try. My twitter handler is ExoticFamTravel.

  • Biz BRANDA SİSTEMLERİ. Şirket, aynı hız ve yaşam kalitesi fırsat ve sorumluluk erişim yoluyla ile ülke dışında yeniliklerle sektöründe yeni nesillere biz inanmak zorundasın.
    1997’li yıl daha bu vizyon başında, gurur getirdi tablo: Dürüstlük oluşturarak 21 Century kabul edilen, ismimizi eşanlamlı güven ile her yeniliğin benimsenmesi imzalanması ile başladı ve o yakından takip emin olun.

    Misyonumuz titizlikle geçmişim güven yolumuza devam etmek büyümeye verdiği inşa edilmiştir, biz beş duyu bütün alanlarında güzellik, işlevsellik, yenilikçilik adres ve bakım kompozisyonlar çevresel uyumluluk işletmek yaratmaktır.

  • GC

    How do you mix Anejo, and Social Media to maximize your more serious aged centers of influence?

  • Jay – Brilliant suggestion about Twitter lists.

  • tom

    do you have a good template for using to track/document content/schedule this type of stuff (Google Spreadsheet, something basic even)?

  • I think that in hireachy discusses that which is popular or not. And I like those social network.

  • That’s the great article! I just pass ‘n read it, two thumbs up! 😉

  • This is wonderfully insightful…and the visual ladder really puts it all into perspective.
    Thank you!

    I do have one question. On step #4, what type of content are you creating and testing on Twitter? If it is article, won’t it first have to be posted to your blog before Tweeting?

    Thanks again for the terrific information!

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  • Thanks for your article! It’s very helpful for me! I will go back and try your tips.

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  • Jay you mentioned your background in Direct Mail. Do you think Direct Mail such as postcards can work as part of the content ladder? Maybe replacing the email in your example? I work for a postcard company and we have begun putting out a monthly postcard mini-newsletter so that’s why I’m asking.

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