Killer visual content is the key to a powerful online presence. Here we chat with leading social media strategists about developing rich visual content and how to engage consumers. Instagram expert Sue B. Zimmerman, Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith, and social media strategist Peg Fitzpatrick (speaking to Pinterest trends) get you on track for a successful year. Blending 2018 predictions with tactical tips you can start today, these gurus will put you on the path to social success. Here’s what you need to do to rock social media in 2018.
Prioritize engagement above all else.
Sparking conversation and shares should be your main goal of social media. Not only will that keep your posts from being buried in the feeds, but meaningful engagement is where the ROI is. To do that, you have to understand how your audience is engaging in 2018. With predictions that video will account for 80% of global internet traffic by 2019, is your current content strategy poised to embrace this trend? Have you thought of your spontaneous content in the context that there are currently 250 million daily Instagram stories active? Do you know when people are searching for or pinning your content? Make the most of your platforms with these pro insights on audience engagement:
- Instagram Stories are booming. “Video in stories is where it’s at,” shares Sue Zimmerman. “I’m posting less frequently on my feed, but I’m very active in Stories. I’m getting thousands of views on my stories. This lends itself to creating even more stories. Share 15 second clips in your stories—and step up your personality. If you’re interesting, people will come back. Good humor does really well along with personality.”
Pro tip: Save Stories in your Highlight reel! Create highlight reels (as many as you like) to drive traffic to your blog, offering, landing page or product page.
- Facebook Watch, the behemoth’s on-demand video service, is one to watch, predicts Mari Smith, who thinks we’ll see more collaborative in-app video viewing in 2018. “Facebook is striving to be a player in live streaming,” says Smith. For small businesses this is a golden opportunity to create short video ads of 5-15 seconds. “Think of using these short video ads like incredibly inexpensive Super Bowl advertising targeted to a super specific audience,” says Smith. “Make episodic video content and prepare for these opportunities.” This prime access doesn’t have to be pricey: If you get your targeting right, pricing can be 1/10 of a penny per video view, shares Smith. Start with small spends and highly targeted boosting to make your dollars go further.
- Pinterest = long game. Pinners continue to plan ahead, states Peg Fitzpatrick who has over 34,000 followers on the platform. “If you have holiday posts, pin them months in advance. In December, people are pinning for Valentine’s Day. Things take time to spread and be found on Pinterest, it’s not like Twitter where you tweet something and it’s good for twenty minutes. Pinterest surfaces older pins that meet the needs of search and shares them. I have pins from 2015 that were my most popular pins during the 2017 holiday season even though I pinned them two years prior.”
Create different kinds of video for different goals.
Smith recommends a video-heavy strategy on Facebook, with particular attention to live streaming. Recent updates to the Facebook newsfeed algorithm will prioritize posts from pages that generate conversation. Live video can help get that engagement going. “With my own strategy, really within the last 12 months, I’ve pivoted to a content strategy that is 95% video. One year ago it was 60% video. That’s how important it is,” says Smith. If you’re uploading video, keep it to 90 seconds max. For live video, aim for between 5-60 minutes. Facebook Live broadcasts can be up to four hours, however.
“Longer videos may be given priority because Facebook wants to monetize them by putting an ad break in the middle or at the front,” explains Smith. Live streaming within Facebook and Instagram can boost engagement in the moment, but tend to get buried once the moment is over. So you also need video ad content that is short, snappy, and captures attention within 3 seconds. Smith says for in-stream video ads, 5-15 seconds is the sweet spot. “I do recommend mapping out a sequence of content that has an end goal. Are you doing an email campaign, do you want people to come in the door of your brick and mortar, do you want the phone to ring? Consider what goal you are trying to achieve and make video content to that end,” recommends Smith.
Pro-Tip: Create short video animations with one click in any dimension with Spark Post, like the one below. Short animations work great for adding a bit of allure to advertising graphics. .
Be consistent to gain trust.
Social media is ultimately about building a relationship with your followers. And like any relationship, trust is integral to a healthy, mutually beneficial relationship. Gain trust by consistently engaging in a way that is true to your brand and focus on providing value. Does your social media bio match the content you’re providing? Do you deliver on the promised information or offerings when someone clicks through from one of your posts? Do an audit every six months to ensure your brand and visual identity and messaging are in alignment.
“Both my personal and business account have over 50,000 engaged followers,” shares Sue Zimmerman. “I bring an authentic element to my personal Insta account, but as a business leader it’s important for me to lead. On my professional account, the feed is highly curated and I save that authentic, spontaneous side for Stories. Keep in mind that people won’t care about your personal quirks until they trust you. Once they trust you, then they’ll want to show up to learn about you. ”
Create for a mobile audience.
More than 80% of users access Facebook on their smartphone…is your 2018 social media content mobile-friendly? That means, everything you make should read clearly on a small screen. Go for images that are not grainy or blurry and don’t have too much text. “You have to be able to process the concept within seconds,” states Zimmerman. As for video, keep in mind that many viewers watch social video without sound, at least on first scroll. Incorporate text on screen to make sure your message comes across. In terms so format, “square video performs best,” shares Smith, “when you create videos in landscape format, the viewer has to turn the screen. This is a hassle and you’ll lose people.”
Empower the storytellers in your business and network.
It’s one thing for you to talk about yourself. It’s so much more powerful to get others to talk about you. Recognize the potential within your company or personal network for organically creating and amplifying your brand. With algorithms increasingly prioritizing content that comes from personal pages versus business pages, it’s more important than ever to encourage your supporters and network to evangelize your brand on social media. Consider the smart incentivizing strategy Sue Zimmerman employed at her brick and mortar: “In Cape Cod I had a retail store with seven teenage employees. I pulled people into my store by implementing an Instagram posting strategy, hashtag strategy, geotag, and, most importantly, empowering my girls to post store images to their feeds to attract the attention of all their friends. The girls were rewarded with a 20% commision of any sale directly resulting from one of their posts. Sales increased significantly that summer. I empowered the girls to be my buzz agents and amplify my business.” How can you build social media into the fabric of your brand or business? For more ideas, check out Zimmerman’s free 2018 Instagram Strategy Guide.
Leverage user generated content.
Your social media pages can’t just be you all the time. 1. That would be so much work! and 2. that’s not Find compelling ways to incorporate user generated content. Share meaningful content that users have made that boosts and aligns with your brand, but don’t curate your whole feed based on it, recommends Zimmerman. “You can engage your audience by doing sweepstakes or drawings, giveaways, or if they submit they may win a chance to be featured on your page or blog,” suggests Mari Smith. “You could even put their content in your cover image or a video on your page.”
Branded hashtags are another great way for users to engage with and share your content organically, as well as helping you find your tribe. And now that Instagram lets people follow a hashtag like they would an account, using the right hashtags is all the more important.
Key Takeaways to Remember with Each Post
Create content with the intent to stop thumbs mid-scroll. You want your audience to say, “This is awesome. I have to make that. I have to go there. I have to buy that,” says Zimmerman. Here are a few tips from the pros about getting that wow-factor that stops thumbs in their tracks.
- Make video a top priority. People gaze five times longer at video than at static content on both Facebook and Instagram. Videos created specifically for mobile perform best, and be sure to show your brand within the first few seconds (or by adding your logo)—with the core message coming through loud and clear with or without sound.
- Use photos and graphics with emotional pull. “The visual is the hook,” explains Zimmerman, “then the description (which doesn’t have to match the photo) says what you need to say, or directs readers to your blog or landing page.”
- Develop a unique visual style that matches your personality, character, and core values. “This is done in the words you print, visuals you share, the colors you select, and the fonts you use,” says Zimmerman. Be consistent with your editing and filters.
- Keep context in mind and keep it real. “When your audience is seeing your business content in their Facebook feed, it’s alongside all their friends’ stuff. They’re seeing stickers and emojis and playful posts from friends. If you have a clunky stock photo show up in the middle of that, it looks bad. The more natural your posts are, the better. Incorporate real people,” says Smith, who has over 200,000 followers on Facebook. Cute animals always help too!
You can still leverage free Creative Commons photography; just make sure the photo reflects your brand’s visual style. Spark just added 300,000 more free images with a variety of subjects and aesthetics, as well as access to premium stock photography from Adobe Stock.
- Beware of information overload in images. Call-to-actions and cliffhangers that compel people to click through to learn more work best. Save the meat of your content for long-form formats like blog posts, websites, or a Spark Page.
- Offer value on the feed. While you want to keep it simple and clear, you still need to give your audience something to respond to on the feed. “Your images should be a window into the content you’ve created,” explains Fitzpatrick. “On Pinterest show people what they’ll learn if they click, provide a mini-tutorial, or inspire people to click through to your website or blog.” Do this by succinctly describing what content you’re offering after the jump.