There is a reason there are thousands of articles online that address ways to improve your company's social media presence: Social media is fun to talk about, tough to implement, and presents a challenge for companies that want to be creative and stay consistent.
The truth is there is no cut and dry answer to social media. It's subjective, ever-changing, and ideas must be adapted to fit your business and brand. Wait, what was that? Yes, adapted means you have to do some work. Perhaps this is why so many struggle with social media. We hear words like "strategy" and "content creation," and we automatically cringe at the thought of where we should start climbing this beast of a social media mountain. It's simply too much work. Your company is not that complex, right? (These are probably some of the same people who said four years ago, "I don't have time for social media" or "My customers don't use Facebook.") Think again.
Shop the world, steal from the best
You do learn some things in school. An advertising professor at The University of Texas said, "Shop the world, steal from the best," and it holds true for many aspects of marketing in any industry. (Don't take the word "steal" literally, please.) Shop around for strategy and tactic ideas. Check out all kinds of brands and companies across the board on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter. Note what you love and what you don't. Take a look at regional competitors in your space and similar companies in your industry across the country. See how they engage fans with contests, images, blogs, and other creative ways like highlighting clients or staff. Save pages that impress you and that you would one day like to achieve. Even if you aren't sure how to implement something immediately, put it on a wish list so it can be top-of-mind when you are planning. Social media is an a la carte approach -- shop away.
Think big, be simple, stay fresh
This section is key to implementation (where most of us drop off, me included). Don't be overwhelmed or discouraged after looking at brands like Coke or Chobani; adapt (ahem, work) their tactics into your own social strategy. Note: Be sure to share unique content on each social media platform. Not everything on Twitter needs to be on Facebook and vice versa. Remember no company is too small to use these ideas; just make them your own and don't overcomplicate the concepts. Below are some items to think about and examples of what to adopt and why.
This goes back to your audience. Take current industry news and rewrite with your own opinion in a short blog post or repost to your fans. You don't always need to start from scratch or recreate the wheel. If a story is timely, your followers will be more likely to engage.
This is about expectations. If you are consistent with posts, fans will know what to expect. One good tactic is posting specific content each day of the week; you can try using weekly hashtags the community will look forward to and share or posting tips or advice on certain days. Make it fun, be creative, but be consistent.
Remember, your job is to stimulate desire and action from your audience; how you do that is determined by your goals and creativity. Pictures and videos are one of the best ways to get instant engagement and can be an opportunity for fans to share among their friends. Don't constantly pitch your work, but this is a great way to do it, sparingly. Offer a coupon, have a small contest, or solicit feedback from your followers. Whatever combination you choose, offer value, be genuine, and ask for engagement -- your audience will respond.
The more cohesive your approach is, the more credibility you will have. Want to become a credible resource? Provide advice related to your industry. Share industry events, community happenings, quotes from experts, and of course your own words as well. Make sure you provide value to your fans, and loyalty will follow.
Don't be afraid to flop
Social media is a living, breathing strategy. You aren't always going to score a home run, but you have to start somewhere. Now is the time when you can come up with actionable items. When you make your own rules, you are more likely to abide and succeed. The goal of creating fresh content and injecting big brand ideas starts with reevaluating yours.
Have some success stories of your own? More ideas to share? Comment and help other professionals stay creative when delivering social media content.
Amy Kauffman is the director of client relations for HMG Creative and eConnect Email.
On Twitter? Follow Kauffman at @AmyKauffman. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.
"Colorful illustration of a man winning a race" image via Shutterstock.