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Managing a social media channel is somewhat like creating a magazine or running your own TV network.  Each channel, you can produce a series of unique content. You can syndicate your content to other channels (e.g. cross-posting from Snapchat to Instagram). You can have reruns of fan favorites to fill in for empty time-slots (#ThrowBackThursday), and commercial breaks to sell your products.

Defining your content mix

the recurring formats and post types you’ll rely on—makes it easier to think up and produce social content while adding a rhythm to your posting schedule to offer your audience both variety and consistency at the same time. Otherwise, you’ll wind up scrambling for something to publish every day.

Most social media accounts worth following make an implied promise to their audience that they consistently fulfill. For business owners, it often starts with a question:

Beyond your products, how can you consistently provide value to your target audience?  It’s not only about what you post, but how you allocate your resources (time, money, creativity) to maintain your social media presence on a specific channel. Some ideas will warrant a greater investment because they help achieve a number of your goals at once.

But within your content mix, you want to also have ideas you can plan for in advance, reproduce, and schedule to go out on a regular basis.  For example, you might feature a customer testimonial every Tuesday and share a quote graphic every Wednesday and Friday. These pieces that are relatively easy to turn around can keep your social media calendar full while you build out more elaborate assets, such as a promotional video or a blog post.

The content mix you develop can incorporate the following:

  • News: Information about what’s happening in your industry or posts that are based on what’s trending at the moment.
  • Inspiration: Motivation to use your products or pursue a certain lifestyle, such as quote graphics or photos from around the world.
  • Education: Share fun stats, tutorials, and facts or how-to posts from your blog or YouTube channel.
  • Product/promotional posts: High-quality product shots of your products being used, demo videos, testimonials, or feature explanations can help you achieve your ultimate goal of getting sales. You can often run these as ads after you create them.
  • Contests and giveaways: A contest or free download in exchange for an email is a great way to promote something of value to both you and your audience other than your products.
  • Customer/influencer features: Shots or videos featuring your customers or the people they follow.
  • Community events: Share meetups, fundraisers, or learning opportunities, especially if you’re a local business.
  • Q&A: Ask your audience a question or make a request to elicit responses, such as ‘Tag a friend who’s always late”, or answer a common question that you get from customers.
  • Behind-the-scenes: Share how your product is made or what you’re doing to grow your business to offer some transparency that your audience can relate to. Giving your audience a look into the humans behind your business can go a long a way to create trust or build your personal brand as a founder.
  • And more: Get creative and try to come up with a content mix that differentiates you from your competitors.

Aim for about 5-7 content archetypes to start off with, balancing your content mix with post formats that you can quickly create with a couple that might take some time to produce, like a product demonstration video, as well as posts that aim for sales and posts that just seek to delight and grows your audience.

Based on my example of selling LED shoes to an audience of dancers and music festival goers, I might start with the following content archetypes, tying each one to different goals until I have a healthy mix:

  1. Promote a post to a popular product in my store. (Sales)
  2. A relatable meme about EDM culture. (Awareness and engagement)
  3. Share a roundup blog post of top 10 music festivals/songs/etc. this summer and ask for audience opinions. (Engagement and creating demand)
  4. Share a cool dance video from YouTube. (Audience building and engagement).
  5. Share a popular song from Spotify. (Engagement)
  6. Highlight a specific product feature (Sales)
  7. Share a dance video or picture submitted by a customer and tag them (Engagement, sales, create demand).

Some of these ideas might be flops. Some might be hits. The point is to come up with goal-oriented concepts to test out.

Vary your programming so it doesn’t lean too heavily on sales posts. When new followers land on your account, their perception of your brand will likely be your last 3-6 posts (depending on the platform). If they’re all explicitly selling your products or services, it will turn them off.

Note: Keep in mind that anything you create can potentially be promoted again and again to your audience over time, or on other channels. Don’t shy away from eventual “re-runs”, especially if a certain post has proven to give your traffic, engagement, or sales a bump.

To get you inspired to come up with your own content mix, here are some ideas that you can borrow from brands that are doing well on social media.

Get customers to contribute content

Luxy Hair relies on style education via their blog and YouTube channel to market their hair extensions, which no doubt takes time to produce.

But on their website and in their marketing communication, they encourage their customers to share before and after pictures on Instagram using a branded hashtag. These photos are then shared on Luxy’s own Instagram account or store using one of the available Shoppable Instagram apps.

If your products beg to be shared on social media, you can harness that to source social content that you can use for your own social media posts, tagging your customers to give them the spotlight.

Shots of your product being used

While it’s great to have several content formats to add variety to your social media marketing mix, even one proven content archetype can do wonders for growing your audience if published consistently.

Letterfolk’s Instagram is a great example of how developing a theme through what you post can make social media publishing less work in the long-run without sacrificing engagement. Nearly all of their posts feature the same premise: an interior shot of their flagship letter boards sporting a relatable quote.

They can succeed with this strategy because each post helps them achieve several of their goals at once, namely:

  • Create high-level engagement with relatable quotes.
  • Grow a following through an account with a clear and consistent premise.
  • Drive sales by showing off the product in action.

Think about how you can develop your own content formats to chase several of your goals with a single post.

Humor that relates to your target audience

Being funny can go long way in getting your audience to engage with what you post. If humor lends itself well to your brand, then by all means make room in your social media marketing for content that elicits a laugh.

Squatty Potty is a great example of this. Their flagship product (a toilet stool that optimizes your posture in the bathroom) would be hard to sell seriously. So they don’t.

Instead they rely on viral content formats, such as memes and funny videos, to get engagement on Facebook and other channels.

If a joke is a hit, then you can consider paying to promote it to reach a larger audience (few things spread better on the internet than laughter).

When you’re starting out, you might not have the time or money to produce high-quality content that’s customized for each social channel. Start small with a few ideas to experiment with. As long as you maintain a regular schedule and keep an eye on how your posts are performing, you can adapt your content mix over time.

Additional tips and resources

  • Be visual: Even if you’re not a designer or video editor, you can use free tools like Canva (social graphics), Adobe Spark or Lumen5 (videos), Meme Generator and more to produce shareable content.
  • Always aim: Tie each post in your content mix back to your target audience and one or more of the goals you established. Knowing what to measure will help you evaluate the success of a particular idea and inform your strategy over time.
  • Curate and create: To avoid becoming overwhelmed creating original content, try to curate and remix content as well. Be sure to tag and credit your original sources and ask for permission if you’re unsure.