You sexy thing: How to jazz up your social media feeds

The Commerce Department turns a dry federal agency into a hip online presence. Steal tips here.

Think it’s hard coming up with an alluring social media presence for your organization?

Try attracting followers with Mr. Unsexy himself: your old goat-bearded Uncle Sam.

“I’m with the U.S. Department of Commerce,” concedes Mike Kruger, director of digital engagement at that agency. “We’re about as unsexy as it gets.”

Despite that, Kruger’s team has found ways to make Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other platforms attractive, even with no budget, as he explains in a Ragan Training video.

In a witty session titled “Bringing sexy back: Engaging social media tactics you can use, even if you’re not a big brand,” Kruger reveals how to win love through your favorite digital platforms.

1. Tell stories.

You know you should be storytelling, but where do you find good ones within your cardboard-manufacturing plant?

Write about your people. Make the stories timely by pegging them to the observance of a national day, week or month. Sure, it might be a stretch to feature some random IT worker in hipster glasses for Save Your Vision Week, and you might not have enough Vikings on staff to round up a subject for your Leif Erikson Day post.

Still, there’s National Volunteer Week or Black History Month. Imagine the touching stories that might emerge—and the good you might do—if you featured an employee during National Foster Care Month.

Kruger asks people to write a blog post about themselves. He advises: Don’t believe them when they say they don’t want to do it.

“They tell you, oh, no they don’t,” he says. “‘Don’t, stop it. Stop it. No, no, no, please. Please don’t ask me to talk about myself.’ That’s bogus. They like to talk about themselves. Ask them a couple times. They’ll do it.”

Consider this Facebook post (linking to a blog item) about a U.S. Economic Development Administration public affairs employee.

Don’t like the list of recognition options that everybody else is celebrating? Make up your own, Kruger says.

“You can just do that,” he says. “There’s no official council on weeks. You can just declare it to be International Blue Tablecloth Week, and it’s International Blue Tablecloth Week.”

The Commerce Department worked with one of its agencies, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to declare an Invasive Species Week. Voilà! It became a Thing, Kruger says. Other agencies and organizations even joined in.

2. Provide answers and solve problems.

Another Commerce Department organization is the Minority Business Development Agency, part of the Department of Commerce, which is seen as an authoritative source for entrepreneurs.

To build their reputation, they continually put out tips over Twitter and Facebook. Here’s one: “Tradeshow Tip 1: Choose the right location. Corner spots receive the most traffic.”

It goes on to suggest that paying a bit more might be worth it for the increased exposure. Location, location, location…

Beyond that, Kruger says, “This doesn’t link back to anything. We’re not asking that they sign up for anything.”

It’s just free advice that establishes expertise, earning your right to be heard. Try it, and if your organization later holds an event or asks people to sign up for a webinar, your audience will think, “Oh, these folks get me. They’re worth my time,” Kruger says.

3. Simplify complicated information.

People can get confused over the extreme drought in California. After a rainfall in February, the folks at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information worried that people might think, Doggone it, we got rain yesterday. Let’s just turn on the taps and watch the water run for a while.

The scientists had plenty of data about why the drought wasn’t over. Kruger pushed for a map depicting the drought’s extent in California.

4. Use humor.

Does the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office sound like a stuffy place? You’d be amazed at all the bizarre things people have trademarked over the years, such as this creepy, stretchable toy monster.

So how about creating a pre-Halloween Twitter hashtag for creepy patents of yore? What better way to highlight the weird, blinking Santa that somebody patented in 1973?

Best of all, other organizations such as the National Archives jumped in. I’m not the only one creeped out by this “creeping baby doll” patent.

The tweets make good #ThrowbackThursday fodder as well. Perhaps you’ve got something buried in your archives that will frighten your followers this Halloween.

@ByWorking

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