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The Power of Heritage in Your Social Media Strategy

November 8, 2016 • Jason Dressel

This is a custom graphic that says #TBT, a hashtag for Throwback Thursday.
First there was the weekly social media trend #ThrowbackThursday aka #TBT. Then came #FlashbackFriday. And now #WaybackWednesday is getting traction.

The truth of the matter is, heritage can be very impactful in content marketing and social media, specifically. As an advocate for companies and brands using their heritage, I’ve heard positive feedback from clients regarding the use of historical content in their social strategies:

“A 1960s photograph of a nurse that we posted on National Nurse Day was the single best performing piece of content we ever posted [on Facebook].” ─ Communications Executive for a Fortune 100 Pharmaceutical

“Whenever we post content that conveys heritage, authenticity and craft, it does really well. Better than our promotion of technology and products.” ─ Marketing Director, Equipment Manufacturer

“Marketing may not always like it because of their emphasis on current product lines, but our images from the archives of old designs and classic fashion always performs better and gets more comments.” ─ Social Media Manager, Luxury Retailer

This is a meme of Abraham Lincoln holding a phone with the caption #TBT.I’d like to see a substantive social media study that assesses the performance of heritage, and by channel. If you’re familiar with one, please share it with me. One day The History Factory may commission one. In the meantime, this past summer we had an intern conduct an informal assessment to gauge my theory that historical assets are one of the greatest secret weapons for social marketers. Consistently, we found that history and heritage-themed content seemed to attract more engagement and commentary than other content. Is it possible this was a self-fulfilling prophecy or the results of an intern angling for a job? Perhaps. But, nevertheless, here are a few notable examples selected from Facebook. These examples are not heritage brands like Coca-Cola, Mercedes or Levi’s, which one would expect to generate strong engagement.

  • Lockheed Martin posted a link to this story, highlighting an operating company’s evolution and featuring a 100-year-old retiree. This post attracted 8,000+ likes, 800+ shares and 100+ comments from visitors about their own experiences that are part of the brand’s heritage.
  • Cummins’ post of its founder in one of the world’s first diesel-powered cars in 1930 generated nearly 800 likes and 300 shares.
  • Lear’s #TBT posts like this one consistently receive three to five times more engagement than other content.
  • Graybar’s highlight of employees in a 1927 office generated 100+ likes and 20+ shares on Facebook—more than most of its posts.
  • Bechtel’s post about the Hoover Dam received nearly 500 likes and 100 shares.

All of these examples reinforce many reasons why heritage is a secret weapon for social media marketers:

  1. It’s evergreen and provides a lot of content.
  2. It stands out and is a great change from other kinds of content.
  3. It demonstrates authenticity, depth and context.

Consider these tips if you’re picking up what I’m laying down that heritage can be good for social marketing:

  • Be Planful: Don’t just post something because it happens to be from back in the day. Review your editorial calendar and identify what kinds of uses of heritage make sense and when to strengthen your content.
  • Be Comparative: Use heritage to reinforce change—or continuity— depending on what you’re trying to convey. Mercedes-Benz #MBClassic is a great example.
  • Be Inviting: Encourage sharing of relevant stories or images.
  • Be Selfless: Broaden your use of the past to include historical events, customers, partners and other people and milestones. Hertz did this well when it promoted having the special edition Shelby Ford Mustang GT-H.
  • Be Careful: In other words, be extra cognizant of accuracy and ownership of images.

Properly deployed, heritage is a content marketer’s friend. Try it for yourself and let us know how it works!


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