Social media is arguably the most powerful growth tool on the internet. Ironically, it’s also the most difficult to master.
In a study by Ascend2, 40% of digital marketers cited social as the “most difficult” channel to master (a tie for first with websites). Asked to identify the most difficult tactic on this most difficult channel, the answer — by a landslide — was three words: creating compelling content.
How can you rescue your social media approach and create truly compelling content?
The easiest way is to create a visually based social media calendar built around three of the primary reasons humans engage with social media:
At the risk of stating the obvious, marketing revolves around holidays: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, Halloween, Presidents Day, etc.
Augment your holiday promotions with original content that celebrates the holiday … not your products or sales. Chubbies does this brilliantly and gets phenomenal engagement as its reward:
In 2015, Samuel Adams reached viral status with its April Fool’s campaign announcing the release of a new “heliYUM” beer.
The real social gold, however, is in the obscure holidays: Batman Day (Sept. 17, according to DC Comics), Star Wars Day (May 4), Bubblegum Day (Feb. 3 — not to be confused with Chewing Gum Day on Sept. 30), and many, many more.Celebrate obscure holidays for real #socialmedia gold, says @Iconicontent. Click To Tweet
Building a visual social media calendar around these types of holidays involves two steps.
First, get to know your audience. Outside of the usual suspects, the prioritized holidays should be a direct reflection of the people you serve. Sometimes a connection will be obvious. If it’s not, dig into Facebook Audience Insights to find pages and events your fans like, as well as the hashtags they frequently share.
Second, get organized. Set up a visual calendar. Consider using tools like PromoRepublic, which are tailor-made to automate this approach.
Click to enlarge
What I really love about PromoRepublic are the holiday suggestions and ready-made social-media templates that extend into the other areas we’ll get into later.
Image source: PromoRepublic
The beautiful thing about holidays is that people are thinking about them. What they aren’t thinking about is your brand.
By creating holiday-centered social media posts, you’ll stay relevant and spike your customer interest. Always remember though, to keep it about the celebration and sprinkle in promotional content a little bit at a time.
Every business hosts events. Whether it’s an upcoming conference, annual sale, or crab feed, social media is ripe for generating attention as long as that event is presented socially.
To start, go back to the last method and take a page out of Red Mango’s playbook. On Frozen Yogurt Day, the company created an event worth paying attention to. Namely, $5 fill-ups.
Events also can be built around brand milestones. Consider Old Navy’s celebration when it hit 5 million fans — it unfolded first in video form (before and after the milestone), followed with images, and only then led to a promotion:
On the SaaS business front, Dropbox did the same thing last year when it crossed the 500-million-user mark:
As for conferences, the vast majority of booth sponsors do little more than announce their presence with thoroughly anti-social stop-by-and-see-us posts.
Not Conductor. In the weeks before Content Marketing World 2016, it released a video — Watch SEO and Content Go to Couples Therapy — and featured it across its social platforms as well as in partnership emails with this line at the end: “PS: Going to Content Marketing World? We’ll see you there. Swing by booth #41 to take your chances on our slot machine and to connect with our team. Learn more.”
That approach stood out because before I even noticed the P.S., I had clicked the video link, watched it, shared it on social, followed Conductor, and up-voted the post on both Inbound.org and GrowthHackers. When I went back to the email to write a personal response, only then did I realize they were going to be at CMWorld. Conductor was one of the few booths I sought out onsite.
On a more humanizing note, consider using social media to highlight a charity or cause. charity: water often creates unique campaigns for its partners such as Keurig. The coffee company launched #brewviewgive in 2014 and the campaign exploded:
Sock maker Bombas built its business around a humanitarian emphasis and its social media presence is a constant platform for announcing new initializes and celebrating big wins with their product naturally at the center:
For all their diversity, notice the commonalities between the examples. They’re tied to events. Each one is also visually rich, often in a variety of content forms, and thoroughly human. The posts on social media drive engagement and awareness without being heavy-handed or even self-centered. That is exactly the approach your social media calendar should embrace.#Socialmedia posts excel when they drive engagement & awareness w/out being self-centered. @IconiContent Click To Tweet
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Some social media trends pop up out of nowhere. Some occur with calendar-led regularity.
Whatever the reason, trends are powerful icons of the unity we can cultivate, from silly videos, to awkward challenges, to genuine movements and causes. Using these icons — and hashtags — in your social media marketing helps your audience feel like they (and you) are a part of those trends.
At the just-for-fun level, pre-planned trending topics regularly create some of the best branded content. For example, the Academy Awards always get lots of social attention. Anticipating this, Charmin, the toilet paper company, tweeted (without mentioning the trademarked name), to become part of the social conversation:
Birchbox capitalizes on trend-setting events numerous times a year with its Pinterest boards, On the Red Carpet and Women Who Inspire, which connects with their Elizabeth Arden partnership to spread the word about International Women’s Day.
Not surprisingly, the Super Bowl and sporting events present a wealth of calendar opportunities like this one from Cheerios:
Plenty of other standouts exist, but the prize for best social media on trend easily goes to BarkBox with its usual irreverent style:
On the pop-culture front, the candy brand KitKat creatively used the problematic bending iPhone 6 Plus in its social media campaign:
Similarly, office-products company Viking UK used Star Wars, a perennial pop-cultural trend, to attract social attention when it redesigned its offices — racking up 11,000 native views on Facebook and another 55,000 views on YouTube. It also used the blockbuster movie in subsequent promotions.
Once again, let’s notice what unites all these social promotions:
- Each is built around predictable trends: pop-culture events, mainstream phenomena, and product launches.
- Each is visually rich and diverse in both media format and platforms.
- Each focuses on the social nature — the human side — rather than leveraging the trend in a heavy-handed, self-promotional way.
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Put together your visual social media calendar
The calendar should be a marketer’s best friend. Bridging the gap between social media’s monstrous reach and its equally monstrous challenges means humanizing your social media approach itself. The easiest way to do this is through a visually based social media calendar.
At the end of the day, it’s not just easier, but it’s also far more effective to piggyback on what’s already going on in the world of social than to drum up something from scratch. Just remember to make it about the holiday, event, or trend — what your audience cares about — instead of making it all about your brand. That’s the only way your social approach will be genuinely social.
How to Build a Smart Yet Simple Social Media Marketing Plan [Template]
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).