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A How-To Guide for Creating Sizzling Social Media Content

Jennifer Williams

Summer is in full swing and it’s getting hot outside. Are your social media posts keeping up with the temps?

No matter the season, it can be challenging for small business owners to consistently craft quality content. The Internet is a noisy place where companies must get creative if they hope to stand a chance at capturing the attention of consumers these days.

It all starts with understanding what makes your audience tick. Ultimately, the posts that “sizzle” are the ones that speak to what customers care about. This is because when people care about something, they’re more inclined to share it with others.

Learn about social media psychology and more in this handy guide to creating content that will help your company stand out from the crowd.

We Are Social & Emotional Creatures:

Think about the last thing you saw on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest that you turned around and shared with your network. What kind of content was it? How did it make you feel and what motivated you to share it?

Studies show we are prone to share for two main reasons:

  1. Because something moves us emotionally.
  2. Because we have a desire to build and nourish relationships with others.

These are important insights about human nature that every marketer should use when considering what kinds of posts to design for their audience. It can be easy to fall into the trap of trying to get people to connect with your brand while failing to recognize the need people have to connect with each other. Instead of producing overly promotional content, a better approach might involve encouraging your audience to have a conversation not around your product(s), but around a concept that relates to your brand’s image. That’s what Cliff Bar did with their #MeetTheMoment campaign, which encouraged people to share about their adventures in nature on social media. This helped build a community of people connected not only by their snack of choice, but to each other in their shared love of the outdoors.

Not only did the #MeetTheMoment campaign cater to people’s needs for social connection, but it also had strong emotional appeal. The 20 adventure challenges printed on each Cliff Bar were designed to inspire customers and every post made by people using the #MeetTheMoment hashtag reinforced this positive emotion.

In a study by Scientific American and the New York Times that examined 7,000 articles published online, stories stimulating positive emotions were more likely to go viral than those eliciting negative feelings. That means content which makes viewers experience emotions like awe, wonder, or amusement will generally result in greater engagement on social media and ultimately build a more positive brand connection. When it comes down it, our purchasing behavior is influenced more by emotions than logic.

So, the first step to creating great content is to consider the social and emotional needs of your audience.

“There Is No Sale Without The Story; No Knockout Without the Setup”:

In this quote from Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, Gary Vaynerchuk stresses the importance of storytelling to selling. Remember, it’s emotions that compel people to buy and the best stories are often full of emotion. Vaynerchuk’s formula for social media success involves using storytelling and thinking about the process as a boxing match. If you jump straight to the punch line, you lose the context of the story and there’s not power in your punch. It’s important to start with jabs, those lightweight, emotional pieces of content “that benefit your customers by making them laugh, snicker, ponder, play a game, feel appreciated, or escape” before dropping a right hook that directly promotes your business with a call to action (i.e. What’s the best part about Tuesdays? 30% off any fish taco of course! Come on in and let us help you satisfy those taste buds. #TacoTuesday).

When creating your next post, try to paint a picture of what you represent that resonates with who you wish to sell to. Consider if your content tells a story that moves your audience’s spirits or satisfies their need for a certain kind of experience. Give first, and win your customer’s hearts before you ask for something in return. Jab, jab, jab….then right hook!

Show What It’s Like Behind-the-Scenes:

One fun and simple way to share your story on social media is to showcase your company culture. Posting photos of your team helps to show the human side of your business. Being transparent about what goes on behind-the-scenes builds trust with your consumers. Don’t be afraid to snap shots of times when you’re serious, silly, and charitable—just be vulnerable. And if you’re a startup, make a point of showing your journey and celebrating your wins. Your customers will appreciate going along for the ride with you.

Be Relevant:

Just because you’re busy running a business doesn’t mean you can hide under a rock. If you’re hoping to construct content that is contagious, you’ll need to keep tabs on popular culture. Start by getting a grasp of your fans interests and the things they consider newsworthy. It’s important to understand that what some people may find buzzworthy may not mean much to others. Different social groups can react differently to the same story.

Once you have a good read on your audience’s preferences, create content that reveals your understanding of the issues and news that matter to them. In other words, show that you are relevant. Integrate your brand’s content into the stream of conversation that your audience taps into daily to stay informed. Expand your reach by leveraging holidays and industry-specific hashtags. Whenever possible, react quickly to events by sharing breaking news, experiences, or exchanges with your network. These tactics will help your brand stay top-of-mind in all the noise.

This video post from TOMS is wonderful for two reasons. First, it’s woven around a holiday that is relevant to the brand’s product line and second, it showcases the laid-back, fun employee culture of the company.

Good Aesthetics Are Essential:

It all boils down to biology. Visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text! That means, if you want to communicate value quickly to internet users who are skimming your social media channels, the best way to do so is in the form of an image, infographic, or video. Not only are these types of content easy for people to process (and therefore receive higher engagement), they are easy to share as well. But what ultimately makes you stand out from competitors is how much attention you give to aesthetics. Nice images demonstrate attention to quality, which is a characteristic that you want consumers to associate with your brand’s products or services. And the style(s) you choose to use when designing your images can also speak volumes about your company’s personality in a way that text really can’t. Just think of all the ads Apple has put out over the years. Whether online or in-print, their images have consistently displayed simplicity and elegance, characteristics which are at the core of Apple’s brand.

These days, it doesn’t take a graphic designer to create engaging visuals. There are plenty of free tools to help you tell a story through imagery. Canva is a great place to start. This amazing online design software makes it easy to create social media graphics by providing perfectly-sized templates for everything from Facebook cover images to Twitter image posts. In addition, Canva offers tons of free drag-and-drop fonts, icons, shapes, illustrations and photographs for you to use in your quest to create captivating content. If you ever need to supplement Canva’s library of stock photos, we recommend checking out Pixabay, Pexels, and the Creative Commons section of Flickr for a great selection of free shots. Pablo, an image creation plugin for the content scheduling tool known as Buffer, automatically pulls free stock photographs from these sources to make the process even simpler.

Short video content is growing more popular by the day as it continues to satisfy people’s needs to quickly and easily consume content. Whether you decide to post 6-second videos on Vine, 15-second Instavids on Instagram or live stream video on Facebook, it’s important to occasionally make use of this form of media, particularly if your target audience members are young adults and teens (Gen Y & Gen Z). Use video to: 1) show fans how to do something, 2) share new products, 3) highlight your skills (great for solopreneurs!), 4) provide a behind-the-scenes look at your business, and 5) capture events.

Encourage Interaction:

The best part about social media is that it creates a space for rich, two-way conversation to occur between customer and company and customer to customer. Maximize engagement by allowing your fans to take part in content creation, like Cliff Bar did with its #MeetTheMoment campaign. Design a challenge around a branded hashtag, sit back, and see what your customers come up with. Not only does a campaign like this take some of the burden of content creation off your shoulders, but it helps to build community around your brand.  Another way you can engage your audience is by asking questions (Ex. What was your biggest travel mistake?). This lets people share their knowledge and encourages meaningful and fun conversations. The feedback you receive from asking questions also serves as valuable market research for your business and can help guide future decisions you make about your brand. Start by creating simple polls using the polling options on Facebook and Twitter before moving towards more open-ended questions.

If your business has the resources, try fashioning content that features contests, promos, and giveaways. These types of posts—which Vaynerchuk would refer to as “right hooks”—can be very successful at capturing the attention of both new and existing fans  by offering gifts of tangible value. In addition, contests, promos, and giveaways help drive higher levels of traffic to your website or landing page. If used in conjunction with entry forms, these posts can also help your small business to build email lists and databases of potential customer leads. Best of all, online offers generate conversations between customers, who will share these opportunities with their friends and family members and grow your company’s reach.

For more great tips on creating sizzling social media content, check out this e-book from GoDaddy on the 10 Social Media Content Commandments for Small & Medium-Sized Businesses. It’s worth every word.