Have you ever wondered why people love eating at buffets?
It’s not because all-you-can-eat options are better for your wallet; in fact, economists have proved ordering traditional dishes is actually cheaper.
Humans crave variety. With a buffet ticket, you can try the dumplings, the salad, the spare ribs, brussels sprouts, and the pasta—and that variety makes you feel good.
This principle of variety definitely applies to social media content: It’s easier to surprise and delight your followers when you’re not always serving up the same things. By continually introducing new content types into your social media lineup, you’ll keep your audience members on their toes and engaged.
If you’re eager to explore, but not sure where to start, check out this list of seven awesome types of social media content you can be creating right now.
1. Custom GIFs
Create your own animated GIFs to boost engagement and tell a storyA great GIF is worth a thousand words. Along with driving massive engagement, GIFs help you explain difficult ideas, add some visual variety to your feed, and have some fun with your audience.There are tons of awesome GIFs already floating around (in fact, we’ve got a stocked moodboard you’re welcome to pull from). However, creating your own guarantees you’ll have unique, eye-catching content. And good news: You can whip up a GIF in mere minutes.
A few of our favorite GIF-making tools include:
- Giphy’s GIF Maker – for turning videos and YouTube links into GIFs
- Gifmaker.me – for stitching together a series of images into a GIF
- Licecap – for screenshot GIFs
InVision, a wireframing and prototyping tool, has an admirable GIF strategy as well. For every 10 blog posts the company shares on social media, one or two will have accompanying GIFs that illustrate a concept from the post. Not only are the snippets semi-mesmerizing, but they allow InVision’s followers to get value without having to click on the link.
(Here’s a complete tutorial of exactly how Invision makes its GIFs, using a combination of ScreenFlow and Photoshop.)
Finally, GIFs are a handy way to quickly educate your followers. Take a look at Trello‘s tweet (explaining its email-to-board option) to see this idea in action.
To take things to the next level …Make cinemagraphs. A cinemagraph has the same file format as a GIF; however, rather than a series of images playing in a loop, it’s a static image with movement in one part of the frame. Cinemagraphs are, as designer Jason Winter puts it, “scroll-stoppers.” They’re also really effective: this one from Coke got 80,000 notes on Tumblr in 14 days.
These types of GIFs require a bit more Photoshop skill to create; here’s a good guide on getting started.
2. Snapchat Stories
Use captions, filters, stickers to build stories that stand outSnapchat’s stratospheric engagement stats (to the tune of 100 million users spending a half hour on the platform per day) make it compelling for any brand. Nonetheless, many companies still aren’t biting—err, snapping. According to research firm L2, only 40% of B2C businesses have accounts, compared to 93% for Instagram. Even fewer B2B companies are on Snapchat.It’s normal to feel a little intimidated by the app’s unfiltered format, yet that authenticity and spontaneity actually make Snapchat a prime marketing opportunity. You can invite your audience into your world and even get a peek into theirs.To see how a brand (and a B2B one, no less) can fully optimize this platform, follow DocuSign (@docusigninc). Every week, the company posts a literal story, usually riffing on a well-known children’s book or movie. A couple weeks ago, for example, Mary Poppins discovered the magic of electronic signatures. The week after that, the Lorax learned how DocuSign can save trees.The stories are a blend of drawings, emojis, and captions. Not only are they creative, but they feel totally unlike any other promotional materials out there.
Shopify (@shopify) uses all sorts of creative Snapchat features to make their stories stand out. The snap below uses captions, filters, and stickers in a unique and eye-catching way.
The Shopify team was generous to write about some of their best Snapchat tips. Their list includes:
- Creating title cards for longer Snapchat stories
- Doing Snapchat takeovers with celebrities or partners
- Using shortened URLs for links
- Adding music over your snaps
To take things to the next level …Create on-demand geo-filters. Whenever I’m in a new place, I love taking Snapchat photos and adding a custom geo-filter so people can see where I am.And I’m definitely not the only user who loves using these location-based overlays. As Brian shares in his handy guide to on-demand geo-filters,
you can generate tens of thousands of impressions for under $50.
Here’s an example of some that Gary Vaynerchuck has created:This feature is still only a couple months old—so if you get in on the action now, you’ll have a major competitive advantage.
3. User-Generated Content (UGC)
Drive engagement with outstanding content from others (works great on Instagram!)Okay, so technically your users are the ones creating the content. But you’ll still need to collect, curate, optimize, and publish what they’ve produced. Even though it might be easier to, say, upload your own photo to Instagram rather than finding one from a customer, UGC has some incredible and unique benefits. You make your customers the heroes of your story—exactly as it should be.You can give your posts some (usually much-needed) variety. You’ll help your followers trust you: research shows millennials trust user-generated content 50% more than other media. Starbucks definitely uses UGC to rack up loyalty points with its followers. Roughly one-third of its Instagram photos are regrams from other accounts, which lets Starbucks show how different people are enjoying its drinks around the world. Some of the corporation’s most-favorited posts come from users. Even better, people are motivated to upload shots of their orders to Instagram, in the hopes they’ll be shared.
Using the same strategy, the Buffer Instagram account shares user-generated content once or twice every week, averaging nearly 200 likes and comments on each photo (at the upper-end of the benchmark for Buffer Instagram engagement).
And getting started was quite smooth: Reach out to community members 1:1 whenever you spot a great image, mention the users when you share the post, repeat. You may even notice users sending content your way all on their own!
Some weeks, the UGC content can be 50 percent of what’s posted to Buffer Instagram:
To take things to the next level …Run social media contests. Waiting for your users to spontaneously upload photos is fine—but with a contest, you can capture a ton of content in a short time frame. Even better, contests are fun for everyone involved: the participants, your audience, and of course, the winner.National Geographic and MySwitzerland.com, for example, partnered on a fantastic UGC contest to promote travel to Switzerland. To enter, people posted their favorite shots of the country to Instagram with the hashtag #LoveSwitzerlandContest. The winner received a 10-day National Geographic Expedition to Switzerland.The contest was a big success, generating almost 9,400 posts. Plus, 70% of the visitors to the contest hub page clicked the CTA for more trips.
Pictures + text = 25% better comprehension
If you count early cave paintings as infographics, then humans have been making and consuming this type of content for the past 32,000 years. And for good reason: adding pictures to text makes your message 25% more comprehensible, not to mention far more engaging and persuasive.
There’s an infographic—or five—for every topic you can think of. But the ones that get the most mileage tie back to their brand’s product or space. Real estate app Movoto, for example, created this infographic pairing famous cities with their font personalities.
It’s humorous and unexpected, which shows you Movoto isn’t your typical real estate company.
If the thought of building your own infographic seems like a bit much, there are some neat tools that can help make the process easier, particularly for non-designers.
To take things to the next level …
Make your infographics come to life.
Animated infographics (a.k.a. gifographics) have been around for a couple years, but they’re still relatively rare—which means they’re a fantastic option if you want your content to stand out.
Neil Patel was one of the early adopters of gifographics. His primer on Google proves the attention-grabbing power of animation.
5. Concept Visualizations
Self-explanatory visuals, charts, and graphs spread farInfographics are one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s kit. But designing a great one is hard work; plus, you need enough data to tell a story.Here’s where concept visualizations come in. Because visualizations typically illustrate a single idea—rather than multiple stats and facts—they’re much smaller and more digestible than infographics. And they’re also quicker to create, meaning you could potentially pump one or two out for every blog post.Here’s an example from Wistia:As you can see, the team took an interesting concept from one of their blog posts and turned it into a simple graph. Then, they used it to promote the post.Having an embedded graphic that’s useful on its own makes Wistia’s tweet highly shareable. In addition, it really drives home why time-on-site is an important metric.Along similar lines, data visualization app Visme produced the chart below to go along with a job search article.This chart is both interesting and easy to read. Note that Visme got the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics—even if your company doesn’t have unique data, you can always visualize information from another source (just remember to give them credit!). If you want more inspiration, head on over to Information Is Beautiful or Flowing Data.
And when it comes to creating these visualizations yourself, one of the fastest ways is with a simple Google Sheets chart. You can enter the data into a spreadsheet, build whatever style chart feels best, and take a quick screenshot of the result:
To take things to the next level …Use your own data. While this move can stretch out the creation process a bit, it gives you the opportunity to position yourself as a thought leader.You can visualize data you already possess; for instance, Boomerang analyzed more than 40 million emails its users had sent to find out the optimal message length, then turned the results into a cool graphic:Alternatively, get data from a survey. SurveyMonkey, Wufoo, or Twitter polls are all solid options for gathering audience insights.The final option? Conduct your own research. This New York Times visualization is an excellent example: it uses simple photography and copy to show the impact each piece of produce has on California’s drought crisis.
6. Shareable Quotes
Easy to curate and create; just as much (or more) engagementThere’s something about a great quote that sticks in your mind for days, weeks, months, or even years. As marketers, we have the opportunity to share the best ones with our audience—and simultaneously inspire them and boost our brand.Teachable, a platform for creating online courses, has made quotes a cornerstone of its social media strategy.When you look at its six most recent Instagram posts, half are quotes. These visuals get just as much (and often more) engagement than the traditional images.General Assembly has its own quote strategy. Like Teachable, GA uses a specific hashtag for its quote visuals. It also uses a consistent format and style to make sure its followers link the inspiration to the source.If you don’t want to design your own template, take advantage of Buffer’s Pablo image creator. You can pick out the perfect background photo and add your text in a minute or less; plus, you can download different sizes for the various networks.
To take things to the next level …Combine concept visualizations and quotes. Once you’ve started making both separately, it’s only a short step to putting them together.This example from Visual.ly demonstrates how cool the results can be. The quotes and the pie charts play off of each other quite nicely, each providing separate but related information. The juxtaposition of text and charts is also well-done.
7. Facebook Live
Live videos are watched 3x longer and shown more in News FeedFacebook’s live video streaming service is still in its infancy, but it’s already one of the top ways to form real connections with your audience. Live is informal—and by definition, unscripted—which means viewers feel like they’re getting a more intimate experience. You can see the effect on engagement: according to Facebook, people spend 3x longer on real-time video.Facebook has even decided to push up Live videos in user News Feeds. That means when you’re broadcasting, you’ll get an organic traffic boost.Benefit Cosmetics is taking full advantage of this new medium. Every Thursday, the brand live-streams an episode of “Tipsy Tricks with Benefit!” The hosts sip on wine, exchange playful banter, and answer beauty questions from their audience. The last installment received 29,000 views, 655 reactions, and 100-plus comments.
To take things to the next level …Create multi-channel live campaigns. Facebook Live is great, but it’s not the only live-streaming platform in town—to maximize your live content, distribute it across multiple apps.For instance, Land Rover and The Brooks Brothers have joined forces on #LiveTestDrive, a Periscope and Facebook Live campaign. Every Friday, the team puts the car through its paces in on-road and off-road environments. Viewers get an up-close-and-personal look at how the Land Rover drives; plus, they can participate in live Q&As by using the hashtag #LiveTestDrive.Since Facebook and Twitter have different demographics, broadcasting on both extends the campaign’s reach.
Over to you
Exploring new types of content can be challenging—but also really fun (especially when it pays off).
What do you think of these seven ideas? And which content types would you add to the list?
It’d be great to hear your ideas in the comments!