Creating Engaging Content
*all styling and photography by Lydia Menzies of The Party Wagon
There is no one just like you or your brand so spotlight your strengths and show-off your brand! But, Lydia, how?
“How?” is a question is I get a lot as people ask me about The Party Wagon and the services that I offer in my business. One of my favorite aspects of my business is to create content for other brands. I love the challenge and the creative process behind it.
On top of creating engaging content for my own lifestyle blog, this past year I have created social media and blog content for brands such as Square, BodyArmor, American Crafts, Tastykake, and many, many more. As you can see, the products that these brands offer vary greatly. Having the ability to create for each unique need is an important aspect for me. Below, I am sharing my tips on creating content— whether it is for your business or for a business that has hired you to help them bump up their social media presence. These suggestions will help you put the spotlight on the brand and to grow organically and authentically.
- Understand the brand and the goal. When you are creating content for yourself or others, think through what the ultimate goal is. Is it to sell a product? Is it to increase traffic to a website? Is it to attract more followers on social media? If the answer is “all of those”, then you must prioritize which is most important so that you have a clear focus on the task. Often, you will find that all areas benefit— but be sure to have a main focus on each project and let trickle-down positive effects be a bonus.
- Know what the consumer needs or desires. Research the brand and the typical consumer of the brand so that you know what interests the consumer. Notice what does well (and what doesn’t) on the brand’s social media posts. Just as an interior designer designs for a client’s particular likes and needs, so should a content creator. A client has reached out to you because they like your aesthetic, and they would like to see their product used with your personal style— but also ensure that it fits well with their typical vibe. Think of it as a creative challenge to appeal to what you already know they like while introducing a fresh perspective, look, or idea.
- Brainstorm content. I literally sit down and make a list of every idea that comes to mind that could potentially be used for a brand or a campaign. For instance, with my work with Square, I knew we wanted to go with a celebratory feel. They also requested seeing the name of the company in the photo post on IG, but we didn’t have a physical product yet. I decided to spell out the brand name with letter balloons on a colorful backdrop. I baked brownies in a square pan with the Square logo made out of powdered sugar. There was no computer or technology equipment in the photo, but the company name was very clear and eye-catching. The logo was incorporated in a way that made viewers look closer to see what was going on in the photo. I introduced the partnership in the description which leads me to the next tip…
- Tell a story or inform your audience. As IG developed, it began as more of a behind-the-scenes look at life with impromptu photos. Next, the trend became to post a beautiful photo and a cohesive “grid” with a catchy phrase or line. Now, we all seem to want a little more than just a gorgeous picture. Consumers want to see an interesting image, read an interesting backstory or learn a new trick or idea. There is a constant desire for more info and a glimpse of who is behind the account. Teach them something. Share an experience. Help them in a way that is easy to understand. Do you sell clothing? Share styling tips for everyday/weekend/holiday. Spotlight customers who share a photo of themselves in your product-this always generates a feeling of community. Do you host a food blog? Share an easy recipe once a week on IG to help make cooking easier for your readers and to generate interest in coming back to you each week.
- Know the trends that resonate with your customers and share how to incorporate them into their lives. Use hashtags effectively for trends that you want to promote so that consumers can find you. Be quick with trends and also know when they play out. Remember not to overuse trendy phrases in your posts or you will lose the trust of your audience. Not everything can “give you all the feels” or it begins to feel inauthentic. Find an appropriate way to express yourself in your captions that will relate to an audience and encourage them to engage with you. Being approachable and building a community feel goes a long way in promoting your brand and your social media presence.
- Show your product in action. Rather than only posting photos of your products displayed for sale, show them in an unexpected way. Add interest to your photos by placing your products in an eye-catching setting. Use video to show an action shot of what you are promoting. Be brave about creating motion! Explore the options on Instagram with the different camera settings and filters. Create motion which creates an experience— and is more likely to land you in the “explore” section of Instagram so that more people will see your account! Definitely use IG Stories to share glimpses of behind-the scenes or other facets of your business or self. If you create your own products, show yourself in action in Stories— even if it is only your hands creating. This is a great way to connect with your consumers!
- Appeal to emotion. Think of the feeling or vibe that you want your product to convey. How do you want consumers to feel when they use your product? Use photos that reflect that feeling and craft captions that do the same. The brand Tom’s initially grew their following on social media by highlighting the smiling faces of the people who received a pair of shoes each time a consumer bought a pair. This feeling of doing something good for another resonated with consumers and brought them back— especially because they could see the happiness on the faces in the photos. The marketing focused on the uplifting side of the story. There is a great opportunity to share goodness through business— and appealing to positive emotions is a way that consumers remember a good feeling. Also note that those accounts that use guilt or pity to try to appeal to consumers are usually short-lived. Focus on the happiness created versus negative emotions or creating a pity party for attention. Remember that the goal is not to burden them with your circumstances or emotions but to inspire them.
- Team up with other businesses. Collaborating is a key component here at The Southern C, and there is no better place to connect. The amount of growth and exposure that brands can offer each other in a collaboration is often immeasurable because the content lives on the accounts of both businesses. Being a part of a larger group is a very smart business move and leads to boundless opportunities. I strongly suggest being willing to chat and to get to know others in person or in the form of comments and direct messages. Just in the past year, I have had the honor of collaborating with Maizie Clark, Southern Baked Pie Company, Mae Wearable Art, The Preppy Stitch, Oconee Printing, Hannah Betzel, Helmsie Baby, For Heaven Bakes, Hoffman Media, Bulldawg Illustrated, Draper James, and several others that I have met through TSC. Realize the community that is available around us and choose wisely as you collaborate. Be respectful of what each has to offer in a collaboration and continue to build the relationship as you both grow. Loop each other into other opportunities where possible rather than viewing a collab as a one time chance to promote yourself. As you brainstorm ways to grow your exposure with a collaboration, keep in mind the ways that you can be helpful to the other businesses in the future, too. Create a network and help others grow as you grow, too.
- Plan Content. When you feel pressed for time, this tip can feel like a life saver! Ironically, you will need to pencil in time on your calendar to create content if you want to reap the benefits of being organized and prepared. First, plan for the following week or month. Use a calendar and decide what you will post to social media each day. Do the same for a blog. Set aside time each week (or month) to plan for the following week or month. There are apps that can help you schedule your posts if you prefer to compose them in advance. You simply have to set the time for them to post to your accounts. I often compose my IG posts and save them on IG for when I am ready to share them. I do not schedule the time because I like to engage with my audience and be present as I am posting. But, if you have different obligations during the day, you may find that scheduling the posts can be beneficial for you and help you stay consistent. Some ideas that can be helpful in crafting a more creative social media plan.. .my favorite is to host a party in my IG Stories and invite others to send a video or photo to share— this works best if you give them a theme or topic. Other ideas to create an engaging Instagram would be to create a contest, ask followers to tag a friend, host a giveaway, or share some of your favorite accounts. Sprinkle these ideas in throughout the month and you will find ways to connect with your readers. Give it time to become something that they look forward to— but also never be afraid to pivot if it is just not taking hold. Just don’t give up completely! If you miss a week or a day or two, go back to planning posts in advance. Think of IG and other social media accounts as tools to help you advertise your business. If someone offered you a free advertisement on television or a billboard, you would probably not turn it down. You would see it as an opportunity to reach more potential customers. Think of social media in the same way instead of as a beast to be slayed. Each day is an opportunity to find a new consumer and the tool can be powerful when you put time into effectively using it.
- Promote wisely. Use Instagram to help grow your brand’s awareness and also remember the strength of Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter depending on your type of business. Each one has strengths that can benefit your company in numerous ways. The audiences that you will find on each platform differ— which allows growth of your reach in different ways. I prefer to focus on 2 platforms when I am working solo, and I highly recommend learning about the best ways to use each one for your business so that you can decide the best way to use your time. Consider hiring a virtual assistant, college student, or high school student for a few hours a week to help you reach across the different social media platforms with the same content promoted in different ways for each one.
I hope these tips are useful for you in your mission to reach as many consumers as possible. Sharing your business and your product has never been easier yet sometimes feels harder than ever. I think that feeling is because we become overwhelmed by so many options from which to choose and a lack of time to learn it all. Remember to think of social media as a tool for sharing your business, and craft a strategy that helps you grow. Always keep in mind that you do not “own” your social media accounts and do not have control over what can and will change on those platforms. Cultivate excellent content for your brand and use it in conjunction with the access to promote through social channels, while keeping your website, online store, and/or brick and mortar store well-protected because it is what you own.
Cheers to connecting, collaborating, and creating (content)!