Social Media – the clue’s in the name

10 Dec

OK, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

Social media.

There has been a lot of hot air expended on this subject and how it works as an advertising medium. In fact, is it an advertising medium at all?

The reason I’m writing about it today is because so many of our clients ask us for it. It is pretty much a mandatory on every brief, and no pitch is complete without a couple of slides (always at the end, just before the ones about point of sale) where we skim through what we plan to do on Facebook and Twitter and hope thatno one asks too many questions.

The problem is that most clients believe they should ‘do something’ on social media, without being active users themselves. They have also been convinced by media and advertising agencies that this is a cheap way of ‘starting conversations’ or otherwise getting a brand message across. I’m not sure what the actual stats are but from personal experience, I have never knowingly bought anything because of a tweet or a Facebook post. Nor have I engaged in a competition or game on a brand’s Facebook page. This is because I am busy and my idea of fun downtime is not scouring the web finding what interesting stuff brands might be doing online.

However, that is not to say that social media can’t work. I believe it can. It’s just that, as an industry, we are bad at doing it. It is seen as cheap advertising space and so very little resource is put behind it. Brands believe that all they need to do is tweet a fact about their products and a grateful public will rush to give them money. Social media is not a place to transmit, it is a place to chat, entertain and otherwise engage people.

It might be helpful to think of a brand’s Twitter page as a party, with the brand as the host. Firstly, people have to like the host in order to want to come to the party. Either that, or they know that there will be lots of free booze and food or at the very least, some interesting people to hang out with.

The question a brand that is hoping to use Twitter successfully must ask is “Am I interesting?” It’s all very well making good gin, or cars, or running a successful bank, but if you threw a party, who would come? How would you entertain them? And how would you keep them there after the one crate of beer you got in has all gone?

The answer is in the name. Social media. Are you social? A person who just barks facts about their work is actually quite antisocial. A person who doesn’t answer people’s questions or join in their conversations is definitely antisocial. A person who spends most of their time not even at the party they have organized is pretty rude. So the answer is simple. Be friendly. Be chatty. Be sociable. And most of all, be there.

A simple example would be to look at the media schedule for when your brand’s advertising will be on TV. And at this point it’s fair to say that it is very difficult to build any kind of brand purely via social media, unless of course that brand is Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Being on TV is where any aspiring brand should want to be. People still watch TV, worldwide in their billions. TV is not dead. Many people watch TV with a second screen and comment in real time on what they are watching. So, back to the media schedule. Find out when your commercial is airing and be there when people pass comment on it. If your commercial is on in the middle of Coronation Street, it helps to know the current storyline, who the characters are and to be a fan of the show. The people who will see your ad will be huge fans of the show. They will comment on it, who they love, who they hate. And when the ads come on, they will not stop commenting. They will comment on your ad. They may like it, they may hate it. They may be quite vocal about it. It’s easy to label people as trolls but trolls can be won round. Trolls are customers too. So when they heap praise or abuse at your door (on Twitter there is no middle ground), be there. And by being there, I don’t mean have an intern manning your Twitter, have someone who can write and convey your brand’s values confidently. You are a fan of the show. That means from the moment the show starts, you begin commenting on it. You have a right to be there – your brand is in one of the breaks. You are part of the viewing experience. Don’t try and sell anything. Be funny if you can. Reply to comments, even the negative ones. People with 100 followers freak out when a famous brand replies to them or retweets them. It is an exercise in building love.

Recently, one of our clients sponsored a major reality TV show. For three hours a night for twelve weeks, we chatted to an army of fans of the show who then became fans of our brand. We won over haters and even mentioned some of our fans on our TV break bumpers. It’s hard to tell if this generated sales, but when someone is in the supermarket and is faced with a staggering choice of breakfast cereals, or coffee, or chocolate bars, it’s possible that they may go for the brand who replied to their tweet the night before, who followed them and who said something about a show that you both love that echoed what they themselves were thinking. By doing this, you are in the same gang as your customers, you are all peers, and because the party was good, they’ll come back to the next one.

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