Mama. Trains. Prison. And Social Media.

February 2020 | By Todd Graff

Many years ago, songwriter Steve Goodman wrote a letter to singer David Allen Coe, boasting that he’d written the “perfect country and western song.” A mixture of words and themes and just the right name drops for any country fan. Coe, in turn, disagreed, protesting that it was missing the essential elements. Mama. Trains. Trucks. Prison. And, of course, gettin’ drunk.

Unlike Coe’s brand of music,  there’s no formula for the perfect social media post. There’s no ideal combination of text and visuals, hashtags and tags – regardless of brand, industry or your content strategy.

What we have found, however, are some clear guidelines. Our social media team frequently spends some time analyzing performance of visual content for a number of brands with lifestyle products. Looking at those that seem to be performing well, and those that don’t.  And analyzing some consistent themes in the content that generate the highest engagement rate – regardless of channel.

Our look revealed the following:

  • People. Yes people. Social is inherently about human connection, a destination where people are looking to engage with, be informed by, or be inspired by other people. See athletic wear brands like Under Armour and lululemon.
  • Full portraits. People are good; full images of people are even better. Stay away from cropping that face or those arms, or cutting someone off at the knee.
  • Smiles. There may be a lot of dark places in social. But ultimately, we’re engaging in this escape to be entertained and indulged. And happy people achieve that much better than sad ones.
  • Bright colors. See above.
  • Real scenes. You like your products. Your fans like your products. What they don’t want to see over and over again are Just. Your. Products. They seek context, inspiration. Where could you use, wear or show these products.  Outdoor brands like Osprey Packs and Patagonia do this really well.

There can be no underestimating the importance of visuals on social media. After all, the brain processes them 60,000 times faster than text, and, more often than not, they’re what give people reason to like, comment, follow and buy from you. There’s also little question that every brand is different and every social strategy uniquely tied to that brand.

But if you keep in mind what you’re trying to accomplish, what you’re trying to get audiences to feel, and how they ultimately use a platform, then you have a roadmap. It may even look something like the one above.

And if you’re still struggling, cue up the parody verse at 3:45 in Steve Goodman’s revised version of “You Never Even Called Me By My Name”. It may help you connect the dots on that next post.

See our work.

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See our work.

Partner with us.