Brands, entrepreneurs, and publishers have all called social media “The Great Equalizer” because of its ability to put big businesses and small on equal footing — and for good reason. When you look at how much it costs to market on social media and the number of people required execute the task, it becomes clear that social media marketing gives companies of all kinds an opportunity to reach and connect with their target audience.
Of course, maximizing this opportunity requires the right social content.
In a recent interview with research firm eMarketer, Intel Corp’s VP of Global Marketing Alyson Griffin explained the tech company’s approach to social media as a content distribution channel. “We need to provide something of value in the feed, even if someone doesn’t click through to our owned properties,” she said. “If it’s valuable and interesting, they will consume it in the feed and share it with their own networks. That’s a win.”
That value can come in many forms. Intel favors video, and packs its Facebook page and Twitter feed with original video content related to its products and future-forward technologies. But there are others ways to package social content, and many of them allow small businesses to develop effective social posts far more quickly.
Whether you own a local coffee shop or just invented a revolutionary new lunchbox, sharing social posts on a regular basis can increase awareness of your brand, drive traffic to your store, and ultimately level the playing field between your business and the competition.
Here are five types of social media content that you can start creating today.
1. Cross-promotion posts
As a social-media marketing tactic, cross-promotion is especially useful for startups and local businesses, as it can expose a whole new audience to your services and grow your follower count. Collaborating with a non-competing business or an expert in your industry — say, to create a series of tips for your customers, or offer a behind-the-scenes look at how your products are made — can produce useful and interesting content that can be shared on both companies’ social feeds.
When Baltimore-based food market and restaurant Modern Cook Shop hosted local hot sauce maker Huckle’s last year, the business posted a picture of a Huckle’s staffer to Facebook along with a description of Huckle’s products, which Modern Cook Shop stocks on its shelves. Huckle’s reciprocated with multiple posts that link to Modern Cook Shop’s own Facebook page, emphasizing how well the restaurant’s food pairs with the sauce.
Kedrick from Huckle's stopped in this weekend, and he brought the good stuff! #Huckles uses locally sourced ingredients…
This type of content doesn’t require a formal partnership or business contract doesn’t require a formal partnership or business contract — just a similar mindset. Look for potential partners that are as eager as you are to gain visibility, expand their reach, and supplement existing social content with fresh and exciting new posts.
2. User-generated content
Consumers may be doing the heavy lifting with this one, but given that you’ll be soliciting the content, you can still take some of the credit for these posts. User- or consumer-generated content is just what it sounds like: Content submitted by your customers and online community of fans. It shows your followers that you value what they have to say — a must if you’re trying to build loyalty and boost engagement — while adding authenticity to branded social media accounts.
Social sites like Facebook and Instagram are best suited to this visual content, which typically takes the form of photographs and artwork. Invite your followers to share theirs with you by email, or ask them to tag their photos with a custom hashtag of your choosing (Cover Girl uses #COVERGIRLMADE, Sprinkles Cupcakes uses #SprinklesMoment; you get the gist) so you’re able to find them online. Share the best content on your social feed, like UK-based nature conservancy RSPB, which sources its #photooftheweek from its followers. If you’re feeling generous, you can even offer a prize for the best submission.
Our Facebook #photooftheweek goes to Mark for this fantastic photo of a Stonechat! What a brilliant photo, thanks so much for sharing!
3. Pictures inspired by hashtags
When you’re at a loss for what to post, turn to the humble hashtag. Aside from helping social media users find interesting content, non-proprietary hashtags can inspire photo-based posts and infuse old content with new relevance.
Consider #TBT, or #ThrowbackThursday. Armed with this hashtag, businesses can post nostalgic imagery that showcases their history, and even attract a whole new audience for their visual content. Chicago-based Midnight Circus uses #TBT on a regular basis. During its recent 10-year anniversary tour, the technique allowed the organization to tempt circus-goers with stimulating imagery while also presenting an added opportunity to post information about its upcoming shows.
#tbt to these two Hoop-Diving geniuses Dominic Cruz Marta Henderson tearing it up in the Midnight Circus ring circa 2014. Can't wait to see them in LUZIA by Cirque du Soleil coming to Chicago 7/21.
Other day-of-the-week hashtags, like #ManicureMonday, #TuesdayTreat, and #Caturday, can be useful too, and there’s virtually no limit to the type of content that you can apply them to. Using Shutterstock Editor, which lets you turn any photo into a social media post or promotion, makes it easy to come up with an engaging image-based post on a dime.
Intel Corp clearly knows the power of video and has the means to produce impressive content, but video doesn’t necessarily require big bucks and long lead times. Take a look at Sprinkles Cupcakes, which posted this quick smartphone video of a candy maker crafting chocolate chips. The video got 110,000 views on Instagram. Also on Instagram, New England-area grocery chain Stew Leonard’s posts videos of its coffee roaster in action, smoked wings in the oven, and cannolis being filled with cream to get its customers salivating and encourage them to drop by. Even a video of its staff serving guacamole samples was entertaining enough to generate 2,500 views.
5. Live streaming content
More recently, brands have begun exploring live-streaming video tools like Facebook Live, Periscope, and Snapchat Live Stories to pull consumers into their world. One recent survey estimates that 44 percent of companies produced at least one live-stream video last year, and 20 percent expect to do the same in the months to come.
Craft brewery New Belgium is among the companies that has given Periscope a try, using it to share insights into how its beers are brewed from the people who actually brew them. The beauty of live-streaming content with services like Facebook Live and Periscope is that it can be viewed in real-time or after the fact, so customers and fans can watch New Belgium’s staff interviews and product reveals on-demand. Live streams can even be shared, either by fans or by partner businesses, allowing the content to have a broad reach. Because live streams feel intimate and exclusive, this kind of content can help you build your loyal follower base as well.
Social media marketing may be an equalizer, but not all of it is created equal; it’s how you choose to use it that will determine your success. But with a mix of social content that’s designed to inform, entertain, and engage, small businesses can start to see big results.