Saturday, January 20, 2018

The 15 Social Media Posts that Work, with Examples from Whataburger

by Steven S. Vrooman

In my IAEE ExpoExpo talk on social media strategy (bonus: you can see some of the data analysis from that presentation here!), I showed a list of 15 types of posts that my accumulated social media research since my TEDx talk on the subject have shown work best to drive audience engagement. In this blog post, I will show them all to you, with an example from the fantastic social media team behind Whataburger's social media.

A quick note, first: engagement is not the same as reach. If you only want reach, you will want to read things like the post I saw on LinkedIn yesterday that suggested finding your competitor's most liked and shared posts and just stealing them. Change the picture and the specific text, but basically just crib your social media content, hashtags and all. I'm sure that will get you reach. If all you want is numbers of eyeballs (so the dashboard you show your boss to keep your job looks good every month), well, I guess that stuff might work. 

But, I've been railing against plagiarism as a college professor for years. Eventually you get caught, you know (in case your personal ethics aren't robust enough to get you to abstain from this). And then you get burned. Someone will see that you are doing this. All it takes it one tweet filled with the comparative screenshots and you're done. 

And is this really your strategy???!!??? Is THIS the story of your organization or personal brand? Is this why you get up in the morning? 

Engagement IS more important than reach. You can see my last post or listen to my INBOUND17 talk if you need to hear my arguments on that. I'll assume if you're still reading you agree. Here's what works:

Wanna be a pal and click HERE to tweet this for me?

Again, the links up above are for the why. Here's the how. These are examples of what it looks like using my recent favorite, Whataburger:

See? That works.


I know, this is "professional" social media. We're not supposed to do this, are we?

This is Whataburger's central social media style. It works for them. They like to do it. But even if it is not your go-to style, it will work sometimes. Before you tell me humor isn't professional think back on the history of marketing and advertising for just a second . . . . okay, good.


Make it about you or your team. We want to see this more than you think. Doubt it? If you can tell me what color turtleneck Steve Jobs always wore, I'm right.


This is the Internet. Nerds live here. Be one of us.

Those are It and Harry Potter references, muggles.


This is a bit of a stretch with Whataburger tweets, sure. I'll give you better examples in a later post using my other favorite social media content lately, art museum Snaps.


If you don't have this content, it's a bit of a red flag for your organization. *Nothing* I post gets as much attention as this kind of thing on LinkedIn, which is supposed to be the boring, self-promotey, personally remote social media platform. So imagine how well it works for other venues.


Pictures, folks. We love pictures. This is usually the part of a keynote someone queries me about afterwards. "Like, funny cat pictures?" Well, no. It should be relevant. But funny pictures of your cat at your office? Maybe. How about pictures like those in the rest of these Whataburger posts? 


Your people. 

Doing people things. 

In your space. 

If you have a place on your website where you allow us to "Meet the Team!" with boring headshots, then you need to show us pictures of those people looking at the eclipse or bowling or working a soup kitchen or setting up the trade booth, etc. 

We want a picture of real things. Not memes. Not quotes. Not cats. Maybe dogs, though:


Look, this stuff works with college students. For a time. Then they get tired of it and move on. Their Boomer and GenX elders hate this stuff. Don't you? So don't do this too much. The last game/contest from Whataburger was 3 months ago. And it worked in its context:


Food hacks, like the one below, are easy. In other contexts, yes, this is harder. But when I've done research on college students and twentysomethings in general, this kind of thing works. They share these posts, too. What can you offer as hack-worthy wisdom in your world?


Videos are pictures that move, eh? See above. Whataburger actually needs more video, I'd say. Especially given their snarky tone, a bit of something that moves besides ironic GIFs while you scroll through their tweets would be a nice touch. Like this next example...


This is usually going to be pictures and videos, but there are other elements here. Successful social media presences like The Blogess give us that backstage pass all the time. It's our reason to tune into your livestream early. It's how you humanize yourself without resorting to funny cat memes. It makes everything look less slick, less like soulless marketing cranked out by bots. There's a reason we watched Mr. Rogers or Unwrapped or Dirty Jobs or Behind the Music or any celebrity gossip blogEvery time I post behind-the-scenes stuff it gets double the eyeballs of regular posts. Here, check out the feels:

Connect Locally

You should have a friendly and collaborative social media relationships with important, allied local businesses and organizations. Likely you have this in real, non social media life, so why not reflect that online? Do you sponsor the local Little League team? Are you rooting for the HS volleyball team to make State? Are you excited for the county fair?

Remember that we're supposed to share and play nicely. If you have concerns about retweeting, make your own content and tag them.


This will usually flow organically from connecting locally, but it also comes from interactions with clients and consumers. Whataburger is pretty great at this:

Social Proof

"Social proof" is the idea that our opinions are formed by interacting with others. Sometimes even when it doesn't really make sense. Just look at the fashion history of pants. In social media this generally means that when we see posts with zero or few likes and shares and comments, we assume the content is not as valuable as posts that are heavily marked as popular. We DO judge books by their covers and tweets by the small bits of metrics that we can see just below them. 

If you're Whataburger, you get a lot of social proof on your stuff without worrying too much about it. You're a beloved local fixture and your brand of humor in social media is well-known and generally well-received. 

But this is for the people or organizations or businesses with lots of content that passes by in the scroll with big 0s on the metrics. If you've connected locally, make an effort to acknowledge and like each other's content. Proactive work here will lift all boats. 

The best example of this is with sub-units of organizations, like universities. Most schools have different social media accounts for their divisions or groups, from admissions to the campus police to the mascot to student groups to sports teams to campus dining. Schools that are successful in getting student eyeballs on their content tend to have those units pay attention and like/share/comment on each other's stuff. It passes the initial social proof filter for scrolling students. Sure, if you click to see who has liked it, you might notice that every sports team on campus liked the new jersey sold by the bookstore. But . . . aren't you still going to like it anyway?


I'l bet Whataburger gets a lot more social media attention than most us us, and still I think they have a few things they could do better (more video, more local connections). So there's no shame in having some work to do. Hopefully this post helps to spur thoughts and generate some new possibilities for your social media practice. 

This is a win-win. It makes the social media landscape more interesting and it will improve engagements with your content. Good luck!


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