Twenty years ago, if you said you worked in robo-advising, direct-to-consumer optometry, or mattress sales, you would probably be the least popular person at a dinner party. No offense but: booooring! Who invited you!? Get out!
But things have changed: some of today’s hottest brands are centered around traditionally “boring” industries.
Wealthsimple, Warby Parker and Casper (who trade in — you guessed it — robo-advising, direct-to-consumer optometry and mattress sales) produce some of social media’s most engaging content and enjoy global reputations for being fun, fresh young businesses.
Which just goes to show, it’s not a product or service that makes something “boring,” it’s branding and marketing.
And with social media, even the dullest of businesses have an opportunity to spice things up. For instance, watch Episode 5 of Hootsuite’s own social media award show, Fridge-worthy, to find out how this transportation company does it:
Here are 16 ways any business can beat a boring reputation and create engaging social content.
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16 ways to make a “boring” brand exciting
Here’s the thing: marketing is usually not about what you’re selling, so much as it’s about how you sell it. So, really, you’ve got no excuse.
Even if you’re selling elastic bands or medical gauze, or hyper-specific software for estate auctioneers, there’s an opportunity to delight, excite and inform your social media followers.
1. Tell your story
Whatever your business is, there must have been an initial spark of inspiration or a big “why” moment that kicked it all off. Don’t be afraid to get real and share it.
What’s more interesting: a bidet company explaining that last season’s model is 25% off, or a bidet company sharing the environmental impact toilet paper has on the planet?
Human brains are wired to connect with narratives, so harness your inner storyteller — whether through a 280-character tweet or a charmingly rambling Instagram caption.
Mail-order vitamin company Ritual mixes in personal letters from its CEO with memes, informational posts and product intel. Yes, she’s hyping up a new product line, but she’s also re-sharing the reason she started in the health supplement business in the first place. Smart, Kat! You’ve clearly been taking your, um, brain vitamins.
2. Educate your audience
Creating engaging content isn’t always about cracking jokes and running contests — and maybe that’s not even appropriate for the vibe of your brand. But whether your content runs more towards the goofy or the serious end of the spectrum, it never hurts to share clear and helpful information.
Pass on expert advice about how to get the most out of your product, reveal some interesting company history or correct a misconception about your industry. If your audience scrolls by and learns something, that’s a win.
H&R Block offers tax preparation services (say it with me: boooorrring) — but nevertheless, its Instagram account is full of cheery, informative graphics that direct followers to educational blog posts. Helpful and cute!
3. Go behind the scenes
What’s happening at your offices? Did prototypes for your newest product just show up at the warehouse? How do shoelaces get made?
There’s something fascinating about seeing the nuts-and-bolts of a business, so if you’re able to give followers a peek behind the curtain, we say: reveal yourself, Mr. Oz!
Look to integrated container logistics company, Maersk, for inspiration. Sorry, did you fall asleep reading that description? Well, it’s time to wake up because Maersk’s Instagram feed is full of personable shout-outs to its crews, beautiful sunset shots from the deck of the barge, and other content that shows what traveling the world on a container ship looks like behind the scenes (at least the fun and cool parts).
4. Embrace authenticity
There’s a lot of artifice and posturing on social media, for sure. (Filters: maybe you’ve heard of them.) But that’s exactly why authenticity hits hard. It’s exciting to see a brand get real and raw.
Be honest and transparent, create content that’s meaningful and you’ll build trust with your audience over time.
Toothbrush startup Quip (a phrase you could not have imagined hearing back in the year 2000) reposts images of happy customers at the bathroom mirror. I dare you to find me some more authentic content than this smiling baby.
Bonus: repurposing user-generated content is always a nice way to reward loyal fans with a little piece of the spotlight, and offers social proof that might just encourage on-the-fence lurkers to make a purchase.
5. Hold a Q&A
Whether you’ve got a somewhat complicated brand offering (what are taxes?) or deal in a product that tackles some embarrassing, too-human bodily function (hello, period underwear!), your audience probably has a few questions they’d love an expert to tackle.
If the Foot and Leg Center podiatry clinic can call for questions (using a funny pig photo to boot), well, why shouldn’t you?
6. Team up with someone fun
The best way to prove you’re not boring? Invite someone interesting to boost your reputation. Partner with an influencer or an influential community member for a social media takeover, product collaborations or even a virtual interview or conversation. Their cool factor may just rub off on you.
Newsletter distribution platform MailChimp has a podcast that spotlights small business owners. Conveniently, social posts promoting the podcast just so happen to offer an opportunity to cross-pollinate with that business’ own audience.
7. Be human
There’s no sense in pretending either you or your audience are perfect… because no one is. There’s something powerful about relating to the pain (ohhh the pain!) of humanity.
Sharing pain points in the human experience — whether your own or from your core demographic — and empathizing can be a bonding moment.
Toilet-paper company Who Gives a Crap got crudely real about its reaction to a recent small earthquake in Melbourne. Gross… but weirdly relatable?
Melbourne, we’re thinking of your fallen rolls today. If this morning’s #earthquake made you poop your pants a little, here’s a tremendous (geddit) 5.8% off with the code: CRACKEDIT. Also, did anyone else awkwardly half hide under their desk while it was happening? pic.twitter.com/H3oVfi8PEE
— Who Gives A Crap (@WhoGivesACrapTP) September 22, 2021
8. Hold a contest
People love to win stuff! Host a contest for a giveaway either of your own product or service, or something from a related business, and you’ll be the hottest post on the block.
The Piedmont Environmental Council’s photo contest drew attention with its generous restaurant gift certificate prizes and gave the organization an excuse to post pretty nature snapshots in the lead-up to the deadline.
9. Tap into trending topics
If you think your product is simply too boring to talk about in every post, that’s OK — there’s plenty more to chat about online. (In fact, talking about yourself too much gets a little old after a while, even for the sexiest of products.)
Luckily, there’s always a fresh trending topic or current event to weigh in on. Use social listening to figure out what your audience is going on and on about, and chime in on the conversation. Or, scope out trending hashtags to dive into a broader discussion.
General Electric chimed in on the buzz around the #Olympics with this video cheering on its own intern, who was set to compete in the Paralympics. (Looks like there’s a bonus branding lesson here: hire incredible athletes whenever possible, just in case.)
As the #Olympics come to a close, we're wishing the best of luck to @ahalyalett, a @GEHealthcare intern who's swimming for Team USA in the #ParalympicGames in Tokyo! We’re all cheering for you, Ahalya 🏊♀️. https://t.co/l6spoeO49K pic.twitter.com/6ME3WxIqHY
— General Electric (@generalelectric) August 9, 2021
10. Be memorable
Your social account is but one drop in an ocean of content. If you’re posting a shot-from-above photo of a cup of coffee captioned “I love Sundays!” like every other social media weekend warrior, why should anyone bother to come back to you for more?
Stand out from the crowd with eye-catching graphics, a shocking infographic or funny meme.
Razor company Dollar Shave Club, for instance, created this TikTok video that will haunt my dreams.
Such a supportive razor.
11. Promote your company culture
Even if your product or service isn’t the most captivating, maybe your people are! Spotlight what makes your company or office unique, highlight employees’ accomplishments or talents, and generally brag about what a fun crew you’re working with.
Optical company Warby Parker promotes its fun-loving corporate culture with a special “Warby Barker” Instagram account featuring employee dogs and other furry cuties wearing specs. Can I come work there? Can these dogs be my boss?
12. Be useful
What kind of resources can you share to make your followers’ lives better? How-to videos? Answers to frequently asked questions? Downloadable worksheets?
Offer content that acts as a service, and your value will be crystal clear.
13. Create a series
A recurring feature not only helps round out your social media content calendar, it also gives followers a reason to come back regularly for more content they love.
This could be a Friday afternoon Instagram Story sharing your team’s weekend playlist, or a recurring video segment putting everyday objects in a blender. Consistency lets fans know what to expect and hammers home your brand values.
PayPal is a global force at this point, but let’s not forget that on paper, it’s a digital finance exchange tool: a.k.a boring. But its marketing team knows better than to just post about exchange rates and service fees all day. Instead, they infuse their feeds with editorial content, like their I Call Next series which profiles members of the esports community.
Together with @Ubisoft, we present you with the Episode 2 from our I Call Next series, which spotlights the @Rainbow6Game community. Watch as we showcase the contributions of @Demitrios_, a community moderator who creates safer spaces for everyone. https://t.co/IStQZJdjnj pic.twitter.com/BXXlD5N52V
— PayPal (@PayPal) May 10, 2021
14. Be a showoff
Pull a crazy stunt, or brag about a recent accomplishment. If you don’t toot your own horn, who will? It’s a great prompt for engagement.
Mattress distributor Casper got a chance to show off that the brand was featured in a Jeopardy question with this quickie Instagram clip. More than 15,000 people were very, very pleased on Casper’s behalf. (Is the Venn diagram between Jeopardy fans and Casper fans just a circle?)
15. Run a poll
The beauty of social media is its interactivity, so don’t be shy about asking your followers to speak up.
A poll is a great, low-barrier way for even the shyest of fans to weigh in on an issue and join the conversation. Polls can ask for customer feedback on the latest product, gauge interest in a new service or even just get people to pick a side about whether they like smooth or crunchy peanut butter best.
In the process of promoting a book about grief, WTF Just Happened ran this tender, funny, relatable poll on its Instagram account. Fans weighed in and suggested their own favorite people to punch in the wake of a loss. This is community, people!
16. Don’t take yourself so seriously
For “boring” brands to thrive on social media, it really all boils down to having fun. Just because your company doesn’t produce glow sticks or candy, doesn’t mean you can’t bring the party to your feed.
Bra company ThirdLove has a meaningful mission to create inclusive underwear for every kind of body — but not every post on its social channels is a sob story, as a recent re-post of memes demonstrates.
The bottom line: create great content, and it doesn’t matter how dull your actual product is. For more inspiring creative social content ideas, we’ve got a cheat sheet of creative post inspiration right here.
Easily manage all the social media profiles for your boring product using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can schedule and publish posts, engage your followers, monitor relevant conversations, measure results, manage your ads, and much more.