Creativity is at the heart of social marketing. As a social marketer, you are expected to deliver engaging content that resonates with your specific audience, represents your brand messaging accurately and effectively, and drives business objectives. To meet all of these expectations is no small task, and finding creative ideas and strategies for your next social campaign can be just as difficult.
This guide offers ways for you to rediscover your creativity as you move through all the stages of the social planning process. As you build your social campaigns, implement them, and analyze their results, we will show you how to stay motivated and creative.
In this guide, we break down the creative process into three phases to streamline your journey, beginning with the brainstorming process and ending with a thorough analysis of your social campaigns. The three phases are:
The key to effective brainstorming is to put yourself in the mindset that inspiration can come from anywhere and from as many places as possible. In this section, we have put together a list of resources to ignite your brainstorming sessions as you plan out your social media strategies.
As social marketers, research is one of our most valuable skills, helping us make sure that our own strategies stay on par with trends in the industry. Instead of browsing aimlessly through content, rummaging through thousands of social profiles, or running endless Google searches, an easy way to streamline research is to sign up for as many newsletters as possible.
Newsletters provide insights into the state of the industry, changes in technology, updates to social networks, and explain emerging trends and best practices. Here are a few newsletters that social media marketers should add to their resource list boost your creativity while you brainstorm:
- Social Media Examiner helps you discover how to best use social media to connect with customers, drive traffic, generate awareness, and increase sales. Their newsletter shares articles, expert interviews, and reviews of the latest industry research. Social Fresh has a strong focus on the future of social marketing including future trends and inspiration for fresh social campaigns.
- Social Fresh provides information on conferences, articles, podcasts, research, and courses to help social marketers find inspiration and produce creative content.
- MarketingProfs focuses on educating social media marketers by providing modern marketing tools, training, strategies, articles, online seminars, and discussion forums. Their solution-based content helps marketers identify gaps in their marketing strategies and provides resources needed to overcome problem areas.
- SocialMedia.org positions themselves as a brands-only membership organization for the people running social media at really big companies. They share best practices and provide actionable advice and solutions to the common challenges that come with being a social media professional.
- Social Media Today is an online community and resource for professionals in marketing, social business, communication, customer experience, content marketing and digital strategy.
Social Listening Solutions
Social media listening should be a priority for any marketer. It’s invaluable when you’re trying to create content specific to audience interest. Social listening solutions enable marketers to discover topics of interest and trending hashtags, and gain insight into brand sentiment.
In the above screenshot of Advanced Listening, powered by Simply Measured, the word cloud shows the most-used words related to GDPR on social. When you drill down deeper in the app, you can see specific comments and conversations that can help you develop content sure to resonate with your audience.
During the brainstorming process, listening to your audience can help you identify their needs, which enables you to create social campaigns that meet those needs, identify the type of content they crave, and engage them with your brand.
Webinars can have a huge impact on our social marketing strategies by enabling us to generate new leads and prospects, nurture existing relationships, and demonstrate expertise in our industries. During webinars, many businesses will live-tweet along with their users to engage them, answer questions, and keep the online conversation going. Webinars can also provide a way for us to learn, which can spark content ideas during our brainstorming sessions, as they are typically education-focused.
Webinars can provide you with actionable steps to take toward more effective social marketing. Social Media Today provides a wide variety of webinars specific to social marketers. You can register for upcoming webinars or watch from their library of on-demand webinars.
Forums provide an effective way for marketers to identify the topics that are spurring the most conversation online. Quora is a great resource to discover topics of interest, ask questions, and engage in conversations relevant to your brand. As a brainstorming tool, forums can help social marketers build social content plans that address questions people are already asking.
There are a number of external resources available to social marketers to help brainstorm engaging content. There are also valuable resources that exist within our businesses that marketers should turn to for brainstorming fuel: our sales teams. Our sales teams are our first points of contacts with consumers, and they can provide insight into the needs, challenges, and successes of our customers. This insight can help us generate content that addresses these needs or highlights successes.
Now that you’ve explored your brainstorming resources and discovered topics of interest that will resonate with your audience, you can begin building out your creative social campaigns. In this phase, you will strategically implement your most creative campaigns. This section provides you with five tips to ensure that your next social campaign is driven by creativity.
Social media presents tremendous opportunity for anyone to share their experiences, expertise, and insight with the world. A large population of social users has been able to develop big followings that are engaged and eager to digest and share content. Marketers have been able to utilize these social media superstars to increase brand awareness, promote products and services, and use the digital word-of-mouth concept to build brand trust and increase sales.
Influencers also can be a great resource for you when you run into those creative roadblocks. One of the great benefits of having influencers in your social strategy is that they are already master content creators. They’ve been able to build their followings based on the engaging content they share on social. Their videos, pictures, tweets, and posts receive high levels of engagement. Brand engagement increases an average of 28% when users are exposed to a combination of user-created content (from influencers) and professional content (from your brand), according to a study from comScore.
Influencers will produce unique content for your brand, with a fresh perspective–a huge benefit for your brand if you feel you are lacking creative content. Their social audiences already seek their advice, and influencers greatly impact purchase behaviors. In fact, 50% of consumers made a purchase based on a general recommendation made on social media, according to TWP Inc. Influencer-generated content can bring creativity back into your social strategy, and will require minimal effort on your end.
Wayfair, a furniture retailer, utilizes user-generated content in their social strategy. They share user images with links to shop for products within their posts, making it easy for consumers to visualize products in their own home for design inspiration, combined with the customer testimonial effect of actual users sharing their purchases. Wayfair simply had to repost content– minimal effort for a huge social impact.
Size Up the Competition
If you are running out of ideas to keep your social strategies creatively fresh, turning to your competitors is a practical way to develop creative content. Be careful not to mimic the content of your competitors, but use their social strategies for inspiration. Your brand and its competitors have similar ideal customer personas, so focus on the type of content that is most engaging, both within your own social efforts and those of the competition.
The rivalry between Pepsi and Coca-Cola has always been an interesting one to watch, as both brands have a strong social media presence. Using Simply Measured Social Analytics, we can compare Coca-Cola and Pepsi side-by-side to see who is outperforming whom on Instagram—and, more importantly, how.
In the chart above, we can see engagement levels for each brand through the month of July 2017. Coca-Cola saw peak engagement on July 4th related to their Share a Coke campaign, which saw nearly 11,000 engagements (likes, shares, and comments). Pepsi also had a high-performing post on July 21st that showcased a user-generated photo.
The post below, which was Pepsi’s best performing Instagram post, wasn’t even created by the brand itself, but by a fan of the Pepsi product. From Coca-Cola’s perspective, they can learn from Pepsi to feature more user-generated content in their social strategies, as it seems to perform well with that specific audience.
On the other end, Pepsi can learn from Coca-Cola, which developed content centered on a national holiday, Independence Day. Coca-Cola’s Instagram post received high levels of engagement by focusing on connecting their product both to the holiday and to barbecue season. Coca-Cola’s post was also a video, which is another factor Pepsi should consider when they start planning their next creative campaign. Turning to your competitors for creative inspiration is definitely worth your time and can lead to a much more engaging social strategy.
Adapt to the Buyer’s Journey
Not every piece of content you produce is going to perform well with all members of your target audience in every stage of the sales funnel. If you find yourself lacking inspiration to produce creative social content, shift your focus to create content specific to where your customers are in their buying journey.
In the awareness stage, your goal is to increase the number of people who know about your brand, its services, and its offerings. The content you produce within this stage needs to be eye-catching but doesn’t necessarily have to speak directly to what your brand has to offer. The focus here is to grab your audience’s attention. There are a few ways you can do this:
Posts that include images produce 650 percent higher engagement than text-only posts, according to WebDAM. Using the right visuals in your social media posts is essential to catching the attention of an audience who rapidly moves through social content. Visuals are both memorable and effective. Your audience can process, understand, and retain more information more quickly.
Oreo does a great job on social by combining their product with visuals that provoke emotional reactions. Their post promoting their new S’mores Oreos places their product next to a thermos and a telescope, which creates a sense of wonder with reference to exploring the wilderness and the unknown.
Share User-Generated Content
Save some time and energy by sharing content that your followers create. Initiate engagement by proactively sharing content that can positively promote your brand, while also boosting the ego of your audience. And, let’s face it, we all could use a little ego boost from time to time. Your audience will be delighted by your brand sharing their content and will be excited to share the news with their followers. It’s a win-win situation.
Starbucks often posts user-generated content to their social profiles, and typically sees a lot of engagement from its followers. Starbucks asked its followers on Instagram to share their cozy moments with the limited Starbucks Red Cup. This single post featuring a Red Cup and comfy blankets received nearly 300,000 likes and collected over 400 comments.
Engage with Your Followers
The beauty of social media is that it allows for a two-way dialogue between your brand and its followers. Ask your audience questions, take a poll, or comment on their posts and engage in conversations they are already having on social. The more active you are on social media, the greater your chances are of increasing your brand awareness. Consistent interaction with your followers will be a fruitful addition to your overall social strategy.
Social media went into hyperdrive when users couldn’t figure out if a dress was black and blue, or gold and white. Specsavers took advantage of this trending conversation on social to promote their business and have people come in for eye checks. This particular tweet was retweeted over 12,000 times and received over 8,000 likes.
In the consideration phase, you start providing content that is a bit more specific to your brand and its offerings. You want to entice your audience to want to learn more about your business. Here is where you would provide small chunks of information regarding your brand.
Connect Social to Your Website
It is imperative that you use social media to drive traffic back to your website or your blog during the consideration phase. Your website is a hub for all information related to your brand and your offerings. Your brand’s website and blog can even provide e-books and white papers to learn more.
IKEA was able to use user-generated content to drive people back to their website. IKEA highlights the stylish designs of their followers and includes a shortened link to their Share Space page on their website, where happy customers share their design inspirations and showcase furniture in their own homes.
Share Customer Testimonials
Your brand loyalists will often share positive reviews of your brand on social. Utilize those customer testimonials to tell a story on your own social profiles. During the consideration phase, your customers are seeking input from other customers that will ultimately influence their purchasing decisions. 92% of people trust recommendations from individuals–even if they don’t know them–over brands, according to TWP Inc.
Myers + Chang, a restaurant in Boston, Massachusetts, retweeted a post from a happy customer. Sharing testimonials increases brand trust and allows your users to tell others how amazing your business is, saving you the trouble of having to tell them yourself.
Use Social Media for Customer Service
Your followers on social may often want to interact with you online. They may just be giving your brand a shout-out on social, but may also have concerns or suggestions for your brand. Don’t be afraid to interact with your followers by responding to their questions or thanking them for the mentions. A study from Nielsen found that 33% of customers prefer to contact brands using social media rather than on the telephone.
PinkBlush, an online maternity retailer, responds to questions that their followers have on Facebook. In this particular post, a customer asks how fast PinkBlush can ship to New Jersey. PinkBlush responded directly to that customer and provided a link back to their website to learn more information and to complete their purchase.
During the intent phase, your customer is at the brink of making a purchasing decision. According to Forbes, 78% of respondents said that companies’ social media posts impact their purchases. This is your opportunity to hit them with relevant content on social media to influence their decision in favor of your brand. Provide a Demo or Special Offer In a survey by Knowledge Networks PDI, 58 percent of nearly 1,800 respondents said they would buy a product after trying it. Demoing your product on social media or giving your users exclusive offers will have a huge impact on your conversion rates. Your goal here is to provide an incentive for your followers to make an actual purchase.
In their profile, Dollar Shave Club provides a link where their followers are redirected to their website to sign up for their subscription and have shaving supplies shipped directly to their door. Saturate your profile, even the bio section, with ways for your customers to make easy purchases.
In the conversion phase of the funnel, you’ve successfully guided your customer to make a purchase. At this stage, you can now shift your social strategy to create brand advocates, or influencers, for your brand. The type of content created should be shareable content that your followers can deliver to their own followings, to guide more leads into the top of your funnel.
Allow Your Users to Share Their Purchases on Social
After making a purchase online, provide an option for your users to share their purchases with their followings. This will increase brand awareness and influence potential customers, and it requires minimal effort. Give your customers the opportunity to brag about your brand.
Create a User-Generated Content Contest
Here we go again talking about user-generated content, and that’s because user-generated content is so important for a successful social media strategy. During the conversion phase, you have the great opportunity to turn all of your followers into brand advocates by having them create content for your brand. National Geographic, for instance, asked users to submit photos for a chance to win a trip to the Galapagos Islands. National Geographic even hosted all submissions on their website, with sharing options at the bottom of each submission, making sharing on social easy for their visitors.
By this point in your social strategy planning, you’ve already brainstormed innovative ways to boost brand awareness and engagement on social, and you have implemented a plan that targets users at each stage of the sales funnel, with specific content based on their buyer journey. Now it’s time to analyze your campaigns to guide the creative process going into your next social strategy planning cycle.
Choose Your Metrics
Metrics matter. Choosing the appropriate metrics to track and analyze is vital to properly gauge the success of your social media campaigns. With the tremendous amount of social data now available, be sure to choose metrics that align with your objectives.
When it comes to your content, engagement metrics provide the best type of data to determine the overall likeability and effectiveness of your content pieces.
Engagement tracks the number of unique people who have clicked, liked, commented on, or shared your posts. Engagement metrics provide insight into how your content is circulating around the social sphere. Your most popular content is going to be liked more, shared more, and commented on more often. There are three engagement metrics that are universal among the major social networks:
- Clicks: Users are only going to click on content that interests them. If you experience high clickthrough rates, your content is intriguing enough for users to want to see more, meaning that your subject title and accompanying image are effective.
- Likes: Users understand that good content is often liked more by their networks. If your content resonates with an audience and is receiving a high number of likes, your content will naturally gain popularity (and hopefully collect more clicks).
- Shares: Clicks and likes are good indicators that content is at least attractive to audiences. However, when users like your content enough to share, it means it is relevant to them and their audiences.
In the analysis phase, there are two action steps you can take to gauge the effectiveness of your social marketing efforts:
Use Analytics Solutions to Gauge the Impact of a Social Campaign
Social media is making a huge impact on overall marketing strategies. Refer back to your social listening and content share tracking solutions to gauge the effectiveness of your social strategies. Analytics solutions can guide you through specific pathways to discover challenge areas or gaps in your social strategy, and can help identify areas where your social marketing efforts are most rewarded. You also are provided insight on audience engagement, reach, and impressions.
Creativity can sometimes be scarce, but there are actionable things marketers can do to maintain a creative outlook on their social marketing strategies.
In this guide, we provided you with brainstorming resources to guide your social strategy into a more creative direction. When you run into a creative roadblock, you can attend webinars, engage on forums, subscribe to newsletters, and use social analytics solutions to determine audience interests and best-performing posts. This insight will guide your creative process.
As you build out your social strategy, utilize your influencers to create unique content for your brand and increase brand awareness. Listen to your audience to join relevant conversations already happening on social, and to guide your future social strategy. Compare your efforts with those of your competitors, track your content’s performance on social, and adjust your content to align with the user at every stage of the sales funnel.
Analyze your efforts by determining your success metrics and use social analytics solutions to gain insight into the effectiveness of your social campaigns. The data will guide your future strategies as you jump into your next creative cycle and launch your next social campaign.