"Do you want to do a home staging challenge with me!?"
"Join me for home seller boot camp."
"It's spring cleaning week! Follow along!"
How many times have you seen agents post things like this? Or maybe you've even done a social media challenge.
Let me guess: for the first day or two, engagement was great, but after a few days, you only had a few likes and no one commenting on your posts.
Before we talk about why that is, let me back up.
Social media challenges are all designed to build brand and community. The way they usually work is that a person or brand will ask its audience to participate in some type of offline activity and then post a photo of it to social media, usually with a special hashtag that aggregates all of the posts.
Most notably people remember the "planking" challenge or the "ice bucket challenge" but brands execute these on a smaller scale too. Think: a "cook along" where people cook the same recipe together and post it online, or a "spring cleaning challenge" where you give your followers a different project to tackle each day.
By initiating a group of people to do something together, you can develop camaraderie which in turn builds trust in your brand. But, the truth is that social media challenges seem like a good idea in theory, but they rarely result in more engagement or followers. They also tend to be quite a bit of work, both for you and for your participants.
On social media, the key to creating engaging content is to give your followers consistency and variety. Posting the same graphic or the same topic seven days in a row? You've got the consistency, but you're not giving your audience any variety.
If your social media challenges aren't generating the engagement that you'd hoped, there are a few reasons why that may be.
YOU ARE USING THE WRONG PLATFORM
If you are going to host a social media challenge, pick a social network where you'll get optimal engagement. This is not usually the kind of thing you'll want to cross-post (or "spray and pray") across every social network where you have a profile.
Instagram is great for these challenges because Instagram presents the most opportunity for engagement with your followers. You can post to your feed, but maybe introduce the challenge in a longer video posted to IGTV and then do teases and share your followers' content about the challenge in IG Stories.
You can also created a unique branded hashtag, like #TheSevenDaySocialChallenge (I'm totally making this up) and encourage your followers to use it when they post about the challenge. This way you can be sure to go in to engage with the people who are engaging with you, and can more easily measure the results, too.
YOUR TOPIC DOESN'T RESONATE
If you are going to ask your followers to participate in a challenge, it needs to check two boxes: the social media challenge needs to be something that people will actually want to do, and it should be something that is extremely easy to do.
As with all of your social media content, a social media challenge should be something that you think would resonate with your audience. If you regularly post home organizing tips, then a spring cleaning challenge could generate some nice engagement!
But if you're more of a "let's order takeout so we don't have to the dishes" type of person, then your followers might think it's weird to see you posting a spring cleaning challenge. Or worse -- they will "mute" or hide your posts because they find them repetitive.
Your challenge should be authentic to your brand, and it should provide value to your audience.
When planning the topic for your challenge, you need to consider a few things:
When choosing your topic, remember that at any given time, only about 1-3% of your followers are actually thinking of buying or selling a home. So if you do a challenge related to real estate: like staging, or prepping finances to buy, it is unlikely that you'll get any true engagement from the challenge.
Instead, think about something that will either be fun to do, or something people are already doing and put a social media spin on it.
For example, during the holiday season, we created a "Favorite Things" series for one of our clients where for several weeks, she promoted a different local business perfect for holiday shopping on her social networks. It resulted in a lot of online buzz, so much that one of the businesses she promoted called her and said she had noticed increased traffic to her store and people telling her, "my realtor raves about this place!"
Why did it work? The series was consistent for her followers to rely on, delivered variety with a different business featured each time and answered a question that a lot of people had at the time: "where should I shop for holiday gifts?" We didn't ask her followers to do anything...but some of them did anyway because they were informed and inspired by the content.
Social media is a fantastic place to nurture your sphere of influence, but it is also a busy space. There can be a lot of noise online, so be sure you are adding value with your posts, not adding to your followers' growing to-do lists or making them work hard to engage with you.
YOUR VISUALS ARE BOR-ING
Would you post the same photo to your Instagram feed 10 days in a row? No. At least, I sure hope you wouldn't!
So, if you are doing a social media challenge, whether it's three days, 10 days, a month, then you need to have that many different visuals. It can be a different photo, a different photo with a similar text overlay or watermark, or it can be a similar graphic template with new images and text.
Simplified (the planner brand) does a nice job with their challenges. Keep in mind that their brand is based upon organization, so their "Simplicity Challenges," which it looks like they do quarterly, are perfectly on brand and likely to resonate with their audience.
Their #springsimplicitychallenge uses an alternating pattern: a bright pink graphic interspersed with a photograph or something else. The brand's January #simplicitychallenge2020 used different graphics each day -- all different colors and a few different template. Both methods are eye-catching, on-brand, and well-designed.
It's also worth noting though that while both of these challenges were beautifully executed from a design standpoint, the spring challenge only has 55 tagged posts in its hashtag group, while the January challenge had 795 tagged posts in its hashtag group.
Without knowing this brand's specific social media strategy it is hard to say whether this was a success for them, but keep in mind that they have over 280,000 followers and less than 800 tagged posts (including their own). I am sure they have other success metrics in place specific to their strategy, but this is simply to say that if you have 280 followers, you might not see much, if any, engagement.
Although it's true that it can only take one lead to pay for your social media efforts for months, there are simpler ways to get a lot more engagement when you are first building up your online community.
YOU DIDN'T HAVE A MARKETING PLAN
Have you thought about how you'll spread the word about your Instagram challenge?
On social media, only a percentage of people who follow you will see your posts (that percentage depends on how you rank against social media algorithms).
That is why social media works best when integrated within a comprehensive marketing plan: client appreciation, direct mail, email marketing, offline networking, paid Facebook or Instagram advertising, and so on.
Let's say you are a huge foodie and planning to do a "cook-along" challenge where you post your favorite simple recipe, then invite your clients to cook the same recipe and post photos, or to cook the meal and then join you on a virtual Zoom or Google Hangout dinner party.
On Monday, you post the ingredients and a photo of your recipe and invite your clients to come back and cook with you on Thursday evening. That means you have from Monday to Thursday to get the word out -- maybe through a digital ad, an email blast, a postcard, maybe you are even sending a bottle of wine to each client who opts in to enjoy with their meal.
My point here is two-fold: social media should not happen in a vacuum and neither should your social media challenge.
THERE WAS NO INCENTIVE TO PARTICIPATE
If people aren't participating in your social media challenge, you may need to provide some sort of incentive for them to do so. Generally, if the action itself is not something they are already going to do or something that they would like to do, then give them some kind of incentive to participate.
Think: a Starbucks card for every participant who finishes or a bigger ticket prize drawing at the end. This could be a good opportunity to partner up with another local business owner: a home decor store, a professional organizer. This allows you and the other business to cross-promote one another and grow your audience.
Generally, you would introduce the challenge and incentive, like a gift card drawing or some other type of prize, in the first post. Be sure that your initial post talks about your deadline to participate and final prize drawing so that there is a clear start and end date to the challenge.
Like with any other social media activity, a social media challenge is a lot of work to do correctly and is not a quick fix for engagement or followers. A social media challenge probably won't hurt your account in the long term, although if your content is repetitive, people might get bored. You might lose a few followers, but followers fluctuate anyway. What is it those quotes say? "You can't make everyone happy. You're not tequila."
What else would you like to know about social media challenges? Join us on Instagram @the.social.broker and feel free to reach out to us with any questions.