How to Execute Social Media Takeovers

Social media, by nature, is about hitting the moments. Managing a social media presence involves striking a balance between spontaneity and meticulous planning. As a result, we curate everything. We stay in control.

What happens when we give up that control, for just a bit?

At Litmus, we run an employee takeover of our Instagram each month, where I relinquish control of my domain to someone else—all the while biting my nails. While there’s plenty of different applications of a social media takeover, we use it to show off our amazing employees and our remote-first culture. Since the majority of Litmus works remotely, it’s a great way to involve the whole company and give our followers behind-the-scenes access to what it’s like to work for us.

Whether you’re asking influencers, employees or customers to take over your profile, here are some tips on making sure your social media takeovers stay compelling and on brand, even if you’re not doing the executing:

Start With the Experts

When we first began our employee social media takeovers, we set the stage by using our marketing team—already proficient in Instagram—to establish some best practices and work out any kinks. This allowed us to establish how takeovers work and what kinds of stories work best.

When asking employees to take over, make sure they’re comfortable with the platform first. When you live and breathe social media every day, it can be hard to remember that someone might not be as familiar. Make sure you’re on hand to walk any new or novice users through everything they need to know. Otherwise, stick to those familiar with the platform and audition folks by looking at their personal handles.

Build a Framework to Be Consistent

For each social media takeover, we established a framework that everyone could follow. For the first post, we ask users to post a selfie (or portrait) to introduce who they are, what they do at Litmus and a fun fact about themselves.

We also sign every post with co-tags (^XX), just as we do when responding to prospects and customers throughout social media. This makes it feel like the response is truly coming from that person and ultimately making the social connection more humanizing.

Here’s a breakdown of our framework:

Set Expectations & Brand Guidelines

To stay consistent, document the process so it’s repeatable each month. Make sure whoever takes over your presence knows exactly what to commit and any other important information such as best time of day to publish.

For us that means writing up a how-to guide that covers steps like logging into multiple Instagram accounts. We also establish a set of brand guidelines and style guidelines for employees to follow. Make sure you answer questions in your guidelines like:

  • What kind of images best showcase your brand?
  • Is there anything social media takeovers should leave out?
  • What should be featured in the takeover?
  • Which hashtags should be included?
  • Are you using a branded hashtag like #litmuslife?

A successful social media takeover usually involves consulting with the person and encouraging him or her to get creative with Instagram. Whether it’s through use of video, Boomerang or artsy photos, you want to let the person know they can get creative.

Tell a Story With the Caption

In a takeover, the idea is to expand the perspective beyond what you can tell in your average day-to-day posts. While Instagram is all about images, a good caption goes a long way too. Captions can be much longer than Tweets (as in, paragraphs) to tell a complete story about the image and the person posting. Think of this Humans of New York as an example:

“I went out for beers one night with my battalion commander– Colonel Willy Buhl. He really cared about us. He was one of those leaders who’d remember the name and birthday of every man in his battalion. So we’re sitting at the bar one night, and we’re talking about all the men we’d lost to suicide. A number of Marines from our battalion had killed themselves since we’d been home. And there had been an especially bad one recently. One of our guys had shot himself with his wife and kids downstairs. Colonel Buhl and I realized that there’d soon be a point in time when we’d lost more Marines to suicide than to enemy action. And I knew we had to do something. It’s an epidemic. Every veteran knows another veteran who’s taken their own life. We have to do better. So I approached a top psychiatrist and public health expert named Dr. Ann Beeder, and I asked her a question: Can we take all the friction out of the process of getting help? The Headstrong Project was our answer to that question. We wanted to create a treatment option with zero cost and zero bureaucracy, so that a veteran’s only challenge was showing up. All they have to do is overcome the stigma of PTSD.” ——————————————————-Zach Iscol is the founder of The Headstrong Project, which partnered with HONY to tell the stories of veterans suffering from invisible wounds. Headstrong has ambitious plans to remodel the mental health treatment of veterans, and has already helped hundreds of veterans. But the organization operates with very limited resources. If you’ve been moved by any of these stories, we’re holding a fundraiser to help The Headstrong Project in its fight against PTSD. Please consider making a small donation. Link in bio.

A photo posted by Humans of New York (@humansofny) on Aug 30, 2016 at 1:39pm PDT

Instagram allows up to 2,200 characters, but it cuts off in users’ feeds after three lines of text. So if you’re going to tell a much larger story, consider the first few lines as the excerpt—reel your followers in before launching into the details. Try to make the initial three lines stand out on their own.

Engage With Your Audience

Just like all of your other social media channels, make sure to respond to comments. Ideally the person taking over should be aware of how to craft responses in your brand’s voice. If not, keep your audience engaged by responding to comments, thanking for shares and addressing any concerns that arise.

For Litmus we often talk about our remote-first culture during social media takeovers (especially when our remote folks are in control) and end up fielding questions about how to stay productive, connected to the team or accountable while out of the standard office environment.

Keep the momentum going and be sure to interact with your audience whenever you can.

Promote on Other Channels

To maximize your employee takeover, be sure to promote on other channels, whether that’s cross-posting Instagram to Twitter and Facebook, or encouraging folks to follow along.

Treat the employee takeover as you would any other campaign and schedule accordingly. This is especially important at the beginning of the social media takeover and when it concludes. You can even use third-party social media analytics tools to track, measure and monitor your cross promotion efforts. It always helps to know which posts are driving the most engagement so you can make adjustments for the future.


Stay Authentic

Most of all, authenticity is key. Make sure the people controlling your feed are true to themselves and their own interests—not necessarily only to your brand’s beliefs. Every brand has an identity, but you should let users taking over your social networks tap into their own personalities and showcase their life. If they love dogs, have them post a picture of their dog.

It doesn’t matter if the content has nothing to do with your product. Takeovers are meant to give a behind-the-scenes look into the people that make your product. Make sure you’re open to your employees’ content and try to let go of your brand’s social networks for just a little bit.

This post How to Execute Social Media Takeovers originally appeared on Sprout Social.