This week Social Media Today picked up an earlier article from Harvard Business Review. Titled “Social Media’s Impending Flood of Customer Unlikes and Unfollows” it’s a call-to-action for brands to change their social media mindsets. Think it’s too early in the world of social marketing for brands to be set in their ways? Think again. Many brands are following an already tired formula.
As quoted in the article, straight from a Facebook sales rep: “Don’t over-think any of this. …Do four things every week…ask a question, run a poll, share links, and engage with your fans. Oh, and have fun!” When he heard this, Brian Solis, thought leader on new media and the article’s author, was skeptical. So are we.
Some brands have started to treat social media as mass marketing platforms, attempting to translate old habits into social streams, and that’s a bad idea. The sea of sameness this creates on Facebook is a real danger. Coupons, discounts and enter to win can certainly build likes. There is no disputing that.
Another group of brands seem to advocate solely for authenticity and practically insist brand content on social media should be devoid of marketing. But refusal to believe a channel doesn’t carry with it implications for brand experience doesn’t make it so. Authenticity on its own isn’t a brand strategy.
These two very divergent lines of thought have lead to a vacuum of strategic and creative thinking in social marketing. The bottom line is this: the value of likes and followers and what they can mean long-term is going to be difficult to discern without breaking the mold. The “do the same four things every week” approach belittles the idea of strategy and places social media marketing in an absurd simpleton bucket. ”Don’t over think it.” Wow! Really?
I am not much on over-eulogizing the dead, but in the days after Steve Jobs passed, the epitome of what he brought to Apple — “Think Different” — could not be more critical to the very hyper one-dimensional information sphere that Facebook could succumb to from a brand perspective. “Don’t over think it” and “Think Different” are polar opposites. The former leads to Pete Townshend’s science fiction “Life House;” the latter brings the Star Trek communicator to real life, only better.
We need to start thinking about the social plug-in to the evolved web as a place where living breathing marketing campaigns can happen. This means brands need very specific strategic plans. They need creative ideas for how to use the platform and how to mine the connections they make, not just for commerce or exposure, but to enhance, modify and even re-imagine that plan over time.
Let’s take the example of viral videos. Everyone wants to be the next YouTube sensation. Or consider even Charlie Sheen’s flash-in-the-pan Twitter infamy. Now everyone thinks they can get famous by tweeting. These extreme levels of activity are rare, and they weren’t created with formulas. Very often they tap, quite accidentally, into something no one could have predicted.
Brands can’t build social media marketing strategies on the hope and a prayer that they’ll stumble upon something big. Social media is not a self-fulfilling prophecy. Brand content is not necessarily social just because the brand has a Facebook page and a Twitter account. As Brian Solis sets up in his article it’s all about active management. It’s all about designing brand-specific, customer-centric experiences.
It’s time to “Think Different” and make the channels support ideas, not allow the channels to be the idea.