April 2, 2015

20 ideas to keep your social media fresh

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Make collaboration an integral part of your strategy & campaigns

By Rohan Ayyar
E2M Solutions

In spite of the incredible amount of time we spend on social media, we sometimes forget the most fundamental thing about the platform.

Hello! It’s supposed to be social! It’s about getting people involved, inspiring conversations, connecting people who would not normally be able to reach out to each other. The best brands in the business of social media marketing do just that. So what’s stopping you?

Four of the top 10 challenges that continue to frustrate social media marketers are related to how to get their organizations to work together to create and stick to a collaborative, effective and profitable social media strategy.

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The four gripes that deserve further attention here are:

  • Designing an overall social media strategy
  • Educating staff on how to use social media
  • Aligning social media strategies throughout different departments within the company
  • Creating buy-in among executives at my company about the importance of social media

So what kind of content makes sure that once you have set up airtight processes for cross-functional contributions, the variety of voices that come together create a winning melody instead of a cacophony?

Fun @ work

1There are a billion things you do at work which often have nothing to do with work. That team lunch where you all wore Mexican hats? The Thank You note that your boss left on your desk? (OK, wishful thinking!) The awards ceremony where your brand bagged a prestigious award? Talk about it. All of it! Pictures are a wonderful idea on most social networks. If you don’t have pictures, use quotes, descriptions or even links to events that are being talked about.

Google employees go crazy with the Harlem Shake on campus.

Users love getting a peek into the action behind the scenes. Give it to them and get a little closer with your audience.

Customer service spotlight

2Whether you manufacture boiler valves on an assembly line or offer specialized services, each and every one of us is in the business of customer service. Your customer care team often has the only human voice that your customers hear from your brand. Give them the kudos they deserve by showcasing the best case served each the week.

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Not only will this oft-ignored team feel proud of their work, your fans will get a feel of how well you probably treat your customers. Company policy or regulations restricting you from posting employee data on a public forum? Go for internal social networks like Yammer and showcase commendable actions there.

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Fan of the week

3Your fans like your brand, they engage in conversation with you, they share their experiences with you. And what do you give them in return? Most cases, nothing. Zippo. Change that right away by picking a “Fan of the Week” every single week.

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A Dunkin billboard showing their Facebook Fan of the Week

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The Dunkin Facebook Cover Photo with their Fan of the Week (Source)

Sift through all those posts that your fans send in about your brand and pick the best one to post on your social media platforms. Your customers get their 15 seconds of fame and you get some great user generated content that is trusted by other users more than you own marketing spiel. Wins all around!

Employee of the week

4Just as fans feel awesome with some recognition, your co-workers would love becoming social media stars just as much. Get every department in your organization to nominate one employee per week for a great job done. It doesn’t even have to be life-changing stuff. Celebrate small, everyday victories to show that every bit counts.

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Pick the best of the lot and show off the good work that your co-workers put out every day. This could be a project handled by the human resources team on a weekly basis.

Pet projects we love

5Almost all of us have our work cut out for us at our workplaces. However, there’s normally a lot more that you want to do to make a difference. Often organizations encourage personal (work related, of course) projects on the side as a way of encouraging free-thinking. Companies like Google have famously made millions off pet projects of their employees like AdSense, Gmail and Google News. Shopify encourages employees to do business online by setting up their stores on – what else – the Shopify platform and equipping them with useful business tools.

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U.S Bank showcases its employees’ volunteer projects (Source)

Allow employees to showcase their pet projects and give fans a chance to express their views on them. This not only offers publicity for the project, it will also help fine-tune the project to make it more viable in the real world.

Things to do with our product

6Most fans on social media are ones that have used your product / services in the past. Alternately, there could be those who aspire to or plan to use them at some point in the future. Basically, your fans and followers have a pretty good idea of what your core product is, maybe even how to use it.

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Nutella gets creative during Super Bowl season (Source)

However, no one knows your product better than those who make it – your product or engineering team. Offer offbeat and fun use-case scenarios for your product that even the most hardcore fans may not have thought of. It makes for an interesting post while simultaneously increasing usage.

CEO speak

7Social media has knocked down so many walls that getting to know the pulse of the customer is easier than ever. Nowhere is knowing your user more important than at the very top of the pyramid.

Richard Branson stars in a Vine on Virgin’s official Twitter account

Get the top brass of your organization to connect with users on social media on a regular basis. Your CEO, chairperson or directors can leave their thoughts on Facebook, interact one on one with users on forums like Reddit (AMA’s anyone?), or even create signature content on a platform like Pinterest.

Vote for your favorite product

8Planning a new product launch and can’t decide on which variant to go with? Get the answer from the horse’s mouth! Besides testing your product ideas in a lab or in a closed market, you can actually seek real-time inputs from fans on social media about your ideas instantly, and for free.

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Lays announces its now annual ‘Do Us a Flavor’ Contest (Source)

Most social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and the like – allow contests or polls. You just need to pick the right timing and make a go for it.

User selfies in action

9The proof of the pudding is definitely in the eating. Ask users to share their love for your brand by posting their best selfies (or regular pictures, or videos) of themselves using your product.

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Starbucks regularly posts user selfies on Instagram (Source)

The fact that nearly all social networks today are heavily media-oriented is a bonus that helps along this form of visual endorsement by a real user.

How we make magic

10One of my earliest memories relating to a brand is of a video I saw in elementary school of how they make Cadbury chocolates. The magical process of turning boring stuff like cocoa beans and sugar into melt-in-your-mouth chocolates turned me into a lifelong fan of the brand.

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GE shows off some hands-on action from the factory floor (Source)

Create videos of your product being made and post them online. YouTube, Vimeo, Vine – whatever be your poison, pick a platform and let your users actually experience the madness behind the magic.

Finance / Legal / HR takes over social media for a day!

11We discussed a behind the scenes kind of post earlier in this article. This idea takes that concept a step further. Create a social media event for your brand by handing over the reins of your social media platforms to a different team every week.

Let the nominated team create posts that talk specifically about the contribution that team makes to the overall scheme of things. Not only does it offer a completely fresh perspective to your fans, it also helps non-customer facing teams more in touch with market realities.

Winning ways

12Contests are the old evergreen favorite tactic that most brands use on social media. From increasing engagement with users to creating user generated content, to helping the launch of a new product, contests can have myriad objectives.

Red Dress Boutique keeps it real simple – Retweet to win

To really work, contests on social media need to fulfill a few criteria. They must be easy to enter, they should be easy to execute, the prize must be tempting enough, and the chances of winning should be high. Makes sense?

Freebie Friday

13Creepy coincidence that, #13 having something to do with a Friday! Anyway, we all know of #ThrowBackThursday. Why not create an event for your own brand that could someday become a worldwide trend?

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Designate a specific day when you’ll give away branded freebies or coupons for your products. Make sure your users contribute in some way – a caption, a post, a tag, an email ID, whatever – before you hand them their gift. This will not just enhance your store of user generated content; it will also create an appointment-engagement pattern on your social networks with users checking in every week on the designated day to get freebies from you.

Brands we love

14Your social media does not always have to be about you. (Yeah, yeah, I hear your boos and shouts of “Cliché!”) Showcase other brands that you admire, businesses that make products you have used and liked, and spread your circle of good karma.

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The upside? You come across as being a generous brand, increasing the chances of being featured by the recipient of your goodwill on their social media page. Besides, by posting about complementary brands, you offer real, useful data to your users. There’s no better way of winning their hearts than by offering them value completely unselfishly.

Statistic of the day

15Numbers have a way of grabbing eyeballs and lending a certain level of credibility to one’s statements. Offer your users statistics about your product, industry or even just interesting trivia data that they may fancy. Don’t worry about sourcing your data yourself.

Research is not just for the R&D department. Get a different team to contribute the statistic they’re most proud of and post it online every time. Let them bribe your graphics guy to build an arresting infographic or image to go with it. Not only will you be patting your internal teams on the back on a public forum, you’ll be piquing interest in your company among your followers.

Tips & tricks from fellow users

16Another user engagement master stroke is featuring tips and tricks posted by users on your timeline. The showcased contributors will love your brand for putting them on the map and the rest of your fans will love the real world wisdom from the crowd.

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WD-40 invites users to submit photos or videos of how they use it (Source)

Top up the love by offering your users a chance to win prizes if they come up with something truly extraordinary that you haven’t thought of or if their tips pass a popularity threshold you set.

Expert speak

17Approach the leading lights in your field and seek out their opinions and ideas on issues that face your industry today. Post this content on your social media with the right attribution for some mad props in the credibility stakes. Users will actually seek out your page to hear from the gurus, a happy day indeed for user engagement on social media.

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Inviting experts to post content directly, instead of simply quoting them is another master stroke well worth a shot.

Promote a post written by a non-blogging team member

18Not everything needs to come with the blessings of external experts. Sometimes the best minds in the industry are sitting behind desks at your very own organization. Create a culture of employee blogging and invite in-house subject matter experts to write about things that matter.

Moz consistently takes this practice to new heights with their developer blog.

Post links to these employee blog posts on social media and spread the word. You’ll end up earning a truck load of respect from fans who’ll appreciate the valuable (and free!) insights.

Cross-promote a sister brand

19A captive social media audience is a real asset. Use this captive audience to promote a sister venture that your organization has undertaken and offer the fledgling project some much needed visibility. Get the leadership team from the new venture to contribute a post directly, making the post more authentic and credible.

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Adidas promotes its miCoach app on its flagship Facebook page (Source)

Mind you, don’t overdo this one. As mentioned before, a social media audience is an asset. Abusing it by posting too many irrelevant posts will only result in user frustration and disengagement.

Celebs who love our product

20Who does not love a dash of celeb glamor? What our favorite stars wore on the red carpet, which brands they endorse, what places they holiday in are all of never-ending interest to the average social media citizen.

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Nike catches Rory McIlroy in action in Nike gear (Source)

Cash in on our celebrity-obsessed culture by showcasing celebrities who happen to use your products. Get a quote from them if you can to make it even cooler and share-worthy. Your celebrities don’t have to be Hollywood A-listers. They just need to be famous and accomplished in your line of work, and your audience will make a beeline for it.

The ‘how’ of it

“The more, the merrier” is our basic premise, and perhaps the very thumb rule with most things on social media. Getting a number of contributors with the creativity to spice things up on your brand page to work together, over and over again, sounds difficult.

However, it is certainly doable. Adopt a collaboration platform like Trello and get distributed team members to talk to each other in one place. You can assign tasks to specific individuals, track progress, and also jointly plan your social media calendar. Alternatively, GrexIt is a simple plugin that lets you set up labels within Gmail accounts that all team members automatically see in their in-box. They can then add notes or email content using the same label, and their ideas automatically get shared with the others in a jiffy. And of course, to top it all and schedule posts at the right time, what better than Buffer!

Make your social media truly social by making collaboration an integral part of your strategy. All you need to do is curate eclectic content relevant to your audience and get it in front of your fans. Happy posting!

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Featured image credit: Jason Howie, Flickr (Modified under CC license)

Rohan Ayyar is a serial blogger and digital strategy consultant at E2M Solutions. He also helps startups develop remarkable user experiences at OnlyDesign. You should follow him at @searchrook on Twitter.
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