Snapshot : We define being ‘social’ as enjoying being with others. But if your brand’s social media presence was a real person, would your target audience enjoy spending time with them? What is social media’s impact on your brand? We cover the six main online behaviours, and give our informal view on how to play in the four most common channels – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
There’s an old saying that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. And there have been many things that have ‘gone’ as we’ve lived through these weeks of lockdown. Things we’ve all missed.
We’ve missed shopping trips that don’t involve searching shelves for pasta and hand wash. We’ve missed the noise and bustle of pubs and restaurants and having friends round for drinks and dinner.
But as restrictions start to ease and the “real” world comes back in to play, where does that leave the “online” world, which has been a constant presence for all of us each day over the past few months?
Social media's impact
In particular, where does the changing world leave social media?
That most noisy, chaotic, exciting, frustrating problem child of your marketing plan? Because let’s face it, social media hasn’t distanced itself at all during this pandemic crisis.
It’s right there in front of you, every single day.
People are clearly spending more time online while stuck at home.
And how do we know this?
Because every other Tom, Dick and Harry on social media keeps posting about how digital marketing and e-Commerce are booming.
How social media is your opportunity to grow your brand with the millions of consumers out there just waiting to hear about your special offer. Just sign up for this email newsletter or that webinar and this course and all the secret of social media success could be yours.
We don’t think so.
Digital marketing was already booming
It was only the older generation of marketers who weren’t up to speed on what digital and social has to offer. Savvy marketers who work like digital decathletes were much more up to speed on what these new channels can do to connect with customers and boost your brand.
Yes, Covid-19 has created a unique set of circumstances that’s pushed more people into new behaviours, But it’s really only accelerated a trend that was already there.
The average Australian was already spending six hours a week on social media back in 2018 according to this Roy Morgan report. And that’s just the average. Women in the 14 – 24 age group were at almost 14 hours a week, just on social media.
That’s two hours EVERY day.
So if you own a business, it’s important for you to care about social media. To consider social media’s impact on your brand. It’s where your audience spends a lot of time.
In our skill guide on digital and social media, we cover the role that social media can play for your brand.
Social media has a unique ability to be both an incoming source of information from your consumers. And a way to push outgoing communications and message directly to consumers.
Remember social media is two-way
But it’s only the start point.
We haven’t yet covered what role social media covers for your target audience.
And so, by association, the role your brand should play in the social media world of your audience.
Because there are many ways you can use your social media content something that people enjoy and get value from. This focus on enjoyable and valuable content raises social media’s impact for your brand. It makes consumers welcome your brand into their social media life.
Or you can be like some other brands and use social media to totally irritate and annoy the crap out of your audience. (we’re joking, obviously)
Is your social media a welcome guest in your audience’s life?
First off, it’s important to think about your target audience before you think about what you want social media’s impact to be on your business.
Think about the context in which your audience see social media content. Think about where and when you see social media content.
Most social media content is consumed on mobile devices and in small snack-sized chunks.
A 30 second video, A few lines of text. An image.
It’s consumed when people are waiting for the coffee to brew, sitting on the bus, in between meetings or on lunch breaks, watching TV and yes, even on the toilet.
It might exist on a screen for your brand. But for each person who sees it, real life is going on around them when they see it.
Social media happens in real life
The fact that real people are interacting with your content as they lead real lives is where your social media content planning should start.
So, back in 2015, this video from US comedienne Jena Kingsley was doing the rounds of those who worked in the world of social media.
What if all those things we consider as “normal” online behaviour were brought into real life?
It’s a fun way to point out how these ‘normal’ behaviour online seems insane when you look at if from the perspective of “real” life. It’s a lot of fun. We “like” what she did there. Thumbs up. Smiley face.
Here’s the thing though.
Five years on, and all those ‘cringe-y’ behaviours still happen all the time online.
And if you think about it with a business hat on, the picture gets even worse.
Look how intrusive it is in real life when a brand advert on social appears on your feed without any warning. And they ‘poke’ you into paying attention (and yes, we know nobody has ‘poked’ someone online since the noughties, but still …).
Yet, that’s what many brands still do with their social media activity.
Advertising that says look at me, look at me, look at me. While you try to watch your aunt’s cat video on Facebook. Or check out that cool graphic designer you follow on Instagram. Or read the article from that guy who actually knows what he’s talking about on LinkedIn. (There’s no such guy, we’re just kidding).
Social media is full of intrusive junk that nobody wants or needs. But millions, billions gets spent putting it out there. So, for brands, what is social media’s impact, really?
What do people actually want online?
Well, knowing what people actually want online is a good start. And luckily, there’s research that’s been done into this very topic.
We were fortunate enough to do some work with the team at TNS in the past who run the excellent annual digital life study.
We won’t be giving away any secrets from that study when we say that they manage to group together what people do online into six groups. People go online for
- social connections
- communicate with others
- productivity (think online banking or creating documents, images, videos etc).
Social connections are one of the the six core online behaviours. That’s great.
But where does your brand and its advertising fit in? Let’s take each of the major social channels and see how they do against what people want online.
Facebook can do all of the above with maybe the exception of productivity (in general social media is not a great place for productivity).
It’s main role for real (non-marketing) people though is a place for social connections.
But let’s face it, Facebook is not what it was.
It’s like one of those TV shows you enjoyed the first few seasons of. But it started to go a bit stale around Season 4 or 5. It seems like it’s running out of ideas and trying a bit too hard.
And now you feel a bit stuck with it because you invested all that time in it before and don’t want to write it off. (a great example of sunk cost from behavioural economics).
We’re looking at you Dexter, The Walking Dead and Ray Donovan among many others.
Facebook has clearly long since positioned itself as an advertising channel. It plays to the media part of social media for brands and advertisers.
While news about your aunt’s cat or what that guy you haven’t seen since school has for dinner will still filter up your news feed, it’s mainly adverts and content now. And for your audience, the winners seem to be content providers who concentrate on providing information or entertainment content first. And then sell advertising off the back of it.
Information or entertainment …
We watched the founder of I Fucking Love Science post this morning on Facebook about the decision to change the name to IFL Science having stubbornly refused it in the past. What she said and how she said it are a great example of how Facebook can be used to be authentic and create connections with consumers. Great information approach to online marketing.
We’re also big fans of the work that Viva la Dirt League, the Kiwi gamers, do on their Facebook content. They create a constant stream of funny and relevant content that always makes us smile. And if they make some advertising bucks off the back of it, all power to them. Great entertainment approach to online marketing.
… and not hard sell or irrelevant
But contrast these two examples with the majority of what clutters up Facebook advertising these days. Where is the social connection, entertainment or information?
Hard sell adverts offering services we are never going to buy.
People we don’t know or don’t care about telling us how many years they worked in “x” category. SEO, Facebook advertising, e-Commerce, Copywriting, Graphic Design. The list goes on and on.
We struggle with who these types of ads are actually going to appeal to. They are a constant list of features not benefits. They are all sausage and no sizzle.
Why should we care? And why would we share?
Answer those questions, and you might just have a rightful place in your target audience’s Facebook feed.
If you are throwing money into these types of ads for your business, we hope for your sake someone somewhere is buying. But we reckon you’re probably wasting a lot of your money. And annoying a lot of potential customers.
Facebook’s younger and more charming cousin, Instagram, has managed to keep itself a little more restrained on the intrusive advertising front, which is a good thing.
There’s the challenge of everything looking a bit the same. And / or looking a bit shallow. This is especially true in the professional or semi-professional ‘influencer’ side.
How many ways can you pose in a bikini / with gym equipment / with your pet / with that cake you made for heaven’s sake?
Brands that have a regular stream of visual content or have messages that can be brought to life in interesting visual ways work well on Instagram.
We only ever use Instagram to share fun designs from the T-shirt side of the business. And the odd creative piece that makes us think or smile.
Instagram is good to get some coverage of your brand without having to pay for everything like you do on Facebook.
And it’s a useful source of seeing what’s on trend in your category, either from your audience or from your competitors.
As long as you don’t expect too much depth from it, you won’t be disappointed with using it as a channel.
The lunatic asylum of the internet.
Seriously, Twitter is like stumbling into the world’s most random party because everyone is talking about everything at the same time.
It is dominated by political and social views. If your business touches on those areas, it can be a fun place to jump on.
It’s a great place to keep in touch with live trends and thought leaders. You can build up a following on Twitter if you’re able to share content that’s responsive, clever or funny.
Twitter’s core audience is mainly in the 18-49 age range. Difficult as it may seem to believe sometimes, it also tends to pull in more educated users than other social channels. If this sounds like your target audience consider putting together a Twitter marketing strategy.
But remember, Twitter’s fast moving and often chaotic. You have to be prepared for anything. There will be many people who will disagree with what you say, just for the sake of disagreeing.
You want to drive follows from real genuine users. And definitely, avoid any schemes that involve buying followers. Those schemes never work out well.
But most ‘normal’ consumers treat brands and companies they see on Twitter with some wariness. The same way they stay away from that crazy drunk guy shouting at everybody on the way home.
He might actually say something interesting, but it’s also as likely he’ll spew a lot of vomit over you.
And at the other end of the spectrum, the much more polished but oh my god, it can be sooooo boring, LinkedIn.
There’s something about having all those people you used to work with seeing your content, that makes you hold back slightly.
If Twitter is like a crazy tequila fuelled party where anything goes, LinkedIn is like a sedate office function.
Everything is polite and nobody even farts.
If you have educational or genuine news content about your business, it can be helpful. But it’s a really sterile environment. And it’s a challenge to add warmth or humanity to your brand in this channel.
We ran out of time and space in this article to cover our other favourite social media channels – Pinterest, Tumblr, You Tube and Reddit. However, if you want to read about those channels, check out our follow-up article where we reconnect on social media.
The best advice on social media
The best advice we ever heard to make people care about social media from your brand is to ask this question about the content your have :-
Would you be confident to present that same content face to face in the consumer’s house?
Social media can seem like an unreal space. You create your content, jump into the overly complicated advertising back-end and push your message out into cyberspace.
But put yourself in the shoes of the person who gets the message.
If you know that person well, if it’s someone you have an existing relationship with, you have a lot of freedom.
They already know you and will be open to listening to you. They will care about social media from you because it informs or entertains them.
If you want your message to land with humour and be more provocative, fill your boots. You can fucking love science all you want with those guys.
Introduce yourself first
But if you are a new business or putting out content to a new audience, don’t go straight for the hard sell.
Ignore those hard-sell gurus online. They are the snake-oil salesmen of the internet.
Introduce yourself. Ask consumers what they want. Tell them why they should care.
Make content that they will want to see and build a level of trust with your audience.
Yes, your ultimate aim is to convince / sell to them.
But you also want them to be happy to buy from you again and again.
Wearing them down with a barrage or irrelevant bullshit is not the way to go. Like the charity tin collector or the Jehova’s Witness knock at the door, you’ll soon find consumers will start socially distancing themselves from you.