Organic growth using social media is easy, free and an excellent way of increasing an awareness of your brand, and planning a strategy for your content days or weeks beforehand can significantly improve your success.
Larger companies have the advantage of having the budget to hire an agency or even a dedicated employee with the sole purpose of increasing followers and generating content for any associated social media platforms you’ve got set up to promote your online shop, but don’t let that put you off. With a little imagination and time invested into your social media, you too can benefit from this method of free, organic promotion, which in turn will provide a good foundation for paid advertising in the future.
Creating and automating your social media content is something to consider as it allows you to appear active online during busy periods when in reality you could be fulfilling orders and dealing with more pressing matters related to the management of your online shop. When ready-made posts are published, all you need to do is respond to any comments that come in about them, and that doesn’t have to be immediate. The most important thing is to create a regular, daily presence online to raise an awareness of your brand.
The advantages of automating your Social Media
- Frees up your time on a daily basis, allowing you to spend time managing your online shop;
- Creates the illusion that you are online during busy periods regularly;
- Provides minimal regular content, which in turn can be added to by publishing posts in real-time.
What am I aiming for?
Ultimately, your aim is to create content that is relatable and authentic. Relatable content has the potential to trend as many users like, share and comment on your status, tweet or post and it’s this kind of popularity that increases the awareness of your brand and also increases your followers too. Increasing an awareness of your brand means that potential customers who have not heard of your online shop may find it, which of course leads to an increase in sales.
Relatable content gives your followers and potential customers a chance to get to know you and your brand to encourage them to form a relationship with you.
Authenticity is crucial too, so don’t be tempted to post pictures of stock images, clip art and product images from your online shop as this is not a good user experience on any of the social media platforms. Instead, take photos of yourself, your staff (if you’ve employed any), and your products in photos where they’re being used or worn. If you’re relatively new at creating photos specifically for social media, there’s a few tried and tested techniques which should be enough to get you started:
- Use photos taken in the present;
- Photograph words or symbols drawn on paper, or outside in snow or sand, or spelt out in leaves for example to send a message which maybe can’t be captured in a single image;
- Photos from the past are very relatable as they are nostalgic. Even if the person viewing the photograph doesn’t personally know the person in the photo, there’s often clothes, furniture, toys and so on within the image which makes it nostalgic and thus relatable. Childhood photos work well here, as do the awkward teenage years, especially if you were born in a decade where perms and/or big hair was de rigueur;
- If you have pets, include them if you can. You can also write notes to place next to your pets to represent their ‘voice’ – Dogshaming has made a book based on this meme which should give you an idea of the kind of photo you’re aiming for;
- Flatlays are your friend – and a very clever way of taking photographs without actually being in them. Used sparingly, these can work very well on Instagram as they are renowned for depicting an aspirational lifestyle;
- Polls are useful to encourage your followers to interact with you, especially if you ask questions that are relatable to your target demographic. You can set up polls on Twitter, Instagram and your Facebook Page easily;
- Instagram Product Tagging allows you to upload photos of your products in use and tag in the product page so followers can click the link in the post to be taken to your online shop. This is definitely worth setting up to encourage potential customers to visit;
- Bear in mind that photos are more engaging than standard text posts, and videos are even more so. Making your own gif using an app such as Boomerang is a good substitute when it’s not possible to make a video.
Wait! You just said ‘photos’ – do I have to create these?
In short, yes you do. Although it is possible to download images from many of the royalty-free websites out there which you can edit and use in your own social media posts, to have any success at producing trending, relatable content, you need to be authentic and create your own. Stock images are easily recognised – especially by those who spend many hours on the internet per day where they can see the same stock image used for different purposes – whereas authentic content is fresh and new and you will be able to control the content of the frame and add in your own branding.
Should I create videos too?
If you can, you should. A video is more engaging than a static image although these are a lot harder to do, depending on what it is and why you’re filming. In short, hold your mobile phone horizontally – never vertically – be sure that your branding is featured in the background, don’t read off a script and most importantly, if you’re filming on your own premises, clean up first – you don’t want your online shop to be judged with overflowing litter bins, coffee cup rings and messy workspaces.
If you need inspiration, look at some of the videos created by different users and your own industry competitors. This should give you an idea of the kind of video content you should create. It’s also easier to create Boomerangs than videos – you should consider those too.
Will all of this social media automation take a lot of time though?
It depends on your level to commitment and the current state of your online shop. If you’re just starting out and orders are still sporadic at best, you have a lot of time to invest in your own online promotion – especially if you don’t yet have the budget for advertising. However, if you’re a more established business and your online shop takes up a lot of your time, investing one day a month to plan, produce and automate your social media content means that for the rest of the month, you can concentrate on the daily tasks involved in running your business without having to remember to regularly update your social media.
What is the best way to make my posts?
The best way to make your posts is to include at least an image in each one, no exceptions. If we concentrate on the three big social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – each has specific requirements for the content and the size of images that can be published in an update. By cutting your images to the right size, this ensures that the users on the platform can see all of the images within their feed, which encourages engagement.
|1200 pixels wide by 627 pixels high||Maximum of three|
|440 pixels wide by 200 pixels high||Maximum of three|
|1000 pixels square||Maximum of thirty|
- Use cloud-based apps such as Google Photos to upload all of your photos from all of your devices so you can take your pick of the best when it comes to planning your automated posts.
- Use Boomerang which allows you to quickly create gif videos which are only a few seconds long and play in a loop that can be shared on Instagram and Facebook.
- Download Layout which allows you to create a collage of images which can be shared on social media too, which is useful for groups of pictures which tell the same story.
There are a plethora of different platforms out there to help you manage the automation of your social media with varying costs and features. Hootsuite is one of the most popular, but there are others which when spread between your different social media accounts will allow you to schedule your updates for the month for free – which is essential if you’re just starting out and your promotional budget is virtually non-existent.
There are many different platforms which allow you to automate Instagram, but unlike Twitter, it cannot be fully automated; you will need to complete an action to publish the post that you have pre-produced.
One of my favourite platforms for this is Later which with a free account will allow you to publish up to 30 Instagram posts per month. With a paid account, they can also publish to Twitter, Pinterest, G+, LinkedIn and Facebook Pages too. It’s also worth signing up to their blog which is fantastic at letting you know all about the latest updates and trends happening on Instagram.
Automating your Facebook Page updates is very easy to do, as this can be done from the Facebook Page itself without the use of a third-party platform. Simply write your post as normal, but click the down arrow next to the Publish button and select ‘Schedule’ from the drop-down menu:
You will then be able to schedule the day and time you would like the status to be published:
Now you know the kind of content you need to create and how to schedule it – your next task is to sit down and create a plan for what content you wish to publish over the next month. Aim to tie in not only new product lines and any discounts you may have running, but also for relatable, shareable content which appeals to your target demographic.
In my next post, I’ll be showing you how a social media calendar can help you create themed social media content, providing inspiration and raising awareness of your brand by taking part in trending events.