How To Make the Most of Social Media
A LaterCon 2021 Recap
The Broccoli Report
Friday, October 8, 2021
Time to read: 7 minutes. Contains 1400 words.
Everything I learned about navigating the digital social world at LaterCon 2021.
“Social media strategy is an art and a science; the best content is created by using both sides of the brain.”
That sentiment from social media strategist Stephanie Gilbert encapsulates this year’s LaterCon, a jam-packed virtual seminar on the best tips for creating content that resonates and how to see the most impact given current algorithms. Later is a social media account management platform where one can store images and captions and schedule posts. Each year, they assemble various influencers, content strategists, creators, and socially-savvy founders into many mini-presentations designed for our notoriously shortening attention spans.
Unfortunately, none of them spoke specifically to the unique experience of cannabis/hemp brands on social media apps. We’re still on our own, crossing our fingers today won’t be the day we get banned or suppressed. We’re also annoyingly reliant on social media to make it past regulatory limitations and connect with customers. Still, we need all the help we can get—that’s why I found LaterCon useful for any brand or creator working near weed. Whether we like it or not, social apps are a part of most cannabis and hemp-related businesses’ day-to-day operations, and they perform a lot better for you when you know what works. LaterCon was extremely useful, offering everything from suggestions on what variables have real weight to increasing sales conversions and declaring the straight-up, flat-out best time in any time zone to post a picture on Instagram for the highest engagement. The topics were wide-ranging and the advice specific. Let’s get to it.
The New Content Rules
“The Hook” is everything. The presenters at LaterCon made it clear that if you aren’t catching attention and holding attention in the first second—with the very first glance at your post—it’s not going to register.
A hook doesn’t require super bright colors and a human subject—though it can use them. It also doesn’t require eye contact—but eye contact can make a huge difference for content that features faces, according to creator and strategist Lucas O'Keefe. O'Keefe shared some thoughts on content that grabs attention during “Creating Content That Converts in 2021.” He suggested paying closest attention to which of your posts are saved and shared, as those are indicators of quality content and the best signals as to what will get the most eyes and thus have the greatest potential for conversions. Ultimately, conversions are about getting more visibility from audiences that are interested in your product. O’Keefe also gave an interesting argument for the power of video, bypassing the idea of algorithmic preferences to make the case that movement and motion are particularly effective at catching a scroller’s eye. O’Keefe’s best general advice for creating content when you’re stumped? “Teach people something. Make something easier for them. Save them time.”
One other note on conversions: IG Lives were a big piece of advice to people without IG shops. When founders talk about products, they seem to see sales.
Instagram’s basic analytics provide periodic assessments of performance and engagement, but there’s a lot more data available we could be using to make more successful content. Brandon Smithwrick, the senior content strategist at Squarespace, pointed out that FAQs are a pipeline of high-value content. He highlighted that content that helps solve customers’ problems gets shared and sees great engagement. Smithwrick recommended tracking questions that show up in comments to develop answers that can become copy for captions. If a more complicated question keeps coming into customer service, that’s a perfect topic for a longer-form video or photo carousel that will most likely perform very well.
Smithwrick also encouraged everyone to harness the SEO power of their account pages. “Think of your accounts like a landing page for your brand,” said Smithwrick, pointing out that Twitter and Youtube are only just behind Google for search queries. Social media apps are all their own search engines now—if you’re using SEO on your website, you should do the same with your description/bio area.
One thing I got from Smithwrick was the really siloed way he looked at each app. We talk a lot about being smart with content and repackaging it across different platforms, but he sort of approached it in reverse, identifying which platform suits a certain piece of content. Yes, video is big, but it’d be totally weird if you only posted videos on Instagram. Static images and carousels “aren’t going anywhere” in Smithwrick’s eyes, so if you have fantastic static images, those should go on IG. But if your IG video campaign is super lengthy, maybe it belongs on YouTube, where attention spans are longer, and people are ready and willing to sit and take in longer-form videos.
Timing Is No Longer Everything
I’ve always heard the advice to “post during peak engagement to see the best engagement,” but times have changed. Jill Warren and Monique Thomas of Later’s content team revealed that the best time to post (excluding Reels and IGTV) is 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. local time. The kicker? The best days to post are Saturday and Sunday. What?!
Here’s why: These days, it’s all about jockeying for airspace. There is so much noise on IG now. Early-morning weekends are merely the quietest time of the day on IG, so a post that goes up at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday will see more eyes and engagement than one that goes out at noon. According to Later’s data, 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. show the lowest average engagement, despite being high-use times on the app.
TikTok, TikTok, TikTok
The biggest takeaway: TikTok matters, whether your brand is actively using it or not. Valeria Lipovetsky, influencer and founder of Verie, doesn’t use TikTok, but she visits the app’s Discover tab to find trends for content inspo. “Most users use multiple platforms,” Lipovetsky notes. “If something works on one, it’ll most likely perform well elsewhere.”
A major tip: It’s not only Gen Z on TikTok anymore. Forty percent of TikTok’s audience are over 25, millions are parents, and many consume more content via TikTok than anywhere else.
The other takeaway is how endearingly exploratory TikTok remains. Founders and creators varied wildly in their approaches to TikTok, many using it as a place to let a little loose, be less precious, and have more fun. Everyone is still finding their rhythm of what works on the platform and determining how much of their IG audience is there. Overall, brands on TikTok are still in “trial-and-error phase.” One strategist said TikTok’s algorithm is still mysterious, and she recommended waiting four to seven days before assessing a post’s performance to “let the algorithm do the work before you start pressing buttons.”
Find the Light
One piece of classic content creation advice seems to endure across platforms: Natural light matters. It’s as true on TikTok as it is everywhere else. One influencer talked about how it made the difference between flop and viral between almost identical videos, one shot in yellowy nighttime light and one gorgeously, naturally lit.
However helpful these tips may prove, I know some of you are thinking, “Well, what comes next? Will I just need to learn a new app in a few months? Will weed-related companies ever be regarded as legit businesses on apps?” I wish I knew, and LaterCon offered no answers to these puzzles. It’s an open question whether social media continue to be the easiest way for cannabis and cannabis-adjacent companies to connect with consumers, or if other venues are emerging. Let me know if you’re exploring other realms—my ears are always open.
For now, I hope this recap comes in handy. Here are a few other apps mentioned by the speakers that may be helpful:
Airtable was a part of many presenters’ presentations, and the attendee chat-bar quickly filled up with inquiries about what amazingly organized, color-coded, cross-platform manager they were using.
Free photo library Unsplash was another popular solution for creators.
If you use Later, you probably have an increasingly messy media library holding all your past and future content bits. Hot tip: Use the Labels feature to organize images by color palette, content pillar, or campaign/product type.
May the KPIs be ever in your favor,