3 social media lessons from ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin’

Could the Peanuts gang, always wise beyond their years, have foreseen the era of social networking? Good grief! Accept the wisdom in whatever form it takes—even that of a beagle.

Many people cite Halloween as a favorite holiday. I’m not part of that contingent.

I’m all for adorable costumed children ringing my doorbell, haunted hayrides, and paranormal activity, but it’s the creative pressure that really stresses me out. From finding the perfect clever-yet-hilarious costume to carving a pumpkin that will wow the neighborhood kids, it’s exhausting.

Despite the anxiety, there’s one ritual I can’t live without: the annual viewing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” Who can resist that quirky Peanuts gang? Not this girl. As I settled in to watch it last weekend, I started to think about social media. I realized that maybe those cartoon kids can teach us all a few lessons about it. So, without further ado:

1. Steal some inspiration.

In the opening scene, Linus and Lucy find (OK, steal) a pumpkin from the local pumpkin patch. Now, I’m not advocating theft—in general or from a social media perspective. I think the lesson is more about “stealing” in terms of drawing inspiration from successful campaigns.

In the words of Steve Jobs, “Creativity is just connecting things.” This certainly applies to successful social media. The key to making connections is being constantly on the lookout for interesting content and capturing it whenever you see it. (Check out this article from Inc. for a great five-step method for sparking great ideas).

Ask yourself: How are leading companies pushing the envelope in the social media space? Pick an industry totally different from yours and assess social activities. What can you apply to your own efforts? How can you take a nugget of an idea and transform it into something that would engage your fans?

2. Clear and compelling visuals bring rewards.

On Halloween night, the Peanuts gang goes trick-or-treating, and the kids receive a variety of delectable treats—cookies, apples, gum, and candy. Everyone, that is, except for Charlie Brown, who receives a rock from every house, probably because his ghost costume has far too many eye holes. Giving rocks to an innocent kid is a little harsh, but it’s not a bad analogy for what you’ll get in the social media space if your visuals aren’t compelling.

Visuals are an effective way to increase engagement on traditional social networks. For example, photos make up 93 percent of the most engaging posts on Facebook. They’re also becoming increasingly important as sites like Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr enter the mainstream. Producing effective images for social media doesn’t have to be overly complex or expensive, but it does require a little time, planning and a splash of creativity. Not convinced? This infographic from Social Media Today tells a pretty compelling story on the value of visual content in social media marketing.

What topics inspire and engage your audiences? What visual content can you create to nurture that passion? Are you leveraging the visual content your audiences create proactively? Are you creating new opportunities (such as user-generated contests) to encourage engagement?

3. Learn from the past.

Every year, Linus patiently waits for The Great Pumpkin to appear—and, every year, he’s disappointed. Though there’s certainly something to be said for persistence and dedication, it’s also important to learn from experience. If Linus had done so, he could have saved himself countless hours camping out alone in the pumpkin patch.

The real-time nature of social media makes it possible not only to draw quick conclusions about successes and failures, but also to quickly apply those findings to your content strategy. Do your animated gifs fall flat with followers? Does a certain topic tend to generate more conversations or shares?

A version of this article first appeared on Buzz Bin.

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