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How to stand out on social media when you’re on a tight budget

By Alexandra Gavril - May 19, 2018

Which social media channels is your business active on? Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? If you’re there, most likely your competitors are too.

But the problem isn’t that social media is crowded, with every business out there competing for customers’ attention. The problem is that too many businesses focus on keeping up with their competitors instead of their customers.

The first step to standing out? Change your strategy. When you care less about what your competitors are doing and more about listening to as well as informing, educating and entertaining your audience, you’ll have a better chance at making noise and standing out on social media.

Let’s look at a few ways you can be memorable and engage your audience on social media even when you’re on a shoestring budget.

Do the unexpected

Doing what everyone else is doing is a sure way to blend into the crowd.

Want to stand out? Then you need to do the unexpected and surprise your audience. You need to be daring and take risks in a way that brings excitement to your brand and gets people talking. Because when it comes to social media, it’s the smashing hits that get attention.

That’s what big brands are doing and it’s also how small businesses get noticed.

For example, in 2015 Domino’s was looking to up the percentage of digital orders by 50%. So they announced on Twitter that customers can start ordering pizza by sending a quick pizza emoji tweet to @dominos.

The results? The campaign generated 1.2 billion earned media impressions, and today, digital ordering accounts for about 60% of Domino’s overall orders. In addition, Domino’s Emoji Ordering got the attention of the press and was covered by USA Today, TIME, Good Morning America, The Today Show, Jimmy Fallon, Ellen DeGeneres and more.

You don’t need to be a popular brand like Domino’s to be daring and successful on social media. So instead of telling yourself that these daring strategies only work for big brands, try to come up with a bold idea that would shine for you.

Remember Blendtec’s “Will It Blend” campaign?

They had this original and brilliant idea to create a Facebook video campaign where they showed how their high-powered blender can blend any object from an iPad to Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars. The campaign immediately drew people’s attention as it was daring, fun and engaging.

Of course, as a small business it can be scary to take a risk on social media. We’ve all seen what happened when Cinnabon tried to capitalise on Carrie Fisher’s passing away.

If you’re not familiar with it, they posted a picture of Fisher as Princess Leia but replaced her classic Start Wars hairstyle with a Cinnabon Classic Roll. Their tweet said “RIP Carrie Fisher, you’ll always have the best buns in the galaxy.”

While Fisher was known to have a sense of humour, some fans found the tweet more sour than sweet and called Cinnabon “tasteless”.

So be bold and don’t be afraid to take risks on social media. Just make sure you know your audience well so you know where to draw the line.

Make it fun and human

What makes people fall in love with brands on social media? A fun, human, relatable message.

When you know your audience well and you’re able to connect, educate and delight your fans and followers, you’re one step closer to turning them into fans, then customers, then brand advocates.

Think about your favourite brands and what they’re doing to make social fun for you and their other customers. You’re surely not delighted by a boring brand that’s always talking and selling, and never listening or interacting with fans. But you do feel a deeper connection towards a brand that’s fun and delivers value in a relatable and engaging voice.

The key is to not be afraid to have fun with your audience.

For instance, Charmin, the toilet paper brand, ran a fun and interactive social media campaign around the launch of their new Sit or Squat app. Knowing the problems their audience was facing – dirty bathrooms – they created a cool app to let them know whether the nearby local toilets are clean (sit) or not so clean (squat).

Charmin is just as fun on Twitter. A year ago they posted a hilarious series of tweets called #TweetsfromtheSeat about – you guessed it – sitting on the toilet. It’s hilarious bathroom humour that’s bound to make you giggle and remember Charmin the next time you go to pick up some TP.

Leverage user-generated content

Another way to stand out is to encourage users to share stories about your brand and how they’re using your products and services. This is also known as user generated content (UGC) and it’s considered content marketing gold.

Why? Because it generates engagement and it also serves as social proof as people trust other people more than they trust brands. In addition, when done effectively, it’s relatively low to no cost, and because real people are sharing their own experiences with your brand on social media, you’re more likely to stand out from the competition.

Take Coca-Cola for example and their “Share a Coke” campaign. The company swapped out its logo with random names, enabling fans to find their names or the names of family members, friends, and coworkers. Fans were then able to engage with the brand by sharing pictures of their personalised Coke bottles on social media platforms.

This was a highly engaging and shareable campaign, which generated a heap of UGC. Over the years they took personalisation to a whole new level, connecting emotionally to consumers. And fans love it:

Apple’s #ShotOniPhone campaign is another great example of UGC. To prove that the iPhone’s camera is high-quality and can be used to take amazing photos even in the dark, Apple turned to customer generated content.

Several amateur and pro photographers were commissioned to take low-light photos with their iPhones. The resulting shots were then blown up on billboards around the world. The campaign was so successful that #ShotOniPhone is now a standard hashtag on Instagram.

Anyone can say they’re the best. Letting your customers prove it though? That kind of authenticity is hard to beat. And it’s authenticity like this that gets your business noticed on social media.

Diversity the types of content you share

What type of content should you share on social media to engage your fans? The truth is there’s no simple and direct answer. You have to experiment with different types of content to determine what your audience enjoys more.

If you ignore their preferences and only share blog posts or photos, you’ll get little engagement and ultimately waste your time and resources.

So if you want to stand out on social media, you’ll need to share a mix of content – from videos and infographics to blog posts, polls, website copy and case studies.

Make sure to constantly review how your fans and followers respond to your content – if they like or react, watch, comment or share – and adjust your content strategy whenever necessary.

Keep your social presence top of mind

Whether your audience is visiting a product page on your site, reading a blog post or signing up for an event, make sure they know you’re on social media. And make sure you also encourage them to connect with you on whichever platforms you’re active on.

This means embedding social icons on your website and blog, and into your content. If you’re on Facebook and Instagram, add those icons on your website. If you want people sharing your blog content, add a social media widget that allows them to do that. If you want them to spread the word about your event, get those social sharing icons on your event page.

Wrapping up

These are just a few key things you can do to help your business stand out on social media. Keep in mind though that, like everything else in marketing, you need to be bold and experiment with different ideas and strategies to determine what your audience enjoys the most. Also, be consistent in your efforts as it’s how you can build top-of-mind awareness.