Basic Social Media Content

October 13, 2014

Yanked from some old comments. Here are two instances where people had difficulty with social media content. In one, there’s a disconnect on the “why” of social. In the second, there’s some trouble with content. These are pretty specific situations, but the first might help you understand the why (I have trouble if the “why” is unknown myself!) of social media. The second part with BBQ has more concrete examples, and might be less useful… but maybe it will inspire, too!

Social is most effective with a strategy. But we’re not all in a position to strategize — and it can be hard to develop one without clear direction on the voice you should use. If you can, though: a strategy beyond “post our products and niche-relevant information” is a very good thing to have. You probably won’t experience great success until you do strategize, honestly.

But — if you gotta do something, this is an okay way to go. Safe, boring — sure, but maybe that’s the best way for beginners to start out, especially when interacting with humans! And, yes — you should still write a strategy as in a guide for what you want to post, how you’ll post it, where you’ll get information, and so forth.

If you want to “go viral” or get a bazillion followers, this isn’t for you. This is “basic” and intended for people who can’t spend on a social media strategist (you of the lofty goal should probably spend). I mean “basic” as in something cheap, unrefined and — above all — easily identifiable as both to most.

But doing social media — even “basic social media” — is good. Savvy online shoppers check accounts for activity, negative feedback, etc. For some consumers, an inactive feed or a complete lack of presence is a red flag. Some customers might follow your company so they know where to go for future purchases — or who to yell at if something goes awry.

Beyond that, though, there’s one big, big reason to want social: you can draw in new customers.

Social Media — I Don’t Get It

When a person wants to buy pencils, they do a Google search. Most of these people are not looking to read blogs and social media posts. They’re looking for a website that SELLS pencils and they immediately want to see prices, how the products look, etc. So why does social media even matter in cases like this?

Drawing New Customers

Yes, the person who wants to buy seeks the easiest way to products, prices, and purchase. Most people in buy mode don’t want social media. But — some people don’t know they want pencils. That’s who you’re after! Say you make customized pencils. You create content for customers unaware of your product or how it could be useful to them.

The emphasis is important. “This is why you want custom pencils” is too general; content that gets that kind of title is really about you. “Why an electrician wants custom pencils” is about them and their needs.

Examples… testing centers where pencil is a must-have, teachers who want something for their students, parents looking for party gift ideas. You can create social media content such as “10 Cheap Ideas for Schoolteachers” and “Branded Pencils for SAT Testing Centers” and advertise any relevant specials (automatic discount for an education-related e-mail address sounds neat!) or products that might be of particular interest (sparkly glitter pencils for a kid’s party, for example).

Comparison to In-Store Shopping

Your social media content is essentially intended to snare the “browsing shopper” — the person who doesn’t know they need pencils or that you can get custom pencils.

The Internet is a different world from a store. When someone takes the time to get out of their house and into your store, they’re probably looking to buy. There are real-world browsers, yes, but “just browsing” is common on the Internet. You should want to attract the browsers too.

Spread and Scale

Social helps because even if you don’t quite hit the mark — maybe Janet saw your tweet. A few weeks later, her friend Sam is thinking up ideas for his kid’s birthday. Janet might remember your sparkly glitter pencil tweet and suggest it to Sam. If Sam does a search, he might even end up purchasing from you (if you’re first on the results, if you have the best prices, if your company shows up as a suggested follow because of Janet, etc.).

Of course — you can’t optimize for a tweet to suggestion to search to purchase! Many things can divert a person from buying, and the above scenario is probably never going to happen.

So, on the individual scale, this hardly matters. But social media efforts are cumulative, and when they reach many, many people, the scale makes it worthwhile. If you have a following, an interesting tidbit may get some retweets — and way more views. And you don’t need to aim for 1,000,000 views per tweet (how nice!). It’s more effective to get 1,000 views if those 1,000 people are in the demographics most likely to buy.

BBQ: Struggling for SEO Content

I make a BBQ sauce. I am not a grill master and struggle with relevant content. Suggestions?

Concrete Ideas to Work On

  • History of BBQ.
  • Famous BBQ restaurants around the world.
  • Reviews of different grills.
  • Reviews of different heat sources.
  • Food and drink pairing with different types (meats and sauces) of BBQ.
  • Bulk BBQ party ideas — a good one for big sales (churches, schools, reunions).
  • Where to get your supplies cheaply.
  • Reviews of specific supplies (e.g., this spatula versus that one).
  • BBQ holidays — if American: Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, etc. Any holidays where people get excited about grilling!
  • Explore where the traditions come from, ways to celebrate, etc.
  • Broad traditions carried on by a large number of people are neat!
  • Personal stories can also be huge. Examples: a touching personal account of a multi-generational family BBQ tradition, BBQ healing a rift between friends, BBQ bringing together big groups of people to do good.
  • “This Day in BBQ History” — create a calendar of historical events (e.g., the founding of a world-famous BBQ joint; the introduction of propane grills, etc.). Good for funny, easily-digested image content!
  • BBQ you probably haven’t tried before (hogs head barbacoa?).
  • BBQ analogues elsewhere in the world (tread carefully, as it’s easy to cause harm — and thus negative perception — with mockery or appropriation).

Got a Budget?

One concrete idea that requires spending but might result in a lot of exposure? Hold a BBQ event (cook-off, feed the homeless, family events, etc.). Tell local press, promote it on social, and advertise traditionally. After it’s over, add an overview to your website (make sure to photograph the event).

If it drew attention and you saw a bump in sales, consider repeating. Later approaching a national paper with, “I’ve fed 10,000 hungry, disadvantaged people for the past five years” might yield a big story. If you sell on the internet, a national rush for your product is a great thing to have.

Benefit of Social Media: Transparency

If you’re scared of running out of stock like what happened to American Giant, that’s a good problem to have, firstly. Secondly — most people are pretty okay if you’re transparent about your efforts to get them their product (and you do so in a timely manner).

Let everyone know you’re fulfilling orders and overwhelmed with the love and support for your product, and you’ll assuage most fears and increase confidence (no, not everyone will be happy, but it will help). Do so as a general announcement on social media, and make sure to make an individual e-mail contact for any orders you can’t ship immediately.

This is one other aspect of social that bears mentioning — if there’s a problem, don’t sweep it under the rug. Being transparent and announcing a problem and its imminent fix via social media can build confidence in your brand (please note: transparency doesn’t excuse your fulfillment of duties; people’s patience can wear thin!).

Places to Grab Ideas (Content Aggregation)

Television and Popular Media

Recommend or review TV shows when they feature grilling (Bourdain’s No Reservations, Bizarre Foods with Zimmern, and Man Vs. Food are the three I know of, but there are surely more).

The Internet! And Network Appropriateness

Easy and free. Follow grilling, meat, food, restaurant, BBQ sauce, and other relevant accounts, blogs, and similar. Create a BBQ Twitter list. Pinterest is really good for food, too — you’d probably have success both sharing and aggregating with Pinterest! (seriously though, Pinterest, stop with the things drizzled in chocolate/caramel/strawberries/ambrosia)

That’s another thing to keep in mind: network appropriateness. Some networks are good for some things, bad at others. For instance, a beer probably won’t get much love on LinkedIn. It’s mostly used by professionals and in a professional capacity. They may not want to associate themselves with alcohol. Reddit really dislikes outright advertising and applying a “basic” strategy won’t work. Pinterest is probably no good if your product can’t be aesthetically pleasing (it’s an image-heavy site). Twitter is best used interactively: posting without reaching out and interacting isn’t very effective. Facebook seems to require a ton of finesse and share-and-like heavy content.


Another thing to do is to follow the competition and periodically check them out. Adopt and adapt. What they do may not be good for your business, so don’t copy exactly. You really do not want to retweet a competitor’s product, for example — but it’s also bad because it’d be boring for someone to read duplicate content if they follow you and a competitor.

Also, the Internet isn’t that big of a place. All it takes is one person with a few followers to notice you’re copying. You become an example of an internet gaffe — and while these are often forgotten quickly (if they’re not egregious, that is…) it’s no fun receiving a barrage of social media mockery!

Content Example

Create a curated list of news relevant to your niche and aggregate from that. You have to write your own content, of course, but you can repeat content from others, too. An easy way to do this is to create top 5/10/15/20 lists. There’s a reason they are everywhere! You can literally lift a few different things from different websites, re-write the content, and you have something that is original (at least as one whole document). Note that these “list posts” are low-quality and not awesome — but they can also be effective, too, if done well. Tread carefully!

Another way is digging deep into the subject. For instance, when I was doing social media for a t-shirt place, I learned that “burnout” fabric was actually kinda-sorta created a really long time ago (1920s). I didn’t think it would be that well-known, and that that type of tidbit — particularly at a time when burnout fabric was highly-desired — makes for interesting content.

This can help you unearth information that no one else is sharing… which is good because it catches interest and people pick up your content (and hopefully share your content and link to you!).

Local Example

You pretty well have to have the most boring of the boring material to not have relevant interesting content, basically! For example, there’s an Instagram account I follow for a local garbage collection service. How do they make that interesting? They post about recycling initiatives, informative content about waste/cost/pollution, etc. They also post a bit of their big, heavy machinery trucks — which opens up an entirely different demographic. They actually have pretty good engagement, too, even though people tend not to care about garbage. What this account did really well: zeroing in on the content its followers want to see, even given a “boring” subject to work with.

BBQ is interesting, people love food, you’ve got it easy!


  • 25 October: Added link to Wired’s American Giant article as an example.