10 ways to stop your social media updates being a news snooze

Paul Boag

Social media is not a channel for broadcasting. Rather use it to engage. There is no shortages of material making that possible.

One of my biggest pet peeves are social media channels that consist of nothing but news stories and press releases. Social media is a channel for engagement not broadcasting. Status updates like these look out of place in people’s social media streams.

Imagine for a moment a normal persons social media timeline. It consists of silly bits of trivia, family photos and links to interesting content. It is full of fun, banter and snippets of life. Amongst that, sits this update:

It just looks out of place. Surely we can do better?

In my last post on social media I talked about some of the different post types you could use. In particular I touched on:

  • Competitions
    • Questions
    • Announcements
    • Humorous
    • News
    • Personal
    • Resharing

But, coming up with ideas for these different post types can be challenging. In this post I want to outline show ways of finding inspiration for your social media streams.

So without further ado, here are top 10 sources of inspiration.

Start a discussion

One of the best things you can do on social media is start a discussion. This works well on Facebook, because unlike Twitter, users can see posts from other people who follow the same page.

What makes discussions so good is that they engage with your audience and start to build a relationship. Better still, it allows you to get to know your customers. It can even help shape the future direction of your products and services.

Some discussions can revolve around your products and services, but it is good to mix it up. For example, if your customers are geeks, discussion topics could include:

  • Which is better Star Wars or Star Trek?
  • What is the most ridiculous technology fix you had to do for a family member?
  • What is the best gadget you have ever bought?
  • What is the biggest challenge in your job?

The idea is to get your audience engaging with you and each other. It is about building relationships.

Interview people

Interviewing people within your organisation is a great way to find content for social media. You can either post snippets of these conversations or turn them into blog posts that you then share.

Best of all is to record these interviews. Audio recording is easier, but I would encourage you to try video. The video doesn’t need to be high quality. The idea is to put a human face on the company, not create a slick promotional video.

It’s amazing what you can do with a smartphone and a youtube account. Video is worth the effort because it is personal, engaging and gets shared more.

Organise a community activity

Innocent Smoothies use social media to organise their ‘big knit’ campaign. This campaign raises money for Age UK and turns customers from passive consumers into an active community.

Innocent Smoothies uses their Big Knit campaign to engage with their community.
Innocent Smoothies uses their Big Knit campaign to engage with their community.

Organising these community activities help customers feel apart of something bigger. It also associate themselves more with your brand.

Raising money for charity is a great community activity, but it is not the only option. Mashable runs a photo challenge for its readers each week. Smashing Magazine asks its readers to create a calendar wallpaper each month. These activities highlights people from within the community and knits the community closer together.

Take a walk

When I train people in the use of social media I sometimes take them on a walk. We leave the confines of our workshop room and wander around the organisation. It’s amazing how much inspiration for social media content is all around us.

The problem is we become blind to our environment and even our colleagues. But, if you walk around your company looking for social media inspiration you find it all around you.

You tweet things you overhear, photograph silly desk ornaments and remember funny anecdotes.

All these little things help to give people a sense of life at your organisation. They humanise the company and that helps build loyalty among your followers.

Capture daily life

It is about opening your eyes to the daily life that goes on around you. The everyday things that you take for granted help tell the story of your company and products. They may seem mundane to you but these help your customers appreciate everything that goes into your offering.

Take for example a company I used to work with — Wiltshire Farm Foods. They make frozen ready meals. Not the most exciting of products. Yet, the stories behind these products are inspiring.

I met a guy called Micha who worked in the cold room. He spent his days working in –20 degrees. I cannot tell you how cold it was in there and yet he seemed oblivious. He was cheerful, enjoyed his job and was great to chat with.

Wiltshire Farm Foods was full of people like Micha. Chef’s, drivers, nutritionists and many others involved in preparing their frozen meals. There are people like that in your company too. They may seem mundane to you, but they help your customers appreciate what goes into the products and services they use.

Be nosey

Interesting stories like Micha surround us, but to discover them we need to be nosey. We rarely ask our colleagues what they are working on or even hang out with people in other departments.

Make a point of taking an interest in all aspects of your organisation. It will be amazing what nuggets you will discover just by better understanding what your colleagues do all day. It’s also a great way of breaking out of departmental silos.

Look outside the company

So far I have focused on searching for social media content within your organisation. But, you can look further afield too. After all, the aim is to engage with your followers. That means anything that might interest them is relevant.

If you read an article written by somebody outside of your organisation, don’t be afraid to share it. If you discover a cool resource or a great event, it doesn’t matter that your company didn’t arrange it.

You might not want to share content created by a competitor, but there are enough industry publications that you can draw upon. Avoid, being entirely inward focused.

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Talk about your customers

One great source of external content is your customers. Your colleagues have some great stories, but so do your customers. Use social media to highlight your customers from time to time. You don’t even need to talk about how they use your products or services, you can just talk about what they do.

Highlighting customers shows you value them and helps to reinforce a sense of community. It also appeals to our desire for conformity and association. If a cool person uses your products and services then perhaps I should too.

Ask for suggestions

This may seem obvious, but it amazes me how few people do it. If you are looking for ideas for social media updates — ask.

Start by asking colleagues. Create a web form where anybody inside your organisation can post suggestions for updates. You can then pick and choose which ones to schedule and edit as appropriate.

Also ask your followers. They can be a great source of inspiration and it shows you value their opinion and contribution.

Be personal

Finally, don’t hide behind your corporate account. Let your followers know that you are a real person. Maybe use the bio associated with the account to say who is doing the posting.

Don’t be afraid to share nuggets from your own life. People enjoy glimpses into those behind a social media account. It helps your account fit in more with the updates they see from friends and family.

That should be our aim — to make followers feel like you are just another friend posting updates to social media. If you can achieve that, you will find them much more amenable when you do ask them to buy or support you in some other way.