Marketing content can be very samey and social media is no exception. Or how do you feel about LinkedIn polls, people pointing at text blurbs in Reels or whatever the latest trend is? Exactly. But we all know how important it is for successful content (and marketing, for that matter) to be uniquely and recognisably you.
So how do we stop falling into the trap of adapting our content to the platform (aka do what everybody else is doing)? And how do we put our own stamp on it instead?
The answer is obvious: Stop letting the channel in question, e.g. Email or Instagram, rule your approach. Look at your brand & marketing strategy for help! It’s your guidepost for everything – from deciding where to market your small business to defining what to post on social media.
One of the biggest issues with marketing advice out there is that it can make it seem like there are strict rules to follow, that there is a right and a wrong way to do it.
I can’t count the times I’ve seen small business owners go against what feels right for them or give up before even giving it a try. Because of this black-and-white thinking! And as a result, they end up adopting a strategy that doesn’t resonate or abandoning a valuable marketing platform simply because of how other people use it.
This is part of a larger issue I see a lot in small business marketing, something that is easily forgotten: Everything is a tool for your business. Your business isn’t there to serve a platform – it’s the other way around. So always remember, the key is to make every marketing channel you use work for you!
The risks of following the crowd
Lack of results
Everybody doing the same thing to market their small business is one way how things can go wrong when you let your marketing be defined by the platform or channel you’re using. But there are other risks. Let’s take Instagram for example.
The growth of Instagram Reels has meant that video content is being favoured on the app. The problem with that should be fairly obvious. Not all businesses lend themselves to video content in the same way.
If you’re a photographer, and high-quality, beautifully edited, outdoor wedding photography is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), lowering the resolution of your photos and turning them into a slideshow might not have the same impact as a still image.
But if your focus is on pleasing the algorithm, you’ll skew your content in any way you can! And while you might get a handful more eyes on you, the people may not be seeing a true reflection of you and your work. So those views are unlikely to translate into anything more tangible.
Lack of consistency
Another example of how risky this approach is is the fact that each platform is forever evolving and unexpected circumstances can turn a channel on its head. Take LinkedIn, for example. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, LinkedIn was (for the most part) strictly business. Sales-y content, with a professional tone, focusing solely on work.
But through the various lockdowns, with working from home and job roles changing, things evolved. People began to post more personal content, to connect on a more human level. And it doesn’t take a pandemic to make these kinds of changes! Platforms are constantly adapting and responding to the world around them, and these changes cause shifts in how users interact with them.
So if you approach the platform first, you’ll be changing your strategy on a regular basis forever. Not fun, not sustainable, and not consistent for your customers!
Trust your brand
Instead, where successful content actually starts is a lot closer to home. It begins with knowing your brand, values and goals inside out!
I’ve written about the importance of developing a strong brand before. More so than anything else, your brand will set you apart from your competition. It’s what helps you develop your USP, and identify your target market.
So before you dive in to making content, take some time to consider your values. Are you a company that focuses on being environmentally friendly? Or is your focus on providing a little bit of luxury for your customers? Whatever it is, THAT, right there, is your starting point.
Also, what is the personality of your brand, what is your tone of voice? If you’re a fun and lighthearted brand, your content will look different from a serene and calm brand. And your marketing should reflect that.
Unsure of what your USP is? Check out this post to figure it out!
Know your strategy
The other aspect of your business you have to be clear on is your own marketing strategy. In this example, the aim of creating Reels is to grow your engagement and following on Instagram.
If, however, the main aim of your Instagram account is to drive traffic to your website, is spending hours a week creating video content really the best use of your time? Or could that be better spent elsewhere?
If your strategy is to encourage as many clicks as you can to your website, that’s where you start. What marketing channel is best for that? Don’t skip out on doing your research here – explore the data, review your analytics, and use that information to shape what comes next.
New to exploring your analytics? Find out how to know if your marketing is working in this post!
Are “the rules” made to be broken?
Of course, there are certain best practices that you’d be remiss to ignore on any platform. When marketers say you have to be on Twitter regularly (we’re talking several times a day) to make it work for you, that’s no lie. Posting once a week on Twitter and expecting results is only going to lead to disappointment!
So when it comes to strategies like the recommended frequency of posting or the use of hashtags, links and images, listen. However, other so-called rules and recommendations, especially when it comes to the content itself, are far more flexible. Staying away from trends is where the magic happens!
Using the platforms the way you want to will make you stand out. Thinking outside of the box is a great way to connect with people who are similarly bored of seeing the same old thing on the platform time and time again. Your most successful content will come from putting your own stamp on it.
Stop playing the game
But where to start? Let’s look back at the Instagram Reels example. For those wedding photographers who want to show how incredible their photography is, try to shut out the chatter about Reels.
First, keep the fact that your photography skills are the priority at the front of your mind. If you instinctively know that a still photo will sell your services in a way a video won’t, follow that instinct. If your gut is telling you that a Reel with text on it (yes, captioned Reels are at the forefront of the trends!) isn’t right, believe that.
Because the fact is, whatever the owners of the platform might say, people still use Instagram in different ways. Not everyone enters the app and goes straight to the Reels tab. And, more importantly, consider this – what do your (potential) customers want to see?
People looking for wedding photography are looking for just that – photography! They want to see what they can expect if they hire you. And that isn’t a quickly put-together slideshow with a trending sound! It’s high-quality images that capture the special moments of their big day, that they can print, frame, use on thank-you cards and gift to the family.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on Reels altogether. They might just be better to share some behind-the-scenes or explainer content every now and then.
Also, never underestimate the power of community and humour: Many frustrated creators recently began using this trending sound and uploading a still photo as a reel. This tongue-in-cheek approach is a perfectly acceptable use of Reels, while focusing on what you do. And the best part? It’s great for building a sense of community on your channel!
Because, at the end of the day – we’re all in it together!
If you are interested in reading more about this topic, have a look at these:
Why Creating Engaging Content is Crucial for your Business
How to Handle the Changes on Social Media as a Small Business Owner
Small Business Brand: What Is It, Why Do I Need One & How Do I Get One?
Why Your Content Strategy Needs Both Evergreen & Topical Content