Be authentic. Post Reels. Target your ideal audience. Sacrifice a goat. Maybe those things got you noticed last year but not anymore.

With almost half (46%) of Gen Z “constantly online” — and Millennial oldies like me not far off, I’d argue — social media is more crowded than ever.

It’s not enough to post regularly, master Reels transitions, join TikTok, or follow what everyone else is doing. To grow this year, brands need to be original, likable, and useful.

If you’re not any of those things, here are 17 social media content ideas to do instead. (Kidding! You’re already great, and these ideas will make you even better.)

Bonus: Download our free, customizable social media calendar template to easily plan and schedule all your content in advance.

8 creative social media content ideas for brands

1. Use original audio in Reels

It’s been a classic Instagram growth strategy for a while: Find a trending Reels audio clip, make a Reel, get thousands of new followers, and repeat.

Those days are gone. Yes, you can still use a voiceover of Michael from The Office and yes, it may grow your Instagram a bit. But 2023 is all about original audio.

Brainstorm your own funny skits instead, or for the simplest Reel of all? You + camera = answering your customers’ questions.

Using original audio in your Reels can:

  • Keep people watching longer, not knowing how it will end (as they do with trending audio after seeing a few).
  • Showcase your creativity and, potentially, make you — gasp — go viral.

2. Create “how to” content on YouTube Shorts

How-to YouTube Shorts hook people right away with quick visuals and a specific end result. If you sell a product, show your target audience how to use it — either the “regular way” or something creative.

Service providers, share your process or steps to achieve a quick win, like your best sales email script or a software tutorial.

How-to YouTube Shorts can help you:

  • Attract new subscribers.
  • Rapidly test to find out what your audience wants to see or learn about most.

3. Start a series

You’ve heard of #ThrowbackThursday and #SundayFunday but instead of regurgitating these tired trends, create your own daily or weekly series. It’s more original, and it’ll make your content planning process easier.

Instead of having to think of three new post ideas for the upcoming week, you’ll already know the format and theme of your series and can get into creating it right away. For max efficiency, keep a running list of all your ideas then pick one to film for the week, or film and schedule them all in bulk a month or more ahead of time.

In-depth educational series work especially well on YouTube. To keep people watching, create a YouTube playlist and link to it from each video’s description.

camera basics YouTube video series

Source: YouTube

A content series can help you:

  • Build momentum toward a product launch or event.
  • Demonstrate your expertise and earn trust.
  • Keep a consistent publishing schedule.

4. Invest in UGC content

UGC, or “user-generated content,” isn’t new but it’s definitely time to hop on board if you haven’t already. Like influencer marketing, UGC content is created by people instead of the brand, but — traditionally — UGC content comes from unpaid, real customers.

Why bother? Your customers are 2.4 times more likely to interact with UGC vs. brand-created content. Authenticity sells.

Create a hashtag for your customers to use and feature their photos or videos in your feed.

Don’t have a big audience yet? No worries: You can buy authenticity, too. UGC creators are big in 2023: People paid to create content that looks like organic customer content.

UGC content can help you:

  • Promote your products without seeming too sales-y.
  • Gather diverse assets to repost across your social accounts or use in other content. For example, photos of people of many different ethnicities using your products, or multiple home decor styles, like Wayfair’s example above.

5. Keep it simple

Spicy take: Some businesses are luckier than others when it comes to social media content ideas.

Exhibit A: What type of content is universally adored by everyone, regardless of language, location, culture, demographics, or interests?

Cute animal videos.

The San Diego Zoo doesn’t overthink their social content strategy. People like cute animal videos, so they give them cute animal videos. It’s really that easy sometimes.

@sandiegozoo

Most boopable moments of 2022 ✨ #boop #cuteanimals #animalsoftiktok #bestmoments #SanDiegoZoo

♬ 2022 recap x viva la vida – willow :)

Think of what “simple content” looks like for your business. What can you make in 5 minutes or less? Then, make a bunch all at once and bulk schedule up to 350 pieces of content at a time to automatically publish with Hootsuite. Ahh, the simple life.

Simple content can:

  • Allow for batched production and scheduling, cutting down content creation time.
  • Appeal to multiple customer types and audiences.

6. Curate content from others

Great news: Content curation is still hot. Your original content is what keeps people sticking around, but curated content can beef up your posting frequency and attract new peeps.

Set aside time each week for strategic content curation and your publishing queue will never run out.

What you share needs to be relevant to your business and in line with your usual brand voice and tone, of course. Try sharing industry news, or media features from your employees, like this article by Adobe’s Chief Product Officer.

Add getting metaverse-ready to your New Year’s Resolutions! To bring the virtual realm to the mainstream, Scott Belsky…

Posted by Adobe on Thursday, January 5, 2023

Content curation can:

  • Fill up your content calendar without needing to create visual assets.
  • Develop cross-promotional relationships with other brands and/or industry leaders.

7. Embrace memes

Humor is always in style because there’s always something to be sad about. So give your audience a lil’ giggle, eh?

Maybe run super spicy stuff through legal compliance first. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Memes can help you:

  • Gain new followers by cashing in on new, trending memes.
  • Appear cooler than you are. (That’s a joke. You’re very cool. Memes will help your audience see that.)

8. Launch a challenge

Challenges are a fun way to boost engagement, potentially get some juicy UGC (user-generated content), and subtly promote yourself at the same time.

Some businesses have more obvious challenge ideas than others. Nikon hosts monthly photography and videography challenges which fits their business perfectly. You may have to hunt for an idea if you, say, manufacture paper cups.

@nikonusa

For this month’s challenge, here’s Nikon Ambassador Kristi Odom’s take on motion with beautiful wildlife cinematography 🎥 Tips and tricks on NikonUSA.com

♬ Hey It’s Me – Official Sound Studio

Challenges can help:

  • Educate or inspire your audience, and encourage them to take action on a goal or use your product more.
  • Fill up your content calendar. Share your audience’s work as part of your content curation process.

5 Social media content ideas for small businesses

1. Leverage AI for social content ideas

I’m just a writer standing in front of ChatGPT asking it not to take my job. Just kidding. AI can’t replace this kind of—

OpenAI social media post ideas

Source: OpenAI

Crap. Okay, but seriously: AI is our friend (at least until it tries to reprogram our microwaves to kill us all).

I didn’t use ChatGPT when I outlined this article, but it came up with several of the same social media post ideas. None of them are rocket science, but that’s exactly the point: Let AI do your easy tasks so you have more time to create the original elements of your content that will make you stand out.

As a small business owner, you’re probably either still doing all your own social media or relying on a small team. If coming up with ideas is stopping you from posting as much as you’d like, AI content tools get the ball rolling.

Just don’t put all your eggs in one artificial basket. Use your human brain for content ideas, too.

AI content tools can help you:

  • Fill up a list of content ideas so you can get creating faster.
  • Overcome writer’s block.
  • Save time on idea generation so you can focus on the real work that moves your business forward. (Spoiler alert: It’s content.)

2. Run a contest

Social media contests are always a good idea because people love free stuff.

Give away a gift card to your business or something you sell. You can do anything from the super-simple “like, follow, and comment” format, to more involved contests like asking your followers to share a photo, or fill out a survey.

A good rule of thumb is to keep the effort of entering the contest in line with the prize value. Smaller value prize = less effort to enter, higher value prize = more effort.

For brick and mortar businesses, target local people with a fun scavenger hunt contest:

@cookcountysaloon

Thirsty anyone? 🤠 #yegscavengerhunt #yegbar #cookcountysaloon #edmontonfun #yeg #edmontontiktok #yegfun #edmonton #countrymusicalberta

♬ She’s Country – Jason Aldean

Social media contests can help you:

  • Rapidly grow your follower counts and audience.
  • Generate potential leads.
  • Find out valuable information about your customers through surveys to inform your marketing strategy.
  • Gather content assets you can use for future campaigns (for photo or video submission contests).

3. Feature your customers

What’s the best way to sell your products or services on social media? Showing not telling.

Share a testimonial or transformation story from a customer. It goes much further to gain trust than talking about yourself.

This can be as easy as whipping up a testimonial quote graphic, or better yet: Film a short video interviewing your customer. Edit it into multiple versions and share them across TikTok, Reels, Instagram Stories, YouTube videos, and more.

Keep social media videos under 60 seconds for best results.

Customer stories (especially video ones!) are:

  • More impactful and versatile than a written testimonial.
  • Great selling tools: People with the same problem as your featured customer see you as the solution.

4. Partner with content creators

Creators, a.k.a. influencers (or KOLs), are often pictured working with huge brands only, but 2023 is the year small businesses take over.

Our Social Trends report found only 28% of small businesses currently work with creators whereas 42% of businesses with over 1,000 employees do. Adding influencer marketing to your strategy this year will help you stand out from your peers, and deliver cost-effective campaigns in these uncertain financial times.

You don’t need a big announcement to start partnering with creators. New research shows influencer campaigns have up to 30.5% higher ROI when they’re not for new product launches.

You also don’t need to dish out a million dollars to hire an influencer. Micro and nanoinfluencers are a much more budget-friendly option — and can actually be more effective than very big creators in getting their audiences to take action (e.g. click through to your website or buy a product).

@gracewellsphoto

Replying to @drinkpoppi the gamification of soda 🎮 👀 #epiccommercial #videography #videographer #filmtok #popcultured #poppipartner

♬ original sound – Grace Wells

Creator partnerships can help you:

  • Reach valuable audiences who trust the creator introducing you, often for much less than paying for ads.
  • Gather high-quality photos or videos you can use in future campaigns, on your website, and more.

5. Get feedback from your customers

Dying to know what your customers want? Just ask them.

This doesn’t mean that because one person suggests something, it’s a good idea or that you need to do it right away. But allowing customers to choose new flavors or the next event topic brings them closer to your business and builds a sense of community.

Asking for feedback on social media can:

  • Encourage engagement. Make sure to reply to comments, even just to say thank you.
  • Deepen existing customer relationships and develop new ones.

4 B2B social media content ideas

You can definitely use the tips above, but these social media ideas are especially effective for B2B brands:

1. Share your best case studies

Testimonials, success stories, before and afters, yada yada — same-ish, different words for one thing: Demonstrating your capabilities.

B2B buyers are looking for a result, not the hope of a result.

By how much % did your customer’s email open rate increase after using your A/B testing software? Exactly how much money did your solution save your customer?

Pull some key stats out of an existing case study and make a few graphics to post on social, or edit them into a video for a TikTok or Reel (depending which platforms you’re on).

Can’t mention your big client successes by name? Pull together general statistics into averages, like how Heyday’s AI chatbot saved clients an average of $3,000 USD per day during Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

Case studies can help:

  • Build trust. Testimonials are great, but numbers and statistics convince.
  • Your prospects understand your product’s key features in action.

2. Help your community

Do you regularly give money or volunteer time to local non-profits? Do you offer employees a paid day to volunteer at an organization important to them? Recently sponsored a fundraiser or event?

Show how involved you are with local and industry communities. Tap into the Instagram Reels algorithm by asking your employees to record a short clip of their volunteer day to share.

If you support an event, stitch a few clips together into a quick Reel, TikTok, or YouTube Short and let your customers know the impact of their contributions to the cause.

Community involvement can help you:

  • Build trust within your local area and make people feel good about shopping at your business vs. a competitor.
  • Network with other local businesses and indirectly, though effectively, promote yourself to attract new clients.

3. Post your research

Have a new white paper or study? Grab a few key stats and create social content linking back to the full report.

Make graphics for carousel posts and short videos for Instagram Reels, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts. Or, offer a few pages of your report as a PDF on LinkedIn with a link to download the rest.

Use online graphic design tools to turn your statistics into animations you can post as Reels for higher visibility in the Instagram algorithm.

Sharing your research can help you:

  • Target and attract your ideal audience.
  • Build credibility within your industry, especially for new companies.

4. Share your company culture

Besides selling, recruiting top talent should also be a main goal in your B2B social media marketing plan. Sharing open jobs is part of that, but so is sharing why someone should consider you in the first place.

If you can, weigh in on a popular hashtag to further increase your reach.

Of course, this means you actually have to offer great benefits for your team members. If you don’t already, start now.

Showing your company culture can:

  • Keep you top of mind when a competitor’s star employee is looking for a change.
  • Help advance important benefits and protections for employees across your sector or country. (Social progress is cool.)

Plan, schedule, and analyze all your social media content from one organized workspace with Hootsuite. Go further than the basic features you’d expect with Best Time to Publish, social listening tools, automatic post boosting, and more. Do it all across all your platforms with Hootsuite.

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