Want to know the real secret of social media success?
It’s something simple and often overlooked: consistency.
Social media is about building relationships. And, just as in real life, you can’t expect people to feel connected to your brand online unless you show up for them on a regular basis. Which is why most social media experts recommend posting several times a week.
Of course, you can’t be consistent unless you have content you can actually post. And if you have a small marketing team — or you’re a one-person business that has to wear all the hats — coming up with a constant stream of good ideas is easier said than done.
With this in mind, we’ve put together this guide to help you out.
Here are 12 ideas you can draw on that don’t require much effort, but will keep your social media feeds fresh and your audience engaged.
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1. Run a user-generated content campaign
User-generated content — where customers share photos or videos of your product or service in action — is the definition of low effort, high impact.
Your followers will create shareable content for you, to your specifications, for free.
And if you’ve come up with a winning idea (more on this in a minute), it’ll likely prove popular and perform well. Americans spend 39% of their time on social media watching user-generated content. Consumers also perceive it as being 2.4 times more authentic than branded content, and 79% say it has a significant influence on their buying decisions.
So, to recap, it gets great results, you can do it on a low budget, and your followers will do most of the work.
What’s not to love?
User-generated content campaigns can be extremely elaborate or stone cold simple, but most successful ones tend to have three things in common:
- They’re relevant to the brand. The product or service doesn’t necessarily have to feature in the content, but there’s usually a connection to it
- It’s reasonably easy for most social media users to take part
- The users get something out of it
GoPro for instance — a brand that has made user-generated content a cornerstone of its online marketing strategy — has created the GoPro awards.
Users enter photos or videos they’ve shot on their GoPro into one or more categories, on the understanding that GoPro can share them on their socials. The winners stand to pocket up to $1 million in cash and equipment.
But you don’t have to have a million dollars to spare — or give out any prizes — to give users a reason to join in.
Fashion brand Monsoon created the #MyMonsoon hashtag so customers can share their style and outfit ideas. Shoppers also get to see how Monsoon’s clothes look on real people in real situations, instead of photoshopped models in a studio. Which is, again, more authentic.
The appeal of a user-generated content campaign could also simply be the fun factor.
This is the case for many branded hashtag challenges on TikTok: it’s something all the family can do together. And it can work extremely well even if your product or service isn’t what anyone would call fun.
With 3 billion impressions, an 18% engagement rate, and an award nomination, it’s safe to say the campaign was a smashing success.
2. Run a contest or giveaway
Who could possibly resist?
In one study, 91% of Instagram posts with over 1,000 comments were contests. But contests and giveaways are — unsurprisingly — ridiculously popular on other social media networks too, whether it’s TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, or even LinkedIn.
As we’ve mentioned above, contests and giveaways are often linked to user-generated content campaigns.
That said, you don’t have to force your followers to (literally) do a song and dance if you don’t want to.
This giveaway from Health brand GoMacro, for instance, was as simple as it was effective: users just had to follow GoMacro’s account and tag two friends to have a chance to win.
And this giveaway from toy brand Funko was even more straightforward. Users just had to follow them on Twitter for a chance to win a limited edition Obi-Wan Kenobi figurine.
You could also link your contest to other conversion events. Users could enter by signing up to your newsletter, for instance, or by creating a free online account (if you run a subscription service).
Bear in mind, though, that the idea is to raise brand awareness, so your prize should be related to your brand somehow.
If you’re a CPA and you’re giving away an iPhone, for instance, chances are many contestants will take part because they want the iPhone, not because they might be interested in hiring you someday.
3. Run a poll
If social media has taught us anything, it’s that everyone seems to have an opinion about absolutely everything.
So why not embrace it and turn it into an opportunity for engagement?
Social media polls can give you valuable insights into what your customers think. Online business manager Elaine Rogers, for instance, ran this LinkedIn poll to find out what kind of content her audience would like to see more from her:
But not all polls have to be serious or have a specific business purpose. You could also run one for a bit of fun, like The Cheesecake Factory did here:
If you ask something that’s relevant or relatable, chances are your audience will weigh in and have a good time doing it.
4. Make a how-to video
Educational short-form videos — videos that are around 30 to 60 seconds long — are hugely in demand. According to Google, searches, especially for videos that have ‘how to’ in the title, are increasing by 65% year on year.
Aside from being popular and shareable, these videos are also a great way to showcase your expertise.
And if you produce them on a regular basis, your brand could become the first name your customers think of when they want to learn how to do something (and, eventually, when they decide it’s probably better to call a professional).
You don’t even need fancy equipment to get started.
5. Make a behind-the-scenes video
Nothing says authenticity like pulling back the curtain and giving your customers a look at what goes on behind the scenes.
Whether it’s a tour of your office, a clip of how your product or service comes together, or candid shots of your staff going about their day, behind the scene videos are a great way to humanize your brand. Plus, they can give your customers an appreciation of the care, effort, and skill that goes into your work.
This video by F1 racing team Red Bull Racing is a great example of a behind-the-scenes video done well.
Team principal Christian Horner walks viewers around the Red Bull factory — including the engineering room, the paint shop, and the gym room where drivers and mechanics get race-ready — giving specifics of what goes on in each room.
You could also go meta and share a behind-the-scenes video of your behind-the-scenes video. Videographer Jeff Rojas does this here, walking his audience through his process for shooting behind-the-scenes videos.
Or, if you don’t take yourself too seriously, you could share a bloopers reel, like Incite Video.
Your audience will have a good laugh, and you’ll seem much more relatable. How can you not like somebody who fudges their lines?
6. Make a “Day in the Life” video
Like behind-the-scenes videos, day-in-the-life videos give your customers a sneak peek at your workplace. But instead of giving them a broad overview, they get the chance to be a fly on the wall as an individual staff member or one of your teams go about their day.
The idea is to make your customers feel like they’re part of the process. And, again, it will give them a greater appreciation of what it takes to do what you do, which will help you build a stronger bond.
This video by online food channel About To Eat, for instance, is a warts and all look at life as a Michelin-starred chef — the early start, the long hours, the stress of running a service, and all the work that has to be done even after the restaurant shutters for the day.
But day-in-the-life videos don’t have to be drawn-out affairs. You could also create several shorter snippets.
Airline pilot Andrew da Costa, for instance, has a whole series of minute-long day-in-the-life videos on his TikTok account.
Some are funny, like this clip of him goofing off.
Some shine a spotlight on the most frustrating parts of being a pilot, like this clip about what goes on behind the scenes when flights are delayed.
And some are heartwarming, like this clip of him visiting his grandparents in Portugal after not having seen them for two years.
7. Conduct an interview
Done well, interviews are a win-win-win. And no, that’s not a typo.
Your followers get informative, insightful, and entertaining content.
If your guest is an industry expert, influencer, or customer, they get free content for their own social media feeds. Which means they’ll probably share it with their followers and, so, help you reach a wider audience.
Best of all, interviews are a goldmine of other content ideas.
Aside from hosting the live event — or sharing the recording, if doing a live interview makes you nervous — you can also:
- Share a highlight reel
- Share individual clips
- Share specific quotes as text-based posts
- Create an infographic with key insights
- Turn the interview into one or several longer text-based posts or threads
That’s several days or weeks’ worth of content sorted, in one fell swoop.
8. Share your top tips
People are always looking for tips and tricks that will make their lives easier. So if you have some of your own to share, they could prove popular with your followers and position you as an expert resource.
You could share power user tips or clever hacks that teach your followers something valuable while showcasing your product. Makeup company Maybelline, for instance, has a library of tips on their Instagram account that show you how to achieve specific looks.
You could also share your own processes and lessons learned about issues of general interest.
For example, there’s growing interest in productivity hacks and daily routines, especially now that many of us are working from home at least some of the time.
9. Share a list
What are you and your team into?
People love lists, because they make it easier to process information. So why not make one — or more — lists of your own and share them with your followers?
You could make lists that are relevant to your business, like the best industry books you’ve ever read, inspiring newsletters and blogs, or must-follow social media accounts.
But you could also have a bit of fun and share lists of your favorite TV shows, a Spotify playlist, or something silly like fast food chain Wendy’s list of favorite beverages by state.
These lists will make you more relatable and are bound to spark lively discussions, especially if some of your choices are controversial.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to tag the social media accounts of those that made it to your list. They might share your post to their followers or even join the conversation themselves.
10. Share relevant industry content
You don’t have to share your original content all the time. Curating content from other relevant sources like industry publications, blogs, and influencers can also position you as an authority, create engagement, and add value to your followers.
|Clicks per post
|Conversions per post
|Brands that curate 75%+ of their content
|Brands that curate 50-75% of their content
|Brands that curate 49% or less of their content
Source: Convince and Convert
Curated content also gets 33% more clicks, on average, than branded content. And 50% of marketers say it has made their brand more visible, boosted web traffic and SEO rankings, and improved their reputation as thought leaders.
While curating content means you don’t have to go through the effort and expense of coming up with great ideas and executing them, you do need to put in some legwork to find relevant, informative, and inspiring content to share.
11. Share your views
Have an opinion on an industry trend, a new development, or an argument you’ve seen doing the rounds?
Tell your followers what you think.
Social psychologist and researcher Robert M. Kramer observes that, because we’re social animals, we tend to listen to others before making up our own minds on a particular subject. We also tend to be more trusting of those who share our same values, opinions, and beliefs.
The upshot is that, while there’s a risk your opinions might put off some followers, you’ll also build a much stronger bond with those who agree with your take. And this means they’ll likely be more loyal.
Sharing your opinions can also open up a broader discussion and create more engagement. Just make sure the discussion stays calm and respectful.
12. Review your favorite tools
Is there a product or service your team loves or wouldn’t be able to do their jobs without?
Why not put together a written or video review?
Giving other businesses free publicity on your social media accounts might seem counter-intuitive, but there’s actually a lot you can gain from it.
For starters, the business whose product or service you review will appreciate the shoutout. You can just about guarantee they’ll share a glowing review with their followers, which could put your brand in front of customers you might not have reached otherwise.
You’ll also add value to your own followers by giving them more insight into how you work. And, perhaps, you’ll help them discover a tool they’ll find useful in their own jobs or businesses.
Social media posting for small businesses, in a nutshell
If you’re a small or one-person business, coming up with ideas for social media posts day in day out can seem overwhelming. But there are more ways than you think to show up consistently and add value to your audience.
In fact, if you’ve managed to read this far, we hope we’ve shown you that it can be much easier than you think.
At the end of the day, social media marketing is about building long-lasting relationships. And that means you can’t go too far wrong if you stick to three basic principles.
First, focus on what you can offer that matters to your audience. What do you know that your audience would find relevant, useful, or interesting?
Second, be human.
Nobody goes on social media to get constantly bombarded with sales messages. So listen to your audience. Have a conversation. And, yes, why not? Share a joke or have a bit of fun along the way.
Lastly, make sure you’re tracking your performance.
If you know and understand the numbers, you can do more of what’s working and waste less time and effort on things that aren’t delivering good results.