Those of us who grew up in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s understand what many had to learn during the decade-long year that was 2020: you can be a part of a family, team, or community without seeing or talking to the other members of said community for days, weeks, or months on end – and that’s perfectly okay.
I know – 2020 came close to breaking even the stubbornest latch-key kid, but vaccines showed up just in time for us to get out, see a few people, then return to our newly remodeled home offices and curl up to watch our streaming services and connect with our new invisible BFFs (the Instacart and DoorDash delivery people).
As I sit in my pretty new Zoom-certified home office (aka my bedroom), I thought I’d share with you a few ways businesses and marketers can use social media to connect with their communities while we all get used to seeing each other in person again.
Niche Your Content/Products
Early in our SMTULSA Conference days, entrepreneur Becky McCray shared a quote – “The narrower your niche, the larger your reach.” She was right then, and even more right today.
Today, there are entire YouTube channels with millions of subscribers that focus on one topic. Want to know what you can cook in an air fryer? There are channels, blogs, groups, and feeds specifically devoted to that. Want to nerd out about the new Marvel movie or Disney+ show? Yes please. The nerds are finally winning the content wars. During season two of The Mandalorian, it seemed like all of Twitter was relying on a few Youtubers to breakdown every episode and share Easter eggs for what made it so awesome.
One of my current projects is an e-commerce store where we dropship sunglasses by different manufacturers. One of our most popular pairs are the blingiest cat-eye sunglasses you’ve ever seen. A throwback for sure – but after watching The Crown, they reminded me of the style that Helena Bonham Carter wears as Princess Margaret. Now they don’t look good on me, but an ad targeting fans of the show has sold more than 200 pairs since December 2020.
Think about the one thing that is most popular in your line up. What is the thing that people most ask you to do for them? Why not create a strategy to produce content, ads, a channel around that one thing? I don’t mean stop promoting your other items or services but focusing on that one thing might bring you back to the why you started in the first place.
Some people call it being authentic, but it’s really something that we all need to focus more on in a world that seems to be so divided – at least on some social media platforms.
I don’t believe that we are in any more of a “cancel culture” than back when leaders burned books and albums they deemed unfit for the times. We tend to be so reactionary in our stances for or against anything that we forget to listen, educate ourselves, and respond with sincerity.
Take for instance the new movie In The Heights. I won’t go into too much detail here (read more about it here) but the much-anticipated theatrical version of Lin Manuel Miranda’s hit play finally hit the theaters and streaming services this month – and while people were excited to see a movie that represented the Washington Heights community, it failed in its representation of Afro Latinos. I want to draw attention to the way LMM responded to the criticism. That’s how you listen and respond when someone has legitimate criticism of your work.
Social media is moving towards smaller more connected communities around brands, topics, and interests. My students at OSU-Tulsa use social media (Instagram mostly) to share posts with their friend circle, mostly via DM and private chat.
Clubhouse was the darling of 2020 because it allowed groups of people to chat about topics that interest them. It’s like an old-fashioned party line – but only a few people are talking, and a bunch of people are listening.
Now, Facebook and Twitter have integrated voice chat into their platforms. While the platforms get sorted out, brands can find ways to connect with customers by simply inviting them into a conversation.
A few years ago, we all went heavy on the “if content is king, video is queen” trope. While we all started switching to video content, we completely forgot how to write and tell stories that lasted more than 3 minutes (guilty!). Luckily, there’s still room for storytelling in all forms of media, and brands should make sure to include all forms in their content mix.
It’s still cool to tell stories via video – just search the “Storytime” hashtag on TikTok and, when your battery dies, come back to this post and tell me what you learned. All I’m saying is, don’t forget a picture is worth a thousand words, and that a thousand words can tell a compelling story, too.
Facebook Groups Grow Brands
When done right, Facebook groups can be the place where brands connect with their customers, fans, and other like-minded individuals. Like the small chat messenger groups, Facebook groups tend to be larger and can provide more organic growth for a brand than any single piece of social media marketing.
When someone joins a group they’re saying, “These are my people” – or at least, the people I want to know more about. Facebook groups allow us to connect with people who share an interest or need assistance.
A few groups sprang up in 2020 to help small businesses survive and sometime thrive:
- Stand Up to COVID 19: This group, now over 40k members, is the place to go to search for local businesses and recommendations from our neighbors
- Shop Black Business Hub: This group, now over 109k members, began as a place for black-owned businesses from around the country to share their products and services, as well as for those who wanted to support those businesses. I know I’ve personally found a few favorites from this group.
- Tulsa Vegan Guide: This group, now over 5k members, was created by one person who had a list of all the restaurants in Tulsa with vegan options on their menu. Several local businesses have posted their vegan options in the group and have enjoyed much success from the Tulsa vegan community.
What I’ve learned from all these groups is that even though we are all connected digitally, we don’t know everyone or every resource. Joining together has helped me clean up the Social Media Tulsa Facebook group and start a Black-owned business group here in Tulsa.
Unpolish Your Shit
I’ve said for years – “It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be you” – but most people didn’t want to believe that being your authentic self outweighs high production content creation. Being at home for over a year taught us that it’s okay to show your kids or your real life when you’re on a Zoom call. We all have personal lives.
Shoot a TV commercial from your home? Heck yeah! In fact, in 2020 if your content was too produced, you might even get criticized for it.
Don’t get me wrong. When it comes to your social media strategy, there’s still a need for great production quality – but people want to see something real. Authentic content makes us all feel more of a connection to the people behind the brands and products we use every day.
Cheryl Lawson is a social media guru who specializes in helping brands elevate their events through social media. She is also the founder of Social Media Tulsa Adjunct Professor at OSU-Tulsa, Marketing Director for the Route 66 Marathon, and a valued Crossroads partner.