There is a one dimensional view of social media that has taken root over the last few years. Brands, Agencies, Marketeers and my pet hate “Social Gurus” have all begun to talk about social as a viral platform. All of the metrics and all of the KPI’s are about virality and reach of message. “Push it out through social” is now the common and standard go phrase for social marketing of the message. Well, I am going to go ahead and tell you there is a second way, a way that concentrates on one rather than many.
The virality of social media is astonishing. The platforms continue to innovate and create new ways of content virality into their products. The Like button, the Share button, hashtags, pin boards, search perameters – we all use them and we all get that “Christ I am funny” moment when we get 20 Likes on our witty comment about X Factor. As our friends Like our comment so their friends see my comment in their timeline and say “Christ, he is funny” and hence advocate my humour with their like and so on and so on. Its great. It is a marketers wet dream. I will put my message out and everyone will Like it and hence everyone will buy my product – job done.
The problem is, it hasn’t quite worked out like that has it. Facebook is incredibly spammy. I am unliking brands as quickly as liking them and I should be liking all of them (it’s my job honest). The messages dont feel relevant to me. They dont stand true to the reason that I connected with this brand in the first place. I connected to this airline because they were having a competition. Now they are telling me that I can fly from Singapore to Malaysia for half price in December. Ok, great. I will definitely tell all my mates in Singapore that (please note the sarcastic tone here). This brand is now giving me a negative impression because, just like pre-social media it is talking at me not to me. It is now just spamming me in an area where I just dont want to be spammed and where I can turn them off.
This is what happens when you try to control social media in order to give yourself reach. Reach is 1.0 , and yesterdays performance indicator. Ignore reach. Reach is a bloated, fake tanned bouncer used to scare you by the big media agencies or a badly informed client. Ignore it, it is hot air. Engagement is the key. Not the banal and worthless engagement of a million PR companies – “Hey Guys, We have 50% off today” – that is just awful. I mean real engagement. Real conversation. When a brand reaches out to one person, calls them by name and converses with them honestly and without fear.
In building a social media strategy you should have true engagement as your main key performance indicator. One relationship, with one customer. That’s the starting point and that’s what you build on. I can hear the air being blown through teeth of the “Gurus and Marketeers” already. When you worship at the alter of Reach, Engagement seems very much like the devil. The world has changed. The walls the a brand had to hide behind are gone. Whereas before, my opinion of a brand would be formed by careful media and PR from the brand itself, now I can see what everyone thinks about the brand. I can find good and bad experiences from real people and I can communicate with the brand itself. In the new world, I and my opinion matter. I don’t necessarily need the brand to communicate with me all the time but I need to know it is possible.
My favourite way of illustrating social strategy at work is to use the party analogy (this may say more about the author than he would like). You see an interesting conversation going on at the party and one of your friends invites you to join in. There is an interesting woman dominating the conversation. She is a famous athlete and she is telling them about her Olympic exploits. Now, if that woman talks to the group as a whole, you think “She loves the attention” . If she directs her conversation to a few of her group, ignoring the ones she does not know, you think “I might not be welcome here”. But, if she directs her story and conversation across the whole group, asking questions, bringing everyone in to the story, you MIGHT think, “Hey, she is actually pretty cool.”. Of course, there are those of us who will ignore the whole thing and head for the bar.The analogy is meant to show that, we tend to absorb information better when we are actually engaging with it.
In order to make this happen in a practical way, we need to be relevant. One brand message cant be relevant to everyone. I would instead look to break up your brand into a number of different messages with your core brand channels at the centre. Brand X the competitions channel, Brand X the sponsorship channel, Brand X the Product Channel, Brand X the B2B Channel etc etc. Build a conversation, build a relationship with one person. If I support Arsenal (I don’t before the hate mail starts) then I might engage with Nike because they are the kit supplier. I don’t want to know about Nike Golf or Nike Tennis but I do want to know about Nike Arsenal and possibly Nike Football. That’s where we have a relationship and that’s where we can engage. Let me know what else you do but don’t keep on about it. Let me take the discussion to their by discovery or when it is relevant (Arsenal players playing golf??).
In order to find out what this means to a brand, the best thing is to think about the one. That one person. Once you have that person, work on getting the next and the next.Its a sort of count the pennies mentality.When you create your social strategy and communications with the thought of speaking to everybody, you end up communicating with none. Take the brave road and focus on the one. Engage one and the rest will come.