Post by Kayleigh Alexandra of MicroStartups

Social media marketing can be extremely unimaginative. This is a real waste given the potential of the platforms and formats available. Big businesses carve out substantial budgets for social media work but just end up doing the same old things with fairly standard results.

So why not try a different approach from time to time? As Elon Musk stresses, don’t follow the trend. By being more creative, you can achieve some remarkable improvements. To help you revitalize your strategy, here are 6 unusual social media marketing tips for your content:

1. Pick out noteworthy feedback

Social proof is really important for everything from entire brands to specific products. That’s why Amazon leans so heavily on featured reviewers. One strong recommendation from someone who seems to know what they’re doing is worth a hundred “It works” comments from enigmatic commenters. You can do the same in your social media activity.

As well as engaging with your audience in general, pick out specific people with interesting things to say about you or your content. Then feature their stories. They’ll enjoy the attention! You’ll also get a chance to establish that you care enough about what you do to get granular with your self-assessment — and though you need to get the execution just right, you can even feature negative feedback as a way to address, contextualize and resolve it.

Plenty of businesses shy away from complaints, preferring to pretend they don’t exist or comment on them only cryptically. If you draw even more attention to someone saying they utterly despise you, but show that you were able to change their opinion of you, you can push people on the fence about you to give you the benefit of the doubt.

2. Get strongly emotive

People are generally taught to associate professionalism with being very serious. The move to social media hasn’t been fully effective in getting rid of that perspective. Countless businesses set up social media accounts then fill them with nothing but tempered comments, statements of fact, and context-free links to third-party content.

This isn’t a great way to get noticed, obviously. It’s a lot like going to a party and then standing in a corner. You want to get attention but you’re also slightly terrified of it because you don’t know how you’ll handle the pressure. You have to accept the implicit vulnerability in being brash and emotive and just go with it.

If you’re happy about something, show it! Throw in some smiley faces and celebratory emojis, and embrace the exclamation mark. Not to a ridiculous extent, obviously, but when it feels appropriate. It’s very disconcerting when a business tries so hard on social media to be something it isn’t. Open up to people and they’ll pay attention to you.

3. Openly address competitors

It’s very common to dance around unspoken rules and conventions online. More than ever folks are overly polite and tasteful avoiding risking any offense. But sometimes flouting the rules is just what you need to do. After all, the business world is ultimately a competition, and prospective customers won’t gravitate towards you just because you’re polite.

Suppose that you have a fantastic piece of content you’ve completed and want to share with the world. It’s a roundup of industry stats more comprehensive and in-depth than any other similar piece on the internet. You can essentially say “Hey everyone, here’s an industry stat roundup, take a look”. If you have a reasonable following, you’ll get somewhere. You may even get links from industry experts, so that’s good too.

But sometimes the best thing you can do is lay down a digital challenge. Directly reference comparable content, state that yours is better, and urge people to decide for themselves. Online conflict is wildly entertaining to follow, and you’ll get a good deal of traffic that you’d never have received without being so bold. And if your competitors respond? Make a spark of boldness part of your brand voice. Turn it into a showy back-and-forth without taking it too seriously. Since the net result is that everyone will get more eyes on their content as a result of people wanting to draw comparisons, everyone wins.

4. Express a controversial stance

Controversy is a risky business, but also a tremendously profitable one. You can scroll through hundreds or even thousands of bland generic social media posts, seeing the same old opinions, until something catches your eye. They said what? When you see even a weakly-controversial opinion being expressed, you inevitably get sucked into the drama.

And the real beauty of this approach is that you don’t need to get taboo or extreme in a way that might seriously endanger your business. You just need to find something fairly trivial about which people have strong opinions. One example: pineapple on pizza. It’s pretty hard to stay neutral about that hot-button topic because the world drives you to pick a side. If you can spark that kind of simple debate on social media, and steer it carefully enough, you can pick up a massive amount of attention in a risk-free way.

If even that is too much for you, you can simply feign controversy as a joke by phrasing really popular sentiments as matters of controversy. The important thing is that you’re clearly trying to set up some kind of mass discussion. People will rapidly jump on the opportunity to get creative with their responses.

5. Set up an entertaining chatbot

You can’t stay active on social media 24/7, nor is it cost-effective (or even very useful, necessarily) to hire a social media team spanning the globe to ensure that someone is around to answer your Twitter DMs at every hour of the day. But one thing you can do that can prove quite productive is implement a chatbot.

Even today, chatbots aren’t quite ready to perfectly mimic human conversation, but that’s perfectly fine as long as you stick to basic actions and queries — and be perfectly clear that you’re using a chatbot. People are fine with chatbots being a bit peculiar, often preferring to just have fun with the stilted exchanges. If you adopt the right tone in your preset responses then you can engender a lot of goodwill without actually having to manually post.

If you go down this route, you can even configure your chatbot to provide ecommerce information, something that can be particularly handy when you’re trying to market a particular product or service. In the near future, just about every major retail CMS should have commercial social media integration available: the eshop system built by Shopify already has native support for conversational commerce through Facebook Messenger, and Magento has similar offerings like Messenger chatbot Botgento available for use.

6. Be completely brazen

Business is about money. It always has been, and it always will be. Because a lot of factors go into how we make decisions, however, it’s common for a lot of companies and individuals to dance around what they’re ultimately looking to achieve. They’re scared about being too sales-obsessed and earning antipathy from their targeted audiences.

The problem with this determination to tone things down is that it doesn’t make them any less obvious — it just makes them seem seedier somehow. We might be taken aback by transparent honesty at times, but we ultimately welcome it because it’s so refreshing in a world of white lies, delicate phrasing and concealed intentions.

Because of this, one of the best ways to market through social media is to be incredibly direct and shameless about what you want. Do you want people to buy your product? Mention the product and tell people why they should buy it. Make them want to buy it. We all want to be sold to — it makes us feel wanted and important. And if you continue to be entirely brazen about what you’re looking for, people will feel comfortable with you, because they’ll never need to wonder if you have some hidden agenda.

OK, let’s round up the six tips we’ve covered here:
  • Pick out noteworthy feedback to fully benefit from social proof.
  • Get strongly emotive to demonstrate your humanity.
  • Openly address competitors to prove that you’re formidable.
  • Express a controversial stance to win easy attention.
  • Set up an entertaining chatbot to amuse people and drive sales 24/7.
  • Be completely brazen to show refreshing honesty.

Do you want to make these tips the foundations of your overall strategy? Probably not (aside from using chatbots, which you can set and forget) — they’re unusual for a reason, which is that they can go wrong and prove counterproductive if you’re not really careful and selective. But whenever you need to spice things up, give one of them a try. It might be just what you need to gain some traction.

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About the Author:

A writer and small business owner, Kayleigh is an expert in all things content, freelance, marketing, and commercial strategy.

Favourite charity? All things microfinance appeal to me.

Photo by Cody Davis on Unsplash