It’s been 11 years since Twitter introduced its micro blogging platform to the world, and 14 years since Facebook stole the lime light from Bebo and MySpace. There’s no doubt that these momentous launches in the naughties opened up a whole new space for brands and marketers alike.
The bizarre concept that Paris Hilton’s tweet about her pet Chihuahua’s painted finger nails (if we can call them that) actually came from Paris Hilton and not a strategic PR company, or savvy journalist, was something rather thrilling. The idea we could converse with celebrities who had previously only been visible through the glossy pages of Heat Magazine was a totally new and riveting concept. For the first time, technology was allowing us to interact and engage with our idols, we felt as if we could truly watch their every move. Once more, equally thrilling was the idea that they could also watch ours; we had in turn also become visible to the world.
Twitter and Facebook have also provided us with a pedestal to speak out and be heard. Today, social media still acts as a magnificent tool for voicing opinions and engaging with others. But, somewhere along the line social media has become in fact, less social.
Soon enough social media became, the norm; within a few short years of their release, Twitter and Facebook became household names. Everyone was on it, including the brands. Brands saw it as the perfect opportunity to showcase visibility, it was an extra platform to get in front of their audience and that’s exactly what they did. The problem was, and still is, that most brands moved onto social media in the only way they knew how.
For so long brands had been used to portraying themselves as a brand and nothing else. However, social media is about being human, being someone, being sociable. Brands flooded social media with strict rules to portray a squeaky-clean billboard image. In turn, audiences got bored, they were once again being ‘spoken to and not with’ and the novelty and uniqueness of social media wore off.
So, what can we learn from this and how do we take social media back to its nostalgic roots? My number one rule is to remember social media is called social media for a reason. It’s a great place to break down your brands fourth wall, to become three-dimensional. An audience already knows who you are, what you stand for and can probably recognise your signature typeface a mile off; social media provides you a space to be human and real. People are sold at by billboards and TV commercials from every angle, social gives you the chance to remind them that your brand is something with a little more depth. You’re more than your logo and tagline – you have a personality, values and beliefs. After all, these are the things people genuinely connect with and they sell themselves!
People want to feel the way they did when they realised it really was Paris Hilton at the other end of her drunken tweet at 2am on a Californian morning. They want to know it’s you; it’s about letting go a bit, being less contrived, less plastic. Social really gives you the chance to have some fun, even if it is strategically – we are marketers after all.
So, here’s my advice for getting it right:
1. Brands must always be on, and always available.
Instant gratification is rife with the millennial generation. Here and now is very much every day nature and because of this, it’s important a brand is ‘always on’. Sociable hours become extinct here; a brand needs to be reachable at all times, quickly and easily. Customer services are slowly moving away from long phone call queues and two-week email responses and people are relying on Twitter to solve an issue with their Sky box at 10pm on a Sunday evening.
A brand who does it well: Netflix
2. User generated content is a must.
They are giving it to you, and for free! User generated content is a wonderful way to showcase your brand, plus its free and easy to get your hands on. Coining branded hashtags are a great way of gathering content as well as encouraging audience engagement. User generated content is authentic and therefore builds trust with your following; it creates a sense of ‘I want it too’. Additionally, we can’t forget people love to be recognised and showcased. User generated content is a great way to build rapport with your audience on an individual level.
A brand who does it well: The Ritz Carlton
3. Remember the rule of thirds.
It can be so easy to fall into the trap of sell, sell, sell or us, us, us. But, to refer back to my earlier point, social media is about being social; it gives us a chance to talk with and not at. Of course, give your latest offer a good plug here and there but it’s not all about you. Your audience are more likely to connect with you if you give them a little more. Be informative and entertaining, while you use one third of your content to push your brand and your products use the other two thirds to share creative and unique ideas from other like – minded, third party sources (provide the content you consistently tag your best friend in on your lunch break), have a chat, be personal, engage and interact.
A brand who does it well: Missguided
4. And last but certainty not least, have fun and showcase your personality.
I get it, not every brand is quite right for cracking jokes and broadcasting boozy Saturday’s, but showing a lighter side has its benefits. On social, you can either be the strict maths teacher or the cool supply teacher that every school kid wants on a Wednesday afternoon. Perfect your tone of voice, focus on perfect visuals and aim to create a genuine bond.
A brand who does it well: Frank Body
Social media is a flooded sector, brands are doing all they can to stand out, sometimes it works, and sometimes it goes horribly wrong. Taking calculated risks is always needed in great social marketing, but it doesn’t always have to be as drastic as you think. Sometimes all we need is to press rewind for a decade or so for a little inspiration.
Social Media & Content Marketer in The Midlands UK, and Co-Creator of MarketingIsland.co.uk. Fond lover of Labradors, Elvis and people watching. Loves to read and write about all things digital.