Everyone wants a piece of this social phenomenon.The interest and the desire are strong.But the chat is dominated by the heart, with the head often conspicuous by its absence.The quote above is pretty much what passes for a brief sometimes.
Talking of briefs, “Can you talk about social media?” was pretty much the brief from The Marketing Society.That’s a challenge when you’re given a 40 minute slot to cover a subject that is, like, “this big”.A double challenge if you want to be memorable and useful at the same time.
So I came up with this idea for a universal social strategy.It’s a one-size-fits-all framework that will hopefully help if you’re given a blank sheet of paper and asked to develop a “social media” strategy.It’s designed to ensure that you ask the right questions and avoid some of the common pitfalls, many of which arise from the sloppy use of language.
Obligatory credentials slide.But it’s important because I don’t think you should consult on this stuff unless you’re doing this stuff.(Doing this stuff with/for brands that is).
The usual approach in presentations is to build up to a strategy and then reveal at the end.I’m going to reverse that approach.Reveal first – see above.Then build in terms of explaining why this is a deceptively simple but quite powerful statement of strategy.It’s powerful because it begs the right questions.What behaviours do I want to encourage and enable?And how are those behaviours mutually beneficial? What’s in it for us and what’s in it for “them”?Already this is a much healthier start-point than a mindset based on “social media”.
I wince every time I hear this phrase.For sure “social media” is a really useful shorthand for the industry.And for that reason it will remain in use.But we should all be aware of its insidious effect.The very phrase is like a strategy virus that’s been downloaded onto our intellectual hard-drives to poison our thinking.It’s poison because it begs all the WRONG questions.
The wrong questions are…What media?What messages?There’s a place for these questions but it’s not now, at the blank piece of paper stage.Media and message thinking is advertising thinking.And it’s not fit for social purpose.There’s a powerful word association with the phrase “social media”.Egg… Bacon.Bread… Butter.Social media…. (See next slide)
Social media… Facebook.Or YouTube. Or Twitter. Or all of the above.The media in social media = channels, platforms, technology.And channel selection isn’t upstream strategy.It’s downstream executional detail.If you’re not careful “social media” makes you jump, assumptively, to execution.
Then there’s messaging.Too many advertisers carry their advertising mindset into social spaces.Particularly for fmcg brands there’s a recognisable formula for standard status updates.These updates have their own kind of poetic metre. The facebook equivalent of a limerick.“There was an old lady from Hull. Dee dadadadeedada. Dadadadadee. Dee dadadadee. Dee dadadadeedada.”Brand messaging Facebook has its own clearly defined structure and rhythm.Topical context + (tenuous) reason to buy + insincere exhortation to “engage”.It’s advertising USP meets PR editorial calendar.
It’s mechanical.It’s sterile.It just about passes for human.
It’s little wonder that you see headlines like this.This survey has been quoted all over the Twittersphere as meaning that brands aren’t welcome in social spaces.I don’t think that’s true.What this survey confirms is that people don’t want to be advertised to.They reject the media and messaging mindset that comes with “social media”.
People don’t want to be advertised to.They want to matter.Here, a human being representing IRN-BRU on Twitter made another human being feel better about their day.
That tweet can be paraphrased as above.Genuine, non-formulaic, human discourse in social spaces has the same effect on perceptions of a brand that performing live rather than miming on Top Of the Pops had on perceptions of musicians.At this one-to-one micro level, real, genuine, mutually beneficial social interactions between brands and people are more powerful than advertising.The issue for marketing in social channels is replicating the macro scale that advertising can deliver.
I call this c2C marketing.In the eyes of brands Claire is a consumer (small c).But, just for a memorable moment, an interaction on Twitter made her feel like a Customer (big C).Most fmcg brands have precious little direct contact with the end consumer of their products. Consumer behaviour is data in a tracking study or Usage & Attitude survey. Maybe 8 consumers are viewed for 90 minutes from behind a glass screen.Fmcgorganisations spend lots of time with their Customers – supermarkets, cash and carries etc. Personal contact, responsiveness, entertainment etc.Over time, lots and lots of these c2C upgrades, these memorable moments, can have a powerful cumulative effect.So don’t think media.Don’t think messages.Don’t think “social media.”
Every time you say “social media” a kitten dies.This is a mnemonic antidote to the “social media” strategy virus that is lodged in your brain.
DO think about behaviours.And DO think about mutual benefit.
Consumer reviews, like all kinds of commenting, are a social behaviour.And Amazon reviews are, in theory at least, mutually beneficial.I can benefit from other people having tried before I buy.And Amazon benefits because these testimonials reduce or remove a psychological barrier to purchase.Mutually beneficial social strategy in action.And it has sod all to do with Facebook.
I said that the universal social strategy is powerful because it begs the right questions.And here are those right questions.What are the brand’s commercial objectives?That’s genuine commercial objectives, not how many likes it wants for its Facebook page.And what are the goals, motivations and interests of the people with whom we want to do business.What technology do they own and how do they use it, particularly in a social context? Do they create and publish? Do they comment? Under what circumstances do they share stuff?
Good strategy is about elegantly reconciling their goals with your objectives.Asking the right questions up front is more likely to lead to a strategy based on insight and commerce, and is more likely to lead to a robust return on investment model.
In social spaces, these are generally the kinds of behaviours that brands want.Forrester Consulting has kindly provided us with a quantified segmentation of these behaviours with its social technographics ladder.
And, for their part, people generally want stuff that is useful, that is entertaining, that educates them or that makes it easier for them to connect with other people.(Thanks to John Willshire for “loan” of the visual.)Strategy is about that overlap between what you want and what they want.
Cat owners would probably make good social strategists.Cat ownership is all about elegantly reconciling your goals with theirs.It might help to think of your consumers as cats when developing social strategy.
What makes you more interesting, educational, entertaining or useful than all the other digital things that they could be spending or wasting their time with?It’s you against the internet.Mutual benefit is the only approach that works with cats.
OK. So you’ve thought about what behaviours.You’ve thought about how and why these are mutually benficial, elegantly reconciling business objectives with human goals.NOW, and ONLY now can you think about how you’re going to encourage and enable those behaviours.Now you can think about channels, platforms and technology.Now you can think about “media”.And in this context it’s ok to think about soft, proxy measures such as page likes, Twitter followers etc.It’s ok because you’ve already done the hard strategic planning and you know that these proxy measures are means to commercial ends, not ends in their own right.Don’t you?
Talking of means and ends…A good, robust social strategy should lend itself to a series of statements with the above structure.This means that Facebook page likes can never be mistaken for an end in its own right.This means that your strategy will not fall apart under interrogation from board directors repeatedly asking “why?”Thinking about mutually beneficial behaviours should get you here.There follow a few examples of this kind of structured thinking in action.
Flipnote Studio is a Nintendo DSi game that mimics the simple flick-book animations that kids do (used to do?) in the corner of exercise books.
The launch campaign was a huge success story both in terms of its social means and its commercial end.At its heart was a series of 13 simple films produced by Aardman Animations.These films showed what Flipnote Studio could produce in the hands of a professional.It was a content based launch strategy.
On the back of a successful online PR launch and some impressive word of mouth propagation, the films were viewed 5.4 million times on Nintendo’s FlipnoteHatena site – a dedicated place for users to share and view Flipnote films.Impressive non?As far as social means go, yes it is.And this is far as most “social media” case-studies go. Impressive sounding proxy measures of success that are not directly related to the achievement of a commercial goal.But this case study goes further.
The Aardman films generated a lot of buzz and a lot of interest in the Flipnote Studio game.But the game was only available as a download from the DSi Ware store.So, in order to make their own Flipnote creations, users had to connect their consoles to the DSi Ware site.The Flipnote campaign prompted 6% of the Nintendo DSi UK user base to connect to the store for the first time.This is a major commercial objective for Nintendo. Flipnote, and its launch campaign, was in effect a powerful nudge to affect behavioural change in Nintendo’s favour.Once users have become aware of the DSi Ware store and connected for the first time a world of entertainment opens up for them, and a world of commercial opportunity opens up for Nintendo.
TM Lewin, tailor and shirtmaker, might not be an obvious candidate for social marketing success.But it definitely has its social means and commercial ends ducks in a row.
Yes it’s on Facebook.Yes it’s on Twitter.Both at what you might consider to be reasonable levels for a business of its type.And , yes, it’s on YouTube…
It’s with respect to video content that its social means start to look a lttle more impressive.Over half a million views to be precise.The content that has delivered this reach is an exercise in utility and education.Simple, expert videos fronted by senior in-house individuals such as the Creative Director and the Head of Tailoring. (The content is expert and human).“How to iron a shirt.” (192,000 views).“How to tie a bow tie.” (13,000 views).“How to match your tie to your shirt.” (34,000 views).But, again, the really impressive part of the story is how these social means relate to commercial ends.The video may be hosted on YouTube but it “lives” on the community section of the TM Lewin site.
“Off The Cuff” is the community section of the TM Lewin site.It is home to the expert video content.But also home to blogs, an ask the experts feature and various other ways to interact with the brand and converse with its people.Community and e-commerce are elegantly integrated.And the commercial end results reflect this.TM Lewin has eschewed “fish where the fish are” thinking. The centre of gravity for its social efforts is its own site, not Facebook.Those that interact through “Off The Cuff” are more likely to convert to purchase, spend more when they do, and are more likely to come back for more than those that don’t.
It’s arguably easier to think about commercial ends if you have a transactional website like Nintendo and TM Lewin.What about fmcg brands that are looking to generate awareness, engagement (however the hell you measure it) and positioning through their social means?I’d argue that thinking about mutually beneficial behaviours, and that differentiating between social means and commercial ends, is still a valid and valuable approach.There’s a clue to that kind of thinking in the above visual if you know what you’re looking for.It’s a grab from IRN-BRU’sFacebook page.
This is a similar screen grab from Red Bull’s Facebook page.Note the tabs in the left hand navigation. Red Bull TV, Games + Apps, Athletes etc.These tabs, this on-page content, is evidence that, at least in part, Red Bull’s strategy is to engage with “fans” on their page after the initial act of liking.Now look again at the corresponding IRN-BRU image.
The left hand navigation is much more spartan.That’s because IRN-BRU has thought through not just its social means as they pertain to Facebook, but also its commercial ends, and come to a different strategic conclusion to Red Bull.Blonde is wary of advising clients to put too many eggs, and certainly not all, in the Facebook basket.I won’t go into the reasons here. They are very well documented elsewhere.Suffice to say that the more hands-on experience you have of working with brands on Facebook, the more wary you become.For instance…
Take location “insights” for instance.Facebook provides Admin data based on IP addresses.And this throws up some “quirks”. Like there apparently being more likers of the IRN-BRU page in England than Scotland. Or Slough and Maidenhead being home to more fans than Glasgow!
Facebook is a social means for IRN-BRU.It is primarily a means to publish links to relevant content on the IRN-BRU website into the news feeds of people who have declared a potential interest.Yes the page is properly managed and moderated. Yes there are on page conversations and quick responses to complaints and questions.But on-page interaction rates are generally very low.Whereas people will interact with (click on) links to relevant content that is served to their news feed at an appropriate frequency.
This a Google Analytics grab, showing visits to irn-bru.co.uk in 2011.Every traffic spike directly corresponds to a Facebook status update.And not surprisingly Facebook accounts for a (very) significant proportion of all traffic to the site.Irn-bru.co.uk is not a transactional site.So our commercial end is not a direct sale.However, we do work hard on “conversions”.Conversion can be interactions with further, (often specific) content on site once visitors arrive from Facebook.Or conversion can mean signing up to the brand’s database.Either way, thinking about commercial ends led us to adopt a different approach to Facebook compared to a lot of fmcg brands.
So far I have been able to post-rationalise every successful social case study I can think of as being an example of the universal social strategy in action.I do believe that it is a deceptively simple and powerful framework for thinking your way into a commercially relevant strategy.If nothing else, thinking about mutually beneficial behaviours rather than media will keep you out of a lot of trouble.Don’t kill any kittens.
The Universal Social (Media) Strategy (with speaker notes)
The universal social strategy Phil Adams for The Marketing Society