Back to Fluid Thinking
Has Your Social Media Presence Gone Hilariously Wrong?
The other day, I read a brilliant post on the brilliant Cracked. For anyone unfamiliar with Cracked, it’s an American humour website that more or less consists of nothing but list posts, jokes about low-brow pop culture and copious amounts of references to ‘d**k jokes’.
It’s fair to say it’s the last place you’d expect to find the most insightful post about social media I’ve read for a long time.
And yet, there it was. ‘5 Hilarious Ways Corporate Twitter Accounts Go Wrong’. The most insightful article anyone working on a brand Twitter account will ever read (in the next five minutes).
So why do I consider a comedy article so insightful? Is it because I have the attention span of a five year old?
Well, yes. But also because it provides us with a rare insight into what someone outside of our social media marketing bubble really thinks of our tried-and-true tactics – and it’s not pretty reading. Take this quote, for example:
“It’s always the same plastic attempt to appear like they fit in with the Internet crowd, while displaying a shockingly transparent lack of understanding of what we’re actually like.”
Tough, but true in a lot of cases. All too often, social media managers will read one of the many ‘how-to’ guides online without considering the fact that, really, there is no one-size-fits-all social media strategy.
Basically, many brands are playing it too safe on social media…and the users we’re targeting are beginning to notice.
Desperate Not To Offend
One of the most pertinent points John makes in his piece is that corporate Twitter accounts are so desperate not to say anything controversial that they’ll usually rely solely on ‘vanilla’ content to try and fulfil the ‘socialising’ part of social media.
John uses the example of Walmart asking what flavour of milkshake people prefer, but it’s a widespread practice – how many brands have you seen asking people to ‘RT if you love the sun’ or asking how many people like going on holiday?
It’s a very valid point; if one of your friends constantly asked you whether you like cheese and what your opinion on rain is (RT if you like, favourite if you don’t) then you’d actively try and avoid that person in favour of someone a bit more interesting.
So what’s the solution? Simple, really; act like a person. Inject a bit of personality into your social media efforts. It’s common sense.
The other thing to get over is the fact that you’re not going to please everyone all of the time. Fruitful human interaction relies on emotion; making someone laugh, nostalgia, making people think beyond what their favourite milkshake is. Don’t be afraid to bring up controversial topics if they’re the kind of topics that concern your target audience. Don’t be afraid to express an opinion, either – a bit of common sense should help you determine whether or not anyone is going to find it majorly offensive.
Another point John makes is that a lot of content produced by brands on Twitter is akin to spam. John uses the example of Walmart searching for tweets relating to the new Call of Duty game and replying to anyone who mentioned it with price details – basically a free advert.
It’s another of the great contradictions of social media marketing; we’re constantly told that it’s the ying to interruption marketing’s yang, but a lot of the techniques social media marketers employ involve inserting themselves into conversations that they weren’t involved in to try and flog a product. If that’s not interruption marketing, I don’t know what is.
The fact is that social media isn’t the greatest of platforms if you want to make a lot of sales fast. If anything, it’s a brand building exercise that will eventually lead to sales in the long run. Rather than making sales, you need to make friends; you need to make people like you.
But what’s the benefit of that? Well, imagine if a friend of yours owned a video game shop. You’re shopping for a new game and notice that a supermarket is selling it for £5 cheaper than your friend’s shop. Who are you going to buy from?
If you’re a good friend, the answer will obviously be your friend’s shop. You want to support your friend and help their business prosper. You like them. You want them to succeed.
Social media works in much the same way. If someone has had a good experience with your brand on Twitter (a conversation, a debate, or they simply enjoy what you put out there), your name is going to be the first that crops up in their mind when they eventually decide to buy whatever it is you’re selling. You’re their friend with the shop. They like you. They want you to succeed.
To sum up, Twitter for brands doesn’t need to be the groan-inducing vanilla experience so many brands rely on. In fact, to get the most out of it, it shouldn’t be. Personality and a willingness to interact with people on a level that doesn’t treat them as mindless lemmings who want to answer questions about their favourite colours both go a long way to helping you grow your follower base, improve brand recognition (and how much people like your brand) and, ultimately, increasing your revenue.