5 Tips For Socially Awkward Brands
Philip Ellison 18 November, 2016 at 11:11
Panellists at #SMWChicago give their advice on overcoming social awkwardness online.
“If you can make something go viral, that’s the closest human thing to having a superpower,” says Emerson Spartz. And he pretty much wrote the book on going viral; after deciding to home-school himself at the age of 12, he founded Mugglenet, which to this day remains the number one Harry Potter fansite. Now, as the CEO of Dose, he is in the meme business full-time.
Speaking at Social Media Week Chicago, Spartz outlined the various tricks, tips and teachings he has amassed over the years for building a socially savvy brand.
Know why people share things
According to Spartz, there are three main reasons why people will share content online. The first is probably the most powerful; the content evokes a high-energy emotion, such as humour or nostalgia. (Cute animals also fall into this category.) Then there are low energy emotions, such as sadness, which are less effective at inspiring consumers to take action — although the slew of high profile deaths in 2016, and the solemn online reaction, do buck that trend somewhat.
And then, finally, people share things because they want to appear cool, educated, or sophisticated. “That’s why nobody shares porn,” says Spartz. “It’s why people share New Yorker articles, even though nobody reads them.” Dose research indicates that only 1 in 4 people who share a business article have actually scrolled through it before re-posting. They don’t necessarily care about the content; they just want to look smart.
Stop trying so damn hard!
“Nothing kills virality like adding a cheesy hashtag,” says Spartz. “It makes you look like a corporate shill if you’re under the age of 30.” Overdoing it on the hashtags is a no-no in general, he adds; they can be incredibly hard to read and a real turn-off when it comes to getting shares.
Some painfully simple, Spartz-approved Twitter rules that any brand can implement include: tweeting the same content, up to three times, eight hours apart; it will reach different people, and potentially in the same volumes as the original. Posting out of office hours is also advised; you don’t want anyone getting in trouble with their boss because they were sharing memes at their desk when they should have been working. And finally, says Spartz: “If you want people to retweet stuff, just ask them to!”
When it comes to the content itself, Spartz recommends testing multiple titles, and to prioritise brevity. That means writing shorter sentences instead of using commas, and easily digestible paragraphs.
Create, optimise, pray
“A lot of people think virality is about crafting one perfect piece of content,” says Spartz. “It’s messy, it’s hard. You have to iterate constantly.” The old model, as he sees it, was to create content and pray that it works, when what we should be doing is creating content, and then optimising it further.
“Small changes can have a humungous impact on outcomes,” he says. A joke doesn’t necessarily have to be that much funnier to reach a much wider audience, it just needs to be tweaked and delivered in the right way: “Good ideas die all the time, if they don’t reach the right person at the right time.”
It’s also important to remember that for many, Facebook is the internet. And there’s never been a better time to be making and optimising video for Facebook, says Spartz, as the platform is incentivising creators in an attempt to compete with rival YouTube. In his words: “Facebook is the most powerful tool in the world for testing content.”
Don’t be afraid to read the comments
Numerous panels at SMW Chicago acknowledged that there are still far too many brands who, when it comes to social media, forget the ‘social’ part. They show up to the party and act weird, like a creepy uncle. It’s an easy trap to fall into; complying with brand guidelines, under the eagle-eyed scrutiny of a legal team, can filter out a lot of personality. But standing in the corner and not speaking to anybody can be just as damaging as saying something which might be taken the wrong way. “Have your team look at your profile, and ask what is lame about this,” says Spartz.
A lot of brands are still used to the old-school billboard approach of one-way communication, when in fact they should be embracing feedback — even if it’s negative. “Don’t be afraid of the comments section,” says strategist Anna Russett. “People will tell you when they hate something, and they’ll tell you when they love something. People are honest… Use that to your advantage.”
Case in point; customer service on social media. Reacting to people’s rage online and helping them to solve their problems in the moment not only averts a PR crisis, but can actually end up turning angry customers into incredibly loyal brand advocates.
If you’re having fun on social media, so will your customers
Elsewhere at SMW, two key questions came out of the ‘Stop Being Socially Awkward’ panel, which all creatives should ask, especially when working on social: “why are we making this?” and “do I like it?” If you’re not enjoying the work, then neither will your target audience; it’s that simple.
Spartz, meanwhile, lives by a content ratio of 80% play and 20% work; reel people in with something funny or otherwise entertaining before hitting them with the brand message. And above all, embrace the weirdness of the internet.
“There are so many goldmines and hidden gems out there,” he says, “but you have to get your hands dirty.”