Both social marketers and consumers agree—a brand’s social media presence stands out most when it is creative, memorable and impactful.
But when you’re working at home without the same resources you’d have in the office or on a shoot, it’s tricky to produce content that checks all those boxes. Whether work from home is new to you or you’re a seasoned remote worker, social media marketing from home is not without its challenges.
However, social marketers are nothing if not resourceful. Here at Sprout, our social and creative teams have rethought the process for social media content production to keep content exciting and fresh—all while working as a remote, distributed team.
Whether you’re trying to create photography, video, GIFs and design assets from scratch, or looking for ways to refresh the assets you already have, we’re here to help. Follow these five tips to create amazing social content from anywhere.
Tip #1: Determine which stories are top of mind right now and your role in telling them
Perhaps the ideas and strategy you planned for new content this year just don’t feel relevant or appropriate anymore. Maybe you have a new product or service to promote. Or, maybe what your audience wants to see and engage with on social has changed.
Whatever your reason is for pursuing new creative content, starting with an exercise in empathy-building will help identify your story direction and your role in telling that story. With an empathetic mindset, brands can more effectively join conversations, add value, and support your audience’s needs.
Hair.com for example, pivoted from sharing polished, studio-shot videos to more raw, remotely produced videos with tips from influencers and educators on hair care. Knowing that their audience weren’t able to visit the salon during lockdown, the Beauty Home School series offers DIY solutions for bad hair days at home.
When reimagining how to better meet your goals with visual solutions, ask yourself:
- What problems are people facing right now?
- Why does my audience care about this topic?
- What is the appropriate tone to take on this subject?
- What medium would be most effective for this story?
- How does my brand relate to this topic authentically?
- Who could I consult with to better guide this story?
Tip #2: Explore new content formats
It probably comes as no surprise that photos are the number one content type consumers want to engage with. A single, still-life photo can capture an entire story and easily be produced from home. The trick is to keep it simple and focused.
Curate a space that’s representative of your brand, prominently feature your products or service and try playing with some at-home themes that resonate like workstations, pet love, planners and organization and of course, caffeine.
Photos lead in terms of consumer engagement, but videos come second. They’re packed with information, creativity and personality and can be spun into other snackable content forms like GIFs, tutorials and more.
Remotely directed video requires a bit more up-front work but is still a scalable option. With this approach, you can focus more heavily on the script, speakers and concept over the production quality. Once you’ve conceptualized your video, you can record using a mobile device or camera, capture videos via conferencing tools like Zoom or ask your speaker to share a pre-recorded video they took themselves.
Sprout used the last tip to remotely produce a Q&A with our Asians@Sprout Business Resource Group to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
— Sprout Social (@SproutSocial) May 28, 2020
Stop-motion animation is another creative, visual storytelling option that doesn’t require a ton of equipment or supplies to create. If you’re already incorporating photo and video into your remote content production plans, you can use the same props, space and resources you have to experiment with stop-motion.
Creating a templatized series may afford the most scalability while leaving your audience with an enduring impact. Consider that your initial design effort may be higher when you create a series, however, the long term pay-off is a rinse-and-repeat style of production that can scale your content over time and tether it together with simple, good design.
Our social team has seen enormous success from working with design to create visual social templates for our frequent topics and major campaigns. Having graphic templates that our social media specialist can customize means the social team has dozens of ways to put these existing resources to use.
Pro-tip: Understanding what your leaders consider their primary focus for social will help you develop strategies, tactics and campaigns that directly contribute to top-level goals. https://t.co/0VBs8G668y pic.twitter.com/VCjrsqda2h
— Sprout Social (@SproutSocial) July 7, 2020
When choosing which content types to pursue, also consider the best distribution platforms. Keep each platform’s specialty in mind. While Youtube and LinkedIn captivate with medium-length video, Pinterest shines with written copy and designed templates. As Instagram is driven by enticing photography and video shorts, Twitter thrives with concise written copy and photography.
Tip #3: Get inspiration (and content) from your audience
Ideally, most of your content will be original and unique to your brand; however, user-generated content (UGC) is a light-lift option for gathering new assets for your feed. Encourage your fans to get involved by tagging you in photos or videos that mention your product or service and including a branded hashtag so you can easily curate your content.
For River Island, a UK fashion brand, UGC is a major part of their strategy and their fans are happy to contribute using the hashtag #ImWearingRI.
WIN! 🤩 Which dress do you need in your wardrobe? Comment 💗or 🖤 to win your fave!
— River Island (@riverisland) June 30, 2020
Brands can also look to their audience for inspiration for original content. What content are they resharing from other brands? What questions are they asking that you could answer with creative content? What trends are they engaging with? The answers to those questions will influence the topics you should consider covering and examples of how your brand might execute content production around those topics.
Tip #4: Repurpose existing content to tell a new story
Repurposing content is an exercise in reframing useful dialogue, interviews, soundbites and visual assets within the current social landscape. Once you have a story direction, seek out pre-existing sources that are on theme, support your story and offer clear, concise takeaways.
When reusing photos, it’s important to make sure they’re evergreen and haven’t been used too frequently or recently. The same photos shared repeatedly with captions that tell the same story over and over will lead to audience fatigue. Consider adding a new design to frame the photo or use it as a background for short copy or quotes that you pull from your video content.
Enjoy deals on living room tents, neighborhood biking & other essentials, thru 4/27. Put your gear to good use— inside or out!
— REI (@REI) April 17, 2020
There are tons of ways to extend the reach and life of video content. One option that’s been successful for Team Sprout is cutting down longer videos into teasers or short, impactful clips that can stand on their own.
These past few weeks have been uncertain, but one thing we find comfort in is our team. Earlier this month, we celebrated the womxn on #TeamSprout by asking them to read bios of influential heroes. Here’s what happened: https://t.co/FgjhMm3Uqb pic.twitter.com/10nYTUD9HZ
— Sprout Social (@SproutSocial) March 24, 2020
You may also find opportunities to reuse older content and spin it for a more timely awareness play. Back in December 2019, Sprout released an Always On episode featuring Brittany Sheppard, the Social Media Lead for prAna. Then, we were able to select a clip from Sheppard’s video and repurpose it for Mental Health Awareness Month in May. This strategy helps us breathe new life into our creative assets and get the most value possible out of the work our video team has done.
— Sprout Social (@SproutSocial) May 25, 2020
Find the right soundbites without watching hours of footage
Transcription helps you fine-tune the exact sound bites or quotes you’d like to use to shape your story.
Rev.com allows for affordable, quick-turnaround written transcription of interviews. This is key for quickly scanning and identifying soundbites that can be turned into micro-testimonials, voiceover or graphic copy.
Once you have your transcript, read through and highlight all valuable quotes that directly address your problem and add value to your audience. Remember to keep these selections short and concise for clarity.
During Sprout Sessions Digital back in May, we captured and shared many valuable quotes from our speakers to give quick, actionable tips to our followers on social. We shared them in real-time throughout the event, but now also have a collection that we can repurpose and reshare with ease.
— Sprout Social (@SproutSocial) May 14, 2020
If you do choose to up-cycle content, it’s important to double-down on permission. Is the reframing accurate to the subject’s intent and have you confirmed permission for reframing and redistribution?
For example, in Sprout’s latest episode of Always On, which was filmed long before the pandemic, Jolie Meschi, the Marketing Communications Manager for Philz Coffee, leads by letting viewers know that “the insights are still relevant even while working remote.” We asked Meschi to remotely record a fresh intro and outro for the video so that we could still share her expertise while making sure to acknowledge that some footage of public spaces may look a little different than those spaces do today.
Tip #5: Make sure your content is polished, no matter where it’s created
Even as you work remotely, not all visuals need to have the DIY look. With the right lighting, art direction and editing, you can avoid the common pitfalls of lower-grade production.
Standard three point lighting, which includes a key light, fill light and backlight, allows you to control or eliminate shadows in your frame while keeping your subject bright. There are a lot of low-cost lighting options that you can use to create this, including clamp lights which you can place around your set or ring lights for head-on interview-style shoots.
Was I super excited about it? Absolutely. Did I use my ring light to take unboxing pictures of it? Don't ask questions that you already know the answer to. #SocialMedia #SMM pic.twitter.com/rarNJoesLI
— Alexa Heinrich (@HashtagHeyAlexa) May 10, 2020
You can also make use of natural light but should avoid direct sunlight or use window treatments to soften it. If you’re working outside, shady areas on a sunny day also provide well-lit settings for video or photoshoots.
You don’t need to buy a fancy camera to create beautiful images, because you probably have one in your pocket already. Mobile phones these days have high-quality cameras that do the trick. What you will need is a mount or tripod for a steady shot, especially if you’re working on video and stop-motion content. Fortunately, there are a ton of DIY options you can find with a simple Google search.
Additionally, there is a wide array of apps and online resources that you can tap to help you produce high-quality video, motion, and visual design, no matter what your skill level is.
- Dribble for purchasing design templates or hiring freelance designers for your projects and campaigns
- Adobe Premiere Rush for simplified video editing without diving completely into Adobe Premiere Pro
Vimeo’s Pro for customizable social video templates
- Motion Array for purchasing Adobe Premiere motion graphics templates to give your content eye-catching motion
- Stop Motion Studio, a free easy-to-use app for stop motion movie making
- Canva Infographics to lay out your data beautifully and sensibly
- Youtube Studio can auto-subtitle your video files and with an edit feature for fine-tuning grammar, spelling and timings.
- Soapbox by Wistia to record, edit and post videos
- Teleprompter, an app for IOS scripting and delivery
- Zubtitles, an app which automates your subtitles on social videos and allows you to customize them easily
Working remotely is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Make the most of it by challenging yourself to think more creatively about content production, whether you’re starting from the ground up or looking to re-energize what you already have.
Want to understand and improve creative results on social? Check out the seven lessons Team Sprout learned from a year of creative testing.