If people are following your business on social media, they’re probably not following it because they want to be sold to. People are on social media because they want to be social, and they’re following you because they want to be social with you. To keep your fans and followers engaged and connected with your brand, however, you must regularly post interesting content that consists of more than just advertisements, promotions, and boring company press releases.

People want to be entertained. People want to be inspired. People want to be educated.

Posting content on social media that people actually want will not only give your current fans and followers something to love, but also increase your chance of attracting new fans and followers. And who doesn’t want more of those?

Now, on to the good stuff!’

Entertaining Content

Entertaining content includes such things as throwbacksmemes, and contests/giveaways.

One of the most popular social media trends is Throwback Thursday (hashtagged as #TBT, #ThrowbackThursday, or just simply #Throwback). This is when users take to their social media pages (on Thursday, obviously) to post content (most times a photo) of some past event or memory. Cue, the cute baby pictures.

But Throwback Thursday doesn’t have to be limited to personal baby pictures. Leading social media consultant Stephanie Frasco says businesses can use Throwback Thursday to show that they’ve been around awhile, to show that they have a personality, and to show that they are creative. Consider sharing past product launches, photos of your company’s first office, designs of old business cards and logos, or photos from last year’s office holiday party when all employees wore those ugly Christmas sweaters.

Check out how some major brands have used Throwback Thursday to their advantage:

What is your business waiting on? Once you start using this trend, you’ll come to love it so much that you will want to use it more than once a week. Guess what? You can. Flashback Friday (hashtagged as #FBF or #FlashbackFriday) is an extension of Throwback Thursday, so now you can post those old company photos two times a week on social media. FriYAY, indeed!

Now, let’s talk about memes. Most people who use memes online today probably don’t know that the term was originally coined by UK biologist and writer Richard Dawkins. He wanted a word that sounded a bit like gene, so he decided to abbreviate the Greek root mimeme to meme.

Two things you should know: (1) meme could be thought of as being related to memory or to the French word même, and (2) meme should be pronounced to rhyme with cream. According to Dawkins, memes “are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes, fashions, ways of making pots, or of building arches…memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.”

(If you’re interested in the authentic scientific definition of meme, click here. For those of you who aren’t interested in becoming more intelligent, then Hootsuite’s definition of meme will do: “A meme is a funny image, video, or piece of text that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by internet users.”

Because successful memes often go viral, some brands have begun to use these creative pieces in their own marketing, especially in social media marketing. For example, Ruffles – the potato chip company, launched a campaign centered around summertime barbecue with the hashtag #GrillChillEntry, encouraging its audience to send photos of their grilling tips, tricks, and fails.

Moz, a marketing SaaS company, employed the memes when it announced its Series B round of VC funding in May 2012. Impressive, aye? (Not the meme, the money. Kidding.)

Memes are a creative way to keep your social media content fun and humorous for your followers and fans. Memes, however, should only be used when they are relevant to the subject matter at hand. AudienceBloom founder and CEO Jayson DeMers says there are “right” ways and “wrong” ways to use memes in the context of your content marketing campaign or social media presence, so before you jump headlong into the meme factory, you might want to check out DeMers’ insightful article regarding using memes for online marketing on Forbes.

Okay, what about contests and giveaways? Well, it’s no secret that people like to get stuff – especially free stuff. And on social media, the more resources, discounts, services, and freebies (I repeat, freebies) you give, the more followers and fans you are likely to get.

While social media contests and giveaways should be fun and creative, they also need to be strategic and tailored to your target market in order to be successful. James Scherer over at Social Media Examiner gave four tips for executing successful social media contests: (1) appeal to prospective customers, not just entrants; (2) offer an incentive for social sharing; (3) promote your contest with paid social ads; and (4) follow up with prize-related discounts in an email campaign.

Perhaps beauty brand Dove launched the ultimate social media contest when they used Facebook for their ‘Real Beauty Should be Shared’ contest. Participants were asked to share why their friend “represents Real Beauty” by filling in their friend’s name and two things that makes them beautiful. The winners of the contest were then chosen as the next faces of Dove, allowing the brand itself to become a lot more real.

As you can see, you don’t have to offer your followers and fans something material such as money or an iPad or an Amazon gift card through your social media contests, but you must offer them something of value. If you’re having a giveaway on social media, you must give something that will be of benefit to participants and something that they actually want.

Now, go forth . . . and post entertaining content on social media.

Check back next week for Part 2 in which we’ll look at inspiring social media content forms that will keep your followers engaged.

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