Feeding the social media monster feels like a 24-hour job. But before you go driving your car off the Golden Gate Bridge, read this.
It’s true that content is king. And when it comes to social media, you need beautifully curated and engaging feeds that entice new customers and keep your current ones engaged.
But these feeds aren’t going to beautify themselves now are they? If you’re reading this, you’re likely managing a social media feed where “fresh” content is always at a minimum and you too are feeling like not enough night cream in the world will save you now.
Allow me to give you some important background on why this topic is near and dear to my heart. I got my digital career jump start at Harpoon Brewery, where I worked my way up over four years to the Director of Digital. And while I loved that job, I do blame it for almost all of my premature wrinkles.
I started my digital career at what felt like the very beginning of the social media bubble. I put a ton of pressure on myself to grow the heck out of our channels and that whole “social media never sleeps” thing used to stress me the F out. I also think I perpetuated the mentality of “social media never sleeps,” which my former colleagues can attest ( hey, Jordan!) was exhausting. Because ugh, yeah it does, and so should you.
I have very vivid memories of my thirst for content. Everything, and I mean everything, was a content opportunity. I had a can of freaking Harpoon IPA with me wherever I went and 99% of the time I was brainstorming captions rather than being in the moment. And spoiler alert, wrinkles THRIVE in this environment.
Here was one of my favorite past times. At night, right before bed, while I should have been masking, I would go on a “liking spree” on Instagram:
Liking spree = when you spend 30 minutes on Instagram, engaging (i.e. liking and commenting) like a feign with as many posts as you possibly can by searching your branded hashtags and location tag, periodically going down rabbit holes that you’ll never be able to explain.
It for sure aided in my eventual burn out but hot damn did that channel grow! And that was before ads, and instagram’s stupid algorithm, and for sure before Siri and Alexa were listening to all of our conversations.
As I dip my toes back into the social media world by managing the strategy and curation for a few clients, I thought it was the perfect time to reflect on past mistakes and help you with some strategies that I wish my younger, naive, and way less wrinkly self knew back then.
Here are four ways you can curate more content for your social media feeds:
1. Ask Fellow Employees For Help (the right way and with some caveats)
Like most things in life, there is a correct way and an incorrect way to solicit the help of your fellow colleagues. The last thing you need is Sharon from accounting sending you selfies and then following up with you a week later asking why you haven’t posted her picture on Instagram yet…
Rather than just a blanket email or verbal request like “send me pictures!” take this as a moment to teach and collaborate with your coworkers. Who knows, you might discover that Terry from HR who doesn’t understand how “The Twitter” works, takes dope pictures.
Here are the right ways to get potential pieces of content from your colleagues:
- Host a social media training session. I can tell you from experience that blindly asking for photos will get you nowhere. I’ve also learned that you can’t assume your coworkers are as hyper-focused on your social media accounts as you. But if they hear from you about your goals and your process, they will be in a better position to help you snap the content you are so freaking thirsty for.
Invite coworkers into the fold to learn about social media and how you (and if you're lucky, your team) are crushing it. This can, and should, be super informal with the basic goals of:
Sharing with your fellow colleagues your social media goals and strategy
How they can help.
Protip: Offer free food like bagels, cookies or donuts and participation will double #trust
- Kickstart a Weekly/Monthly Social Media Round-Up Newsletter. As I mentioned above, besides you and your mom, no one at your job is checking your brand’s social media on the daily. By creating a weekly or monthly social media newsletter that you can circulate internally, you’ll get the chance to keep everyone informed and show them what kind of content you’re posting. In the newsletter you can even include calls-to-action for submitting content around a specific campaign you’re planning. This strategy may not lead to a huge content stream, but a lot of good will come from keeping everyone informed. After all, if people in your own company aren’t liking, commenting and engaging with your content, why in the heck should the general public be?!
- Utilize Google Photos or apps like PhotoCircle. By providing everyone with a place to share photos, you’ll set yourself up for organizational success and keep everything streamlined. This might not totally prevent Jim from Outer Market Sales from texting you photos from his bar promo at 1 o’clock in the morning but it’s worth a shot, right?
2. User Generated Content (UGC)
User Generated Content can and should be incorporated into your content strategy. 85% of consumers find visual UGC more influential than brand photos or videos. EIGHT-FIVE percent people! That’s huge! Here are some other UGC stats that might blow your mind:
86% of millennials say that user-generated content is generally a good indicator of the quality of a brand or service.
It’s nothing personal, but people trust other people more than they are ever going to trust your marketing - no matter how epic your photo is. So give the people what they want, and start sharing UGCs that fit your brand aesthetic.
Here's where to find UGC:
Search your branded hashtags as well as different variations of your hashtag
Search your business AND local location tags
Look at the photos you have been tagged in
Check-out Yelp/Trip Advisor/Google Reviews etc. for pictures that are associated with a review
Ask your followers. It seems simple but just ask. Curating user-generated content from your current customers is an awesome way to engage them in your marketing process. It’s a fun and powerful way to make them feel included in your brand. Plus, this can be a great source of internal comic relief as you are bound to get some real doozies.
So you find awesome pictures… not what? What I am about to tell you goes against my life motto but when it comes to using UGC, this is a biggie... Ask for permission, not forgiveness. Regardless of how you find it, as a brand you need to ask permission from the original creator — even if they tagged it with your specific UGC-focused hashtag. It’s important to go the extra mile and send a DM to the creator, instead of just leaving a generic comment on their post. Remember that you’re asking permission to use a creator’s work — it’s worth sending them a nice note!
Correctly crediting the creator is the final, and arguably the most important, step to reposting user-generated content. Start by tagging your creator in the image — a simple tag means that the creator will be notified of your post. Plus, it will appear on their “tagged” posts on their profile. This is one more link back to your profile, which builds that connection even more.
Finally, credit the creator in your caption. And if you learn nothing else from this blog post, for the love of god, do not use repost app. Just don’t. Please.
3. Source from Stock Photography Sites
Old Jules was so hell bent on “original” content that my blinders were up to a super helpful content curation source: stock photography sites. There are so many options nowadays where "stock" photos don't have the same negative connotation that they once had.
Spend some time sourcing visuals that tell the story of your brand. You might be a winery but one of your core values is pairing great food with wines. This most likely means that getting people together to enjoy good food and wine is super important to you. In this instance, you might consider curating images of interesting eats, influential chefs in your area, and/or restaurant decor that fits your aesthetic and vibe.
Bottom line: your brand “story” has SO much more to it (hopefully!) than the product(s) you’re selling.
Need some inspiration? Anthropologie, Hum Nutrition, and Beard Brand are three brands that do a great job of this. Sure, a majority of their posts feature their products, but you can also clearly see a lifestyle theme. This makes their brand way more interesting and a lot less sale-sy.
While Instagram is a great source for this, the following websites can help you curate (free!) photos that speak to your brand essence. Plus, they will drastically relieve the pressure to always produce original branded content:
Unsplash Unsplash offers a large collection of free high-resolution photos.
Pexels Pexels provides high-quality and completely free stock photos licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. Lots of variety here and you can create shareable boards for you and your team.
Burst Most of the pictures are original photos that were taken in-house and are themed around trending business niches.
Reshot Reshot is a massive library of handpicked free stock photos you won’t find elsewhere. It was built for startups, freelancers & makers who are sick of tacky stock photos. Plus, no attribution is required.
FoodiesFeed FoodiesFeed offers thousands of beautiful realistic free food pictures. Warning, this site will make you hungry.
PicJumbo New free photos are added daily from a wide variety of categories including abstract, fashion, nature, and tech.
LittleVisuals Little Visuals was a passion project of Nic Jackson. Sadly, Nic died suddenly in November 2013. His family started the site as a way to honor his work and his photographs will remain available and free for commercial use for all of time. Pretty cool!
4. Consult a Pro
Chances are, social media is a fraction of your job responsibilities and some days the “what should I post?” question is the last thing you want to deal with. Or maybe the tips in this post sound helpful but who’s got the time?!
Collaborating with a “professional” or working with a content specialist can save you time and keep YOU sane. A total win-win. It doesn’t mean you aren’t awesome or that you don’t know what you’re doing (but seriously, who does?!). We can all benefit from a little outside perspective from time to time.
Speaking of a pro... Hi, there! I'm 100% confident RHM can help you out - whether it's brainstorming campaign ideas, fine tuning your social media brand aesthetic, or helping you create some cool content. Plus, we provide free anti-aging regimen advice to all social media coordinators. Drop us a line here.
I’ll leave you with this: You’re not alone. And the world won’t end if you don’t post the perfect picture. But the more you can think out-side the box, get into the minds of your customers, and lean into others, the more interesting your feed will be -- and more importantly, the more fun your feed will become to manage. You got this!
About the Author: Founder. Dreamer. Master of None. It's been 9 years since Jules has been paying off her Masters Degree in Social Work loans—zero years of which have involved doing actual Social Work. Instead, she's built a career decoding the puzzle that is the internet and digital marketing. Experienced. Humble. Often burned by auto-correct. Jules created Rolling Hills Media so she could write her own rules and to help brands do the same.