Types of Social Media Content – A Conceptual Overview

If social media success = 1/2 social network + 1/2 quality content … an understanding of both social network building and content development is necessary. I’ve written extensively about developing a social media network previously, so now I’ll focus more on social media content with a view to finding ways and means to assess quality of content. More specifically, in this post we’ll look at segmenting social media into different types of content.

In its simplest form, there are 3 types of social media content:
1. News Content
2. Sensational/Entertainment Content
3. Resources/Educational Content

1. News Content
This is content that is time-sensitive, and is based on facts, events, and happenings. As thousands of news sites exist, the latest news is almost always syndicated and distributed to these thousands of additional sites within minutes of its release. This makes the news itself a commodity … and ultra-competitive. Only the original source of the story typically gains.

News content does exceptionally well in the realm of most social media sites. In reality, there are two types of news in terms of social media opportunities:
a. the news you read about from other sources … and submit
b. the news you make (by using research, scoops, etc.)

2. Sensational/Entertainment Content
This type of content is most often not based on fact, but rather on personal opinion or speculation, and is designed to entertain or attract attention. You’ve seen the thousands of submissions to this effect, many of which are “Top 10” type lists, staged videos (e.g. BrideZilla), majestic images, and the like. These entertainment-focused submissions typically perform very well on general social media sites like Digg, Reddit, or Stumbleupon, but do poorly on industry/vertical sites.

3. Resource/Educational Content
Resource/educational posts are based on research and facts in most cases, or at the very least professional opinion. These types of posts are typically well researched, and where conclusions are drawn, they are based more on deductive reasoning than inductive. Conclusions need not be drawn in these posts, as the posts/articles can also take the form of very large and relatively comprehensive lists (e.g. U.S. Universities Offering MBA Programs by State).

The fact-based nature of these posts, and the depth and comprehensiveness of information, increases the likelihood that they’ll be bookmarked or saved for future reference. As a result of the time and effort invested, these types of posts are relatively rare, and perform exceptionally well on certain types of social media but not others.

Second Level Combinations:
Obviously, people do not necessarily think in terms of these categories when creating content. Accordingly, most social media submissions will involve some combination of the above types. All tolled, there are 4 additional possible types based on combinations of the original 3:
1. News/Entertainment – this would be the type of content piece that might make the National Enquirer (you know … Brad Pitt meets Jennifer Aniston [the News] for a secret rendezvous [the Entertainment])
2. News/Resource – an example of this type of content might be a post on a recent sighting of a Tasmanian Tiger (the News), in which it shows a comprehensive list of the locations of all sightings since the late 50s (the Resource).
3. Entertainment/Resource – a post of this type might be “the definitive guide for alternative uses of a power nail gun” wherein a number of the uses are more humorous in nature.
4. A combination of all 3 – cannot think of any examples at the moment, and they are rare, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Why Do Types Matter?
Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the 3 types of social media content (and the 4 additional combinations), is important for many reasons, including:
a. selecting the right type of content to fit your blog’s purpose and personality
b. selecting the right type of content to fit the medium (Digg, Delicious, Flickr, Stumbleupon, etc., all differ somewhat)
c. selecting the best type of content pieces for your industry

In future posts, I’ll delve much deeper into each of the above. Next week’s post will look specifically at finding good blog content that also performs well on social media. Stay tuned …

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