(Social) Engagement Shouldn’t Just Happen on Valentine’s Day

As content marketing has moved to the forefront of every marketer’s imperative, companies that are on top of their digital marketing strategy undoubtedly include in that strategy a comprehensive editorial calendar that addresses such topics as content audience, timing, resource requirements, and differentiation. The goal of a comprehensive editorial calendar is to ensure that there is a top-quality pipeline of interesting, timely, seasonally appropriate content that can be shared across digital channels.

“Pipeline” is the key word here. Do you have a pipeline for your social engagement? How’s that brand engagement calendar looking? Do you have the same disciplined approach? Do you regularly “tap” your followers to actively participate in your brand’s social conversation?

When the content that fills your social newsfeeds is solely of the “one-to-many” type – beautiful photos, inspirational videos, sneak peeks at new products – the only participation you’re asking of your audience is to like, comment, and/or share. And that’s OK. But your social audiences will be happy to respond in a much more participatory way if you ask them. And there’s every reason to make that participation happen regularly, around the seasonal marketing clock.

Here are some ideas to get you thinking about how to do this.

Engage With Content That Reflects Seasons, Trends, and Passions

One of the biggest challenges in content marketing is, well, creating the content. So how about tapping social audiences to give you seasonal, shareable content? Putting out galleries on your owned channels with a call to action for images, videos, and stories that align with a relevant theme can deliver results that become shareable both by your brand and by your audience themselves.

When the popular European clothing brand Oysho wanted to pepper all their owned channels with messages of love and happiness in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, they asked their audience to share their favorite love quotes in a gallery. The results were beautiful. And, by the way, who is to say that the same gallery can’t be repurposed for Valentine’s Day 2016?

Dunkin’ Donuts figured out that their audience thinks of pumpkin spiced lattes as heralding the fall season, and so centered an entire fall campaign around that theme, leveraging the hashtag #PumpkinAtDunkin, combining it with a sweepstakes, to get audiences engaged on the topic, and get lots of content they could share.

Brands like Patagonia choose to support causes that reflect their environmentally conscious brand value, and Budweiser uses puppies to draft everyone’s love of puppies. There’s always a theme that can be leveraged on your year-round engagement calendar.

Invite Social Participation by Soliciting Testimonials, Opinions, and Answers

If we really are now officially in the “year of the customer,” then there’s no better time to use social channels to ask your customers what they think! Solicit testimonials using simple stories, tagged photos, or even videos that can be pulled together with hashtags. We’ve also seen clients get great results by tapping social audiences for their opinions — on new product lines, new editorial creative, or even the best imagery for a campaign creative. All of this can be achieved with an incredibly simple and clean integrated social experience that might take audiences just a few seconds to participate. You can optionally reward participants with prizes, coupons, or just a simple “thank you,” but that’s often not necessary. Audiences want to be asked…and brands can always learn from their voices.

Some social audiences are extremely knowledgeable about brand minutiae, and they love to show off that knowledge. So think about a quiz that challenges knowledge, is fun to participate in, and that rewards for answers. Combine quizzes with instant wins or sweepstakes entries for additional leverage.

Asking questions, and listening and sharing answers through social channels, can be another year-round pillar of a successful social media engagement calendar.

Keep the Social Drumbeat Going With Promotional Mainstays

Tapping social audiences to contribute content can be a tall ask, but asking them to participate in a social promotion is just the opposite. Done right, instant wins, contests, and sweepstakes are always reliable when paced correctly. These kinds of promotions work best when they are run at a regular cadence. If you build a promotion into your engagement calendar at least once or twice a quarter that aligns with the season and the theme, you can align with current moods. Similar promotions can be repurposed year-round, with a different “skin” to align with the seasonal theme. Couple them with a well-crafted SEO strategy, and you’ll get more organic visits when someone is searching before Valentine’s Day for “romantic travel ideas” and finds your branded romantic trip for two sweepstakes.

Boost Participation With Paid and Owned Outreach

When you have a year-round calendar of seasonally appropriate engagement activities, you end up with a perfect call to action to include in email outreach, as well as in SEM and paid social promotional posts. All these engagements can be directly tied to further brand discovery, by offering a discount coupon to every participant who didn’t win, or links to discover more products after participation.

Participatory social engagement shouldn’t just happen once a year. Think beyond simple social engagement to build a social engagement calendar that includes regular invitations to participate, all year-round.

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