10 easy (and useful!) social media content ideas for your BIA
Over the years I’ve seen A LOT of social media accounts of small-town downtown BIAs (Business Improvement Areas), chambers and boards of trade. Some accounts are creative and active. Other accounts are practically dead, or nothing more than an occasional Share or Retweet of members’ content. (Hint! That doesn’t add up to being a social media strategy.)
On social media, BIAs, chambers and boards of trade MUST be creating original content. This is showing marketing leadership. This is showing marketing vision. This complements the efforts of members.
When you don’t create your own original content, you fail to develop a personality on social media. And, make no mistake, as the business association representing your downtown, you sure as heck need character and personality. You are the face of the branding.
Stuck for ideas? Looking for a way out of the usual humdrum social media existence of only ever sharing the content of others?
Here are 10 easy (and useful!) content ideas that your downtown business association can start doing today on social media. It’s time to stand out, have a personality, and show a little creative character.
1. Leverage your history
You have a treasure trove of photos showing your history, from horse-drawn buggies on muddy main streets, to Model Ts lining the street in the 1920s. Once per week (#ThrowbackThursday), bring a little nostalgia to your social media accounts. Folks love history! Your history! And you have played a long role in your community.
2. Behind the scenes
Your BIA leaders are walking the sidewalks and visiting (at least I hope they are!) members’ shops on an almost daily basis, or talking with shoppers. Those visits represent opportunities for photos (hello, that’s content!). Leaders are also faces of the brand. Show how your leaders are active in your downtowns, meeting with store owners and shoppers and planning the next creative action in your downtown. Even if your downtown is struggling, show that your leaders are working hard to address that and turn things around.
3. Do a weekly video ‘Live from Downtown!’
Using video and going live is easily accessible to everyone today on social media! Once per week, have your leader or other key person visit a shop and do an episode of ‘Live from Downtown!’. Talk about what’s new in the shop, trends, great experiences. Just be sure to make the episode feel natural and authentic. You don’t need to be repeating that tired ineffective slogan Shop Local a hundred times in each episode. These episodes aren’t meant to be commercials. They are meant to humanize your downtown and show the faces behind the scenes of local shops. Each episode only needs to be 10 min or less. Do it live. After you finish being live, save it as a post so it stays on your page for those who missed seeing it live. Important reminder: set a regular day and time for going live and tell your fans days in advance so they know when to tune in.
4. Faces of Your Downtown
This is ridiculously easy! Hundreds of people work in your downtown. Each week take a photo of one of them and include a mini profile of 50 words or less.
5. Do a ‘What’s In Your Shopping Bag!’ promotion
Stores in your downtown can help provide content for this promotion. Willing customers agree to have their photo taken with their shopping bag. Have those photos sent to your BIA, chamber or board of trade office. Then, simply write this for your post > “I bought __________ at _______!” And then enter that person in a giveaway. Celebrate your supporters!
6. Create a hashtag campaign #YourDowntown_________
One of the central problems with so many downtowns is that leadership is typically more focused on inwards thinking. Most campaigns start at the store level and are pushed out to consumers through various advertising means. When was the last time you did a content curation campaign that originated at the shoppers’ level? You need to inspire the public to talk up and create content about your downtown. Social media represents the perfect vehicle to launch that today. And best of all, when fans talk up your downtown on social media, you get to engage directly with them. That beats a simple Share or Retweet any day! BTW, the key word in the hashtag is YOUR. Why? Because it’s not about YOU for a change.
7. Do a social media takeover for a day!
Your downtown has some amazing fans and ambassadors! Choose one and hand over your account for the day and tell them to go shopping (give them some cash!). Have that person record and photograph the entire journey. Yes, I actually said give them some cash to shop. Why? Do you know how much it would cost per hour to hire a marketing pro to travel your downtown for a day to shop and journal it all on social media? Point made. Use an ambassador, develop clear guidelines, and promote it in advance. Then watch A Day in the Life of Shopping in your Downtown unfold for everyone to enjoy.
8. Launch a Super Heroes How-to video series
Your downtown has shops that do stuff. They solve problems for folks. Your downtown shops are regularly the super heroes when folks need help. So put that hero power into a series of 1 or 2 minute videos. Maybe it’s how to take a kitchen tap off to replace a washer. Maybe it’s how to buy the right kind of paint. Or maybe it’s how to select the proper backpack for your next trip. Whatever it is, stop reciting that boring cliche line over and over again that your downtown excels at customer service. Every small downtown from the Pacific to the Atlantic says that. But very few show it. Here’s your chance show it. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking…… you can find out how to do all that stuff above by searching on Youtube. Of course you can. But we don’t know any of the people in those videos. This video series is about local faces who are local super heroes. It’s not about competing with a zillion other how-to videos made in far away places. This is about your downtown and your faces.
9. Launch a humorous campaign!
OK, I can’t tell you right here and now what campaign would work best in your downtown. But being lighthearted is a big part of being human. It helps balance off all those marketingish things you do that are overthought and overrehearsed. I once suggested in previous blog post that doing a window smush campaign can be ridiculously fun for a downtown. It’s simply a photo of a store owner or employee smushing their face against their store window, and you capturing the closeup face photo from the other side of the window. Look, I get it. Many shop owners would fluff this off and ridicule it. “I don’t get what the point is?” they’ll annoyingly say. Well, it’s about being human, not taking everything so seriously, and bringing some fun to your downtown! And if your downtown is struggling, believe me, a little fun can’t hurt. Also, look at the social media engagement you get on such a campaign and I think you’ll have an idea of why it works so well with audiences.
10. Weekly list of ’10 Awesome Things Found Here!’
Your downtown offers a huge amount of stuff. Fact is, very few shoppers know the full scope of what’s available in your downtown. Show them! Create slideshows owing 10 different items each week. And here’s a tip: Look for the unusual. Posting 10 photos of 10 televisions available in your downtown will just start a comment thread about people prefering to buy TVs at BestBuy. Instead, highlight stuff that most folks probably don’t know about. That’s what will generate positive engagement!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Based in the woods and working far beyond, Gregg McLachlan is recognized as a leading trainer, marketing rethinker and rural social media strategist in southwestern Ontario. He who works with small businesses and organizations who want to elevate their branding. He has been a conference and workshop guest speaker for rural downtown business associations, provincial government agencies, municipal economic development departments and tourism organizations, as well as provincial and national nonprofits. His new conference and workshop talk for 2018 is entitled, 2017 Is Sooooo Yesterday, and helps organizations understand how social media is evolving and how to stay ahead and be effective. Contact Gregg at firstname.lastname@example.org