Forget the tales of the 1 minute wonder post on Twitter or Facebook
Online marketers may tell you stories of how their most successful social media post for a client came from a quick snap on their mobile phone, with an off the cuff caption leading to the best ever engagement stats.
Perhaps the best recent example of this type of post is the "You can still dunk in the dark" tweet for Oreo cookies by the 360i agency, during the Super Bowl blackout. It was genius, and by definition very rare. As with Archimedes, the Eureka idea comes along, if it ever does, after thousands of hours of hard work. It's just the way the creative mind works, it can't just create from a vacuum. It's also difficult to repeat a genius idea/creation, because the opportunity or setting for the creation does not come along regularly.
The typical Facebook post
So I just want to run you through the process of putting up a typical Facebook post for a client. This is not the most complicated post ever or the easiest, but is a good indicator of the work involved. Remember for each client you may be uploading anywhere between 4 to 30 posts per month, depending on requirements.
1. The Idea
First you need to come up with the raw ideas. Whether you prefer brainstorming with a group, or thinking in the shower, or letting the ideas "just come to you", or whatever works for you. But before you begin you need to have a set of ideas on the proverbial table. In our agency a few people chip in, some more than others :-)
Now depending on the brief from the client, the raw idea can't be all that raw. Naturally, there are always parameters regarding what you can show or what you can write for the caption.
In addition nearly all brands will have guidelines relating to their core values. Their brand has to be portrayed within a particular framework, radiating certain characteristics. The picture of an obese woman just wouldn't be right for a soft drinks company, or a Bangladeshi factory for a sports shoe brand.
In addition, clients will have creative guidelines. At its simplest, some brands will be looking for professional looking photos, whereas some will want more realistic mobile phone type snaps. There are usually also colour code and product presentation considerations.
Now for one of our clients, Bavaria (a Dutch beer company), we came up with the idea of creating a Facebook post to highlight the various flavours of their non alcoholic beer. This was the raw idea. A secondary objective of the post was to give it a 'summer feel'. After all that's when people are drinking the most, and also when our Facebook post was due to go up.
2. How to capture the idea?
The best representation of an idea depends on your budget! But typically, even the loosest and biggest advertising accounts cannot afford to empty the bank for each single Facebook post. So the most common social media post is not usually a heavily edited one million dollar viral youtube video, but just a straightforward rendering of an idea. In fact, I would say the most effective social media post is a simple idea, simply captured. As it was the case with the Oreo post from 360i.
3. Decide on the medium
Videos, sketches, animations, photos etc. are all possible and viable options for a Facebook post. I tend to prefer photos for most posts, as I think the audience finds it more 'real' and engages better with it. But photos for every post is not appropriate! I also love short animations.
Should I sketch a story board before the photo shoot?
This is a good idea if you wish to communicate the idea to the client; but in reality whereas this might be the accepted norm for advertising, when it comes to social media, you have very little time and have to figure out the best 'look' during the photo shoot itself.
You may not have a story book sketch in your hands, but at the very least you should go into the photo shoot with a couple of ideas for the 'look' you wish to achieve.
4. The photo shoot
Depending on the budget and the post, this can be you and your mobile, you in a photo studio or outside with a photographer or if you are a good photographer, you with your fancy camera!
This can be the tricky stage, if you don't have the patience or an overall vision of what you are looking for. Even, if you know exactly what you want, it can take many iterations before you see the result you were after.
So back to our post for Bavaria...We want to highlight the various flavours and give it a summer feel! Okay so straight off, we probably want to do this shoot when it's sunny! That may sound simple, but trust me when you are in London, that's not so simple.
The ideas for the shoot
With fingers crossed that the sun will show up, we can try a few ideas for the look of the photo:
Have 5 drinking glasses each coupled with a fruit reflecting a Bavaria flavour. Bavaria cans should casually be hanging around in front of a table, outdoors in a sunny setting.
Okay so buy a few nice looking fruit matching the flavours of the beer cans.
Let's get snapping
After 28 photo snaps...The focus of the picture is the Bavaria glasses and fruit, but it just doesn't look right...we need to try another look
This time we forget about the cans, let's just fill the glasses with each can and have the matching fruit next to it.
After 38 snaps...
This is certainly better, but it does not convey the association between the canned beer and flavours enough, and it also doesn't look that attractive to look at. Try another look, this time with the cans.
Let's get the cans back into it and get rid of the glasses to see what happens. Just put a fruit relating to the flavour on the can rather than next to it. Very simple...
After 65 snaps...
This idea seems fine now. It's capturing the summer and it's showing off the flavours. The photo itself could be better. The contrast doesn't seem quite right. The white goal post to the top right of the picture in the background may also be taking away the attention from the cans.
Stick to the same composition, but change backgrounds and play with contrasts
After 120 snaps we finally get a decent shot...
Yes, this is a simple photo which looks attractive and conveys the message we want to get across: Bavaria has fruity flavours for the summer.
Would this photo make it more likely for someone to try a fruit flavoured Bavaria on a hot sunny day, probably yes. We have the sun, the fruit, and cans you can buy from the supermarket shelves. Job done! Well not quite...
5. Photoshop only if absolutely necessary
We only photoshop if strictly necessary. For this post we didn't. This way photos stay more real and more relevant. Remember it's not a glamour shoot, we just want to create an image which is attractive but real.
6. What about the copy?
Yes, of course we now have to think of the caption. Again, this is the stage when you need to do some creative thinking. The obvious caption may seem to be:
"Bavaria, fresh flavours for the summer!"
Hmmm it's good, but a bit advertorial. Also we can see it's Bavaria, and it's obviously showing off the flavours, so we are perhaps stating the obvious. And why would anyone engage with this post. Okay some may post comments such as, "cool" or "nice" but there won't be any social engagement.
How about we simply write:
"Which is your favourite flavour?"
It's a simple question begging an answer, and is very likely to engage the user. It's also indirectly asking people to take a closer look at the flavours, to choose their favourite. Users may also find out which flavour their friends like better and it makes the post truly social. You normally care about what your friends like. The caption adds to the photo, it doesn't just describe it.
So after a round of raw ideas, buying a few fruit from a grocer, a sunny day and 120 camera snaps, the post is ready to go up.
Now that's how long it takes to do the average Facebook post for a client, in this case around 1 working day. But it's worth spending the time to get it right, the post was very successful with many likes and comments.