I grew up with two amazing grandmothers. One was incredible baker whose grandmother taught her the family recipes that her own grandmother taught her. The other wanted to be an incredible baker, and my gosh, she tried harder than I have ever seen anyone try to create her own recipes to hand down to me. However, her idea of adding her own special mark to recipes included pouring a whole bottle of wine over two cans of fruit cocktail and serving it to my sisters and my three-year-old stuff. Suffice it to say, Mama didn’t let us eat at the grandmother’s house past that visit.
I like to think that I followed in grandmother #1’s footsteps, as I spent every summer in her kitchen in Wisconsin learning all of our secret family recipes. She kept the white wine to herself, keeping a glass in the freezer and sneaking sips when she thought I wouldn’t notice. The rest of the afternoons were usually spent with her saying sh*t every other second as she got her pie dough just right. This was quite shocking and humorous coming from a society woman who I never, ever heard cuss any other time.
As much as I pretend to be her with my own vodka concoction in the freezer when I start to mix pie dough, our lives turned out to have two completely different paths. Grandma TH was first and foremost a society woman hosting every event possible, baking for and visiting those in the hospital, volunteering at the hospital gift shop, making sure her own three daughters were dressed to the nines and also trained impeccably in. how to behave at societal events. She was the epitome of a lady. And somehow she also managed to teach at the local high school and tutor when needed AND was the stereotypical 1950s housewife always putting my grandpa and his needs first.
I got exhausted just writing that last paragraph. When I was growing up I wanted to be just like her but ended up falling a little more in love with my career than my ‘society’ life. My grandma watched in horror and then, eventually, some sort of understanding, as I put dating to the side and took 24/7 jobs in NYC. While I wasn’t taking care of my community or teaching school or breeding…I had my own busy-ness that consumed my life. I rarely got home earlier than 1 AM from work, turning right around to go back in at 7 AM. Weekends were spent attempting to go on dates, but soon being interrupted by work, which led to not even wanting to try to go out on the weekends anymore. And I LOVED it. However, it meant ZERO time using all of the domestic skills I learned growing up and becoming a master at predicting GrubHub delivery times to my office.
Sprinkles became less about the finishing touches to desserts for me and more about the hidden ‘WOW’ factors I would write into social media strategies with Pad Thai in one hand and writing ideas down on scratch paper with the other hand. I fell in love with both of my grandmas’ passion to put their own mark on what they created and decided that whatever I created would also have my mark on it.
The number one issue I have heard raised in consulting sessions when I am telling a client that they have to add sprinkles somewhere, ANYWHERE, is that their brand is not a ‘cutesy’, ‘hip’ brand so it does not make sense for them to add sprinkles. That is complete bullsh*t and I have told them as much. I have written impactful social media strategies for hard-hitting brands such as the Anti-Defamation League, Capital One, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, KOHLER Co. and Upper Room Ministries. I think we can all agree that all of those brands would interpret ‘sparkle’ differently. That doesn’t mean a financial, serious brand like Capital One has an excuse to not add sprinkles to their strategy. It just means they have to be more creative on how they add sprinkles that still reflect their brand values. If you don’t have established brand values yet, you might want to skip the rest of this post and start here: 10 Elements Of An Effective Social Media Strategy.
If you feel like you are in a solid place with your brand values and overall social media strategy, continue reading for five ways to add some sprinkles to your strategy:
You should be doing this regardless! Tracking competitors comes in handy in two ways when adding some spark to your brand >> Inspiration and to sell your ideas to the C-suite. First, get inspired by the unique ways your competitors are entering the social media space. Then use that inspiration to create something entirely different for your brand that will make some news. Once you have a tangible idea, use examples from your competitors to illustrate to your C-suite that it’s okay to be a little risky in the social media space.
Hire A Graphic Designer AND Videographer
When I started out in social media, it was a one (wo)man show. I was the copywriter, graphic designer, videographer and community manager. As social media has become more advanced, (some) teams now have the budget and need for one person per role. One of the most important roles, especially when creating differentiating content, is a graphic designer/videographer hybrid. I studied graphic design and still hand over all assets to a graphic designer. If you want your content to pop, you absolutely have to have one employee dedicated to just the social media visuals. And with video being the most engaged with source of content these days, you better have someone who can also edit videos!
Write A Boundaries One-Pager
I live and breathe by one-pagers. I cannot stress the importance of these succinct Google docs enough. In this case, you will definitely want a one-pager that provides some guidelines for just how bright and thick you are willing to have your sprinkles be. This should be semi-similar to a visual guidelines one-pager. You will want to include things like font, font size, acceptable colors, acceptable words, tone of voice, examples of unique content, and a list of do’s and don’t’s.
Constantly Revisit Boundaries
Social media is one of the fastest changing media channels so make sure you are always keeping your boundaries fresh and relevant. This might mean pushing your boundaries a little further out or reeling them back in to avoid a faux pas. You should always have a pulse on the social media scene and adjust accordingly.
Send Yourself + Team To Conferences
This is where I see social media teams make the biggest mistakes. They are always “too busy” to go to a conference, and when they do end up forcing themselves to go they spend the whole time in the back of the room answering emails and putting out fires. Conferences are SUPER important for social media pros because they (usually) tap into the latest social media trends which will help influence your content. Not only do they inspire new ideas, but they also show how other brands sold unique content to leadership, emphasize the current do’s and don’t’s of social media and provide examples of one-pagers and templates you can start using in your own content management. Do not ever underestimate the value of conferences. My personal two favorites are Social Fresh and any conference by Gartner (I am a research nerd at heart.)
Bottom line, it doesn’t matter who you are as a brand >> you need to pour some sprinkles on your social media strategy if you want to break through the constantly increasing noise. This can be anything from starting a video series to hosting Twitter chats to the extreme of creating a brand personality that is literally its own bubbly online personality. Anything that your brand can completely own and use to drive engagement and (hopefully) sales.
I might not be the domestic goddess my grandmothers were, but I do know when and how to add the sprinkles.
– Marji J. Sherman