Why should you care about social media?

Neon sign showing heart and zero to symbolise no social media following

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Snapshot : Being ‘social’ is defined as enjoying being with others. But if your social media channel was a real person, would your target audience enjoy spending time with them? Do they actually care about social media from your brand? We cover the six main online behaviours, and give our informal view on what it is like to play in the the four most common social media 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 been ‘gone’ as we’ve gone 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 focus for all of us each day over the past few months?

Social media

And in particular, where does that 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, every single day.

Social Media on scrabble tiles with a mobile phone open on Facebook

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. 

Phhhhht.

We don’t think so.  

Digital was already booming

Because you know what? Digital marketing, e-commerce, social media were already booming. And have been for a long time. 

Yes, Covid-19 has created a set of circumstances that’s pushed some 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. 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. This two-way communication is a big part of why you should care about social media. 

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 space to make your brand somewhere people enjoy spending time. So that they care about social media from your brand.

Or you can use social media to totally irritate and annoy the crap out of your audience, so they never want to spend time with you again.

We know we prefer the one where people care about social media.

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 your social media to do for 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 real comes up to you without giving you 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 get in the way of 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 does anyone actually care about social media?

So what do people actually want online? 

Well, yes.

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

  • information
  • entertainment
  • social connections
  • communicate with others
  • shopping
  • 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.

Facebook icon pin buttons

Facebook 

Facebook can do all of the above with maybe the exception of productivity (in general social media is not a great place for productivity). But it’s primarily a place for social connections. 

But let’s face it, Facebook is not what it was. 

It’s a little bit 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 because it ran out of ideas. 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 those that content providers that 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 what the majority of what clutters up a lot of 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” cateogry. 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 most of your money is being wasted. 

Instagram logo on a mobile phone

Instagram

Facebook’s younger and more charming cousin, has managed to keep itself a little more restrained on the intrusive advertising front, which is good. 

But.

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. 

Twitter logo on a mobile phone

Twitter

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. 

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.

Welcome to LinkedIn sign on door

Linked In

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. 

Like you would worry about farting in a room full of strangers. 

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 challenging to add any warmth or humanity to your brand in this channel.

We ran out of time and space to cover out other favourite social media channels – Pinterest, Tumblr, You Tube and Reddit. Reddit may not strictly be a social media channel, but it’s threads are actually one of our favourite social places online. We’ll do a follow-up post in a few weeks time on these. 

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, 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 to hard sell. 

Just don’t, 

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. 

Photo credits

Feature Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

Facebook Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Instagram Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Twitter Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

LinkedIn Photo by Greg Bulla on Unsplash

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