2: What is content, why you need it and how to create it

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Hi everyone and welcome to Your Social Media Journey. My name is Shikhita and this is episode number two, this is where the real podcast starts. If you wish to find out more about me and my credentials, check out my first introductory episode - here, we are going to jump straight into today’s topic: CONTENT. 

To understand why content is so important, lets start with an example. In a magazine, when we see advertisements, our eyes usually glaze over. The first few pages of a magazine do not get much of a look in. However, once we get to the editorial content, we start getting genuinely interested in what the content has to say. Now if that editorial content talks about a specific product, a travel destination or a brand of chocolate, we are definitely more interested in that brand. But, if the same brand advertises about just how good it, on the very next page, our eyes are likely glaze over again   . Know what I mean? Social media is just that - you are building your business’s editorial content, first, and then you will direct people to your product or sale. 

By the way, if you like this podcast, please do take a moment to leave me a review, especially if you are listening on an Apple device. It takes moments and goes a long way towards supporting this podcast.

Right lets get started. I have first hand experience of building an audience online - and this treasured audience is now my biggest cheerleader. Let me take your through my business journey and how I have used social media to reach out to my ideal customers. 

I started using Facebook for my business, Fair Cake, back in 2009. Then, all I did was post pictures of cupcakes I was making at home. My entire business was just that, selling cupcakes. I had quit   my job in 2007 and set up my business from home. I made a very basic five page website, I am not sure we even had Wix or SquareSpace then! My customers found me on Google, gave me a ring, I made cupcakes, packed them up and either delivered them myself or got my customers to pick them up. Of course, before the cupcakes went out, I took pictures. Lots of pictures. That was pretty much it. A quick side note - Fair Cake now is an entirely different business. It is a cookery school that specialises in teaching people how to make cupcakes and large cakes, including speciality cakes such as those for weddings and special events. And its entire metamorphosis from a simple cupcake business to a well established and loved cake school was shared on social media. I will discuss this huge change and how this came to be in future podcasts. If you wish for me to talk more about it, send me a DM on Instagram or an email. 

Once I joined Facebook in 2009, I realised that just a few pictures for my website were not cutting it and I needed more content. It might seem weird now, but the word “Content” was not a thing back then! Anyway, I realised that I needed to get people’s attention - because this audience, my Facebook audience, was NOT LOOKING for cupcakes. This was a major moment when I realised that my website traffic was people actively looking to buy my products, cupcakes, but my Facebook audience was simply a large bunch of potential customers. There were NOT looking for cupcakes, so no point putting a great big “for sale” sign up. 

That was, for lack of a better phrase, all hail Oprah, my AHA moment. I might get into trademark trouble by using the phrase, watch this space!

So that is it. That is the sum total of all my social media knowledge. Do. Not. Sell. 

Ok, wait, of course there is more! But that is a pretty good place to start. Your next question is, what do you do on social media, as a business, then? Well, several things. Lets list them -

1. Create content  

2. Keep potential customers interested in your content

3. Build a reputation

4. Engage with your customers - answering questions, comments and such like

5. Once you have all of that, then you can point your potential customers towards something your are selling

6. Repeat the whole cycle

And it is this, this creating content that makes social media a different beast to, say, owing a website. You see, on your own website, you can dump a whole lot of pictures and words, and perhaps some videos. If you have an e-commerce website, you will have the means of selling products or services and taking payments. Once you have set everything up, you will more or less relax and focus on being found on different search engines - to get people actively looking for you to come and buy from you. So you can get away with static content. Let me give you an example. If you sell home made chutneys and jams, you will have pictures of your chutneys and jams, perhaps in beautiful jars, perhaps on top of perfectly imperfect table tops (you know what I am talking about!) and with a silver spoon next to them. Or maybe not. Maybe you will have simple images of your chutney jars on a white background. That works, too. Lets get out of this image jam here :) Anyway, you can add products to your own website. Mr. X is looking for chutney jars as a return gift for a very posh party he is throwing. He looks up posh chutney jars on Google, your website comes up, he has a look around, is impressed by what you are offering and places an order for 12 jars, because he has 12 posh people coming to his posh dinner party. Job done. Stay with me, we are just getting started, this will all make sense!

Great, you made a sale. All that setting up of website etc. was done once. But wait, what if you can hear crickets after Mr. X has checked out. What if no one else seems to be buying your chutneys and jams? This is exactly where social media comes in. You see, while all this was happening on your website, you could be creating content for social media and putting that idea into your potential customers heads that even if they did not feel like buy a chutney or jam jar themselves, it makes for a great hostess gift. Or host gift. Now it is up to you to actively seek out more Mr. Xs! The way to do this is by creating content that is very relevant to what you are selling. No point in taking pictures of your latest shoes haul if you are making chutneys and jams, now, is it? But this is exactly the mistake I see people make on Instagram and Facebook. A number of businesses end up sending confusing messages to their followers. YES, it is important to inject a bit of personality into your social media presence, but that line becomes very blurry indeed. 

So how DO you create content, endlessly, to keep an interested following - so much so that when they do need your product or service themselves, or are in a position to recommend someone, they recommend you? For some people, this comes naturally. These are usually creative people - they make things, they have an eye for a good picture, they are confident in front of a camera and are definitely not shy. It is not to say that if you do not have these qualities, you will not be a great content creator! On the contrary, if you are ready to do some planning and can organise your work, you will probably do a whole lot better than someone who is simply relying on their creative skills. 

Lets go into some specifics, shall we. Here are four content ideas, that you can flesh out for your own business. 

1. Product pictures 

2. Behind the scenes

3. Special events

4. Collaborations 

Lets talk a bit more about each of these in detail

1. Product pictures - Product pictures are great, but mostly businesses tend to have quite boring product pictures for their website. Coming back to the chutney/jam example. If you already have these on a white background, great. But ideally, you want these a bit  more interesting - and here is the good part, you can learn how to take good pictures. If you have a smart phone, and chances are that you do, head over to YouTube and sit through a few tutorials on how best to use your phone camera. I am being completely honest here, a large number of us simply do not understand or use these incredible cameras that we have in our pockets! As an example, I am linking two products in the shownotes. One is a Fortnum and Mason jar of Manuka honey, as pictured on their website and one is of the same jar photographed for their Instagram news feed. 

Website: https://www.fortnumandmason.com/products/manuka-honey-500-mgo-200g

Instagram: https://www.fortnumandmason.com/products/manuka-honey-500-mgo-200g

If you go to the links via the show notes, or from my website, you will see this - their website image is a very websitey image - very clear, photographed brilliantly and to the point. The Instagram image, which, as of today, in spring 2019, has more than 1400 likes and multiple comments, is less, shall we say, formal. This is the perfect picture for social media. It shows a lot more than an image of the honey jar, it shows the packaging and has a slightly blurry background, but with fairy lights. It shows how the honey is special, it is sitting on other honey jars and looks lovely and homey and comfy. The look and feel of the two images is very different and you can tell exactly why each is perfect for its purpose. The Instagram image simply connects more with the audience    ! If you read the captions on both - their website and their Instagram picture of the SAME product, you will see that they are different. We will definitely talk about captions in a lot more detail in another episode!

2. Behind the scenes - This is a great way of connecting with your audience and finding the like minded potential customers and clients. I remember that in the early days of Facebook, when I was experimenting a lot, I posted an image of my rather messy office desk. I invited photo replies from my followers of their own messy desks - and lo and behold, there was a connection! My post resonated with my followers and before I knew it, I was inundated with images of messy desks! The reason this worked was because it connected with my audience on a very basic level. When my workshop is all set up before a cake class, I always shoot a quick video. By the way, I am pretty much never in the video! I am fairly camera shy. The videos are a reminder to my audience that I have a physical workshop, that we do not offer online cake courses and that THIS Is where everyone learns baking. And it works - images of my workshop yield some of the highest levels of engagement. Behind the scenes is a powerful tool and you do not have to be on camera. Showing off your process of work, absolutely works and you get an instant connection with your audience. The best place to do so is on Facebook and Instagram stories - the footage is usually very raw and you can use gifs very effectively.

Behind the scenes connects you to your audience in a way that no website can - they see who you are, why you do what you do and your personality shines through. In this increasingly competitive business world, if your customers and clients see a little bit of themselves in you, they are more likely to buy your product or services. Think about it - you probably have your own favourite shops that you shop from. Sometimes, price and quality remaining the same, we simply PREFER one shop to another. Its because we feel more comfortable there. This comfort is what behind the scenes does for you and your business on social media. It connects you and your customer on a level that up until now was simply not possible. 

3. Special events - This is a big one and I sometimes wonder if magazine editorial calendars were simply commercial decisions! Lets take it from the start - New Year, Valentines Day, Mothers Day, spring, Easter, May bank holidays, Fathers Day, summer, August bank holiday, summer holidays in general, back to school, autumn, halloween, thanksgiving, pumpkins, Christmas and then winter. Then, pepepperd among all of this will be your local holidays and events. I know that Diwali, Rakshabandhan and Holi are big Indian festivals, then there is Eid and Chinese New Year. Lets not forget the National Donut Days of our social media calendars. My point is, if you are wondering about WHAT to post about, you can always find a special event. Your job is to weave the special event into your work and make it into content. Simple graphics celebrating the event are the simplest ideas. A simple illustration that is true to your brand style simply saying “Happy Mothers Day” is great content. Do stay true to your own branding though - if you are a chutney maker and you have big hairy dudes on Harley Davidsons saying Happy Mothers Day on your news feed (unless they appear elsewhere, eating your chutney!) - that won’t quite work out, would it? Incorporating special events into your news feed is a great way to connect to what your audience will be thinking about around that time of the year. 

4. Collaborations - Collaborations are a great way to increase your visibility on social media. If you are unsure about how to go about collaborating, do not worry. Everyone starts somewhere. Simply send a message requesting a collaboration to an account that you like. Ideally, it should be similarly sized as yours and have a similar audience. Collaborations could be going on Instagram live together. It could be working together to produce new pictures and videos. Collaborations make your account more interesting and break up the news feed a bit - they are excellent because you get access to a whole new set of people who are probably your ideal clients - and so does your collaborator. It is a win-win situation!

So there you have it, four of my tried and tested content creation ideas. There are a million other ideas out there, but these are four pretty solid ones to start with. In future episodes of this podcast, I will talk about simple photography - they keyword being SIMPLE. You do not need fancy equipment for social media photographs. If you have fancy equipment, great, but you really do not need it. I will also talk about simple graphic design, using ready made content and caption writing. If there is anything specific that you would like me to talk about, please do send me a direct message on Instagram, my account is @yoursocialmediajourney

Thank you for listening. Since I have already requested a review, I will say bye for now, until next time….