As communications pros, we love helping clients tell their stories. And with social media’s ever-evolving platforms available literally at your fingertips, there are more opportunities than ever to reach your audience and tell your story.
One of the most authentic and productive ways to build an engaged community on social media is to mobilize your audience and stakeholders to tell their own stories, rather than solely using your channels to push out branded content.
Here are three examples of how we’ve done this for our clients.
1. Job Corps │ Careers (and Community!) Begin Here
Student stories are the greatest asset to Job Corps’ social media channels. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Corps program trains and educates eligible young people ages 16–24 so they can start a career and get on a path to independence. Through organic social media, Job Corps prospects are nurtured through the decision of enrolling.
Our audience tells us again and again that authentic student stories are the most important marketing tool for Job Corps. Through focus groups, online surveys and platform audits, we know that Job Corps’ target audience responds best to students (compared to celebrities or influencers) telling their own stories in their own words. So, this is a critical way MP&F supports Job Corps – through the generation and amplification of those student stories.
Choose-your-own-adventure movies and games are on the rise, and we’ve taken a similar approach on Job Corps’ social channels. We ask our audience what they want to see more of – from social media polls to monthly #JobCorpsWins – and use data and analytics to back it all up.
We rely heavily on student-generated content. Photos aren’t edited, quotes are used whenever possible, and user captions are slightly altered for context’s sake only. On YouTube, students and graduates are the stars. We spotlight authentic testimonials with minimal production and editing.
Closed Facebook groups for Job Corps graduates and students take storytelling to another level. With thousands of members, these groups allow students and graduates to share their stories and experiences firsthand, while connecting with others who have been in their shoes. Students who begin their Job Corps journey virtually are now able to make friends before they ever set foot on campus. With their permission, we share these stories (staying true to their original account) on Job Corps’ national social channels to reach a wider audience and amplify their voices.
2. CSX │ Here Comes Santa Train
CSX’s Santa Train is a tradition that dates back nearly 80 years. Our first social media channels for the event launched way back in 2008, and since then the Santa Train has garnered a following that reaches far beyond the Appalachian region where the event takes place annually. Social media plays a large part in bringing our audience together, sharing event updates and helping build excitement for the holiday tradition on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The Santa Train social channels – especially Facebook – are the main avenue in which attendees get information about the event every year. The message inboxes are also monitored daily, and the team provides direct and personalized responses to all attendee questions. Because of the importance of relaying the event information, it is necessary to keep the audience engaged all year long so as to make sure as many people as possible are reached.
The Santa Train team shares photos from past Santa Train events, as well as #ThrowbackThursday photo contests where followers are asked to share their favorite personal photo from past Santa Train events in the comments. The winner’s photo is made into its own post, and followers leave their fond memories in the comments.
Throughout the year (yes, we have our holiday playlist streaming 365 days), all three Santa Train social platforms share #SafetySaturday posts, bringing attention to the dangers and precautions one should take near train tracks. Because the majority of the Santa Train audience lives near major railroads, these reminders are pertinent all year.
3. Log Still Distillery │ A Family Rediscovers Its Roots
Within the first year of working with Log Still Distillery, we introduced the distillery’s Monk’s Road premium spirits, helped open their world-class Tasting Room, promoted the property’s unique lodging options and successfully launched a 2,000-seat amphitheater, complete with sold-out shows.
From the beginning, social media was the key to telling the Log Still Distillery story, getting local buy-in and building a truly invested community. We hit the ground running, targeting social media outreach efforts to bourbon lovers, local leaders and media, to introduce Log Still to them. This included creating content featuring local accounts, like Bardstown Tourism, to build on their name recognition.
We also rolled out multiple sub-brand accounts, using strategic language and visual choices to maintain a distinct brand identity for each but still fold them under the parent brands. By leveraging our existing Log Still audience and cross-promoting the new brands, we were able to forge awareness and grow audiences for the new accounts while strengthening the ties among Log Still’s original audience.
As the brand has grown – announcing the amphitheater, additional spirits and on-site lodging – so has its community, who has a keen appreciation for the distinction between each. We’ll cheers to that.