Social Sensibility: How To Make Sure Your Brand Isn’t Out Of Touch



One of the most common questions I get asked at dinner parties is “Why would someone want to follow a brand on Facebook or Twitter?” While there are many reasons why you would, there seems to be one prevailing reason you wouldn’t:


That brand is annoying.


We’ve all seen brands that *should* know how to handle social media totally misfire (notable examples are #McDStories, Urban Outfitters’ Sandy Sale, and Chrysler’s disdain for Detroit drivers). But even in these colossal screw ups, people still wanted to follow those brands, because under normal conditions, they were providing interesting content in a professional way.


However, most brands fall in the bell curve of those committed to social media as long as it doesn’t cost them time or money. Consequently, this means that interns or very junior staff members are implementing social tactics with middling success.


Luckily, there are some practices that are easy to correct, and the impact is a much more polished, customer-centric social media framework. Here’s how to avoid some of the biggest flubs in social media:


Too long updates/duplicate updates


Brevity is the heart of the Internet. People want short pieces of information, or entertainment on demand. What they don’t want on Facebook is a 500-word status update they have to stop and read. You should attempt to keep your updates to “one idea/question to one update.”


A secondary problem informed by this one is companies that use a third-party management tool like Hootsuite or Sendible to update their social media accounts for them. Often, these are longer than Twitter’s maximum of 140 characters, and as a result, the update, when posted to Twitter, appears cut off or has a malformed link that goes nowhere. A disjointed, incomplete experience makes your followers wonder “is it this person’s first day?”


You can avoid both of these problems by making sure each social media channel has its own purpose-written updates that conform to the restrictions of each channel. You’ll want to do this because of:


Duplication of posts


If you’re building your brand to the point where you have a core group of brand advocates who follow you on multiple channels, don’t punish them by posting the same content everywhere at the same time. Pull some analytics on the types of people who follow you and purposefully create content that will resonate with those groups. (This will be different from channel to channel.) Keep track of your tests and feedback (likes, shares, retweets) to gauge whether your fans are engaged.


The Deadliest Post: “But enough about me, what else do you love about me?”


Everyone is friends with at least one person on Facebook who is obsessed with telling everyone how awesome his or her life is. Now imagine if you weren’t actually friends with that person in real life, and instead, you just met him or her at a party? You would immediately mute that person.


These types of updates are a blight on Facebook, and even big brands with money and staff to effectively manage them (Pepsi, I’m looking at you) fall prey to this on a regular basis. It’s a piece of motherly advice brands need to adopt: If you need constant reassurance, you’re probably not interesting enough.


Fortunately, this has straightforward solutions: 1) Post less often: You can update your page fewer times a week and focus on quantity. 2) Do some research and repost interesting, relevant-to-your-vertical stories. There’s nothing wrong with repurposing a news item and adding your brand’s commentary on it. 3) Open-ended questions: Ask a probing question of your audience. One brand I worked with’s most answered question was “What book from your childhood will you never forget?” Many spirited responses ensued. Find a way to show your followers you care about them by soliciting their feedback and opinions.


Beating a Dead Horse: the ICYMI Virus


This used to be a best practice, and in fact Twitter disallows duplicate posts, but more content channels are now posting social links to their content multiple times a day with slightly different wording.


Remember the last time you visited your mother and she told you a story three different times and each time you had to act like you were getting brand new information? Well, your brand is nobody’s mother, and your audience’s patience is very finite. This is a close relation to the narcissistic post in that it gives off the impression that you don’t believe your audience is paying attention and subsequently needs to be told multiple times. Your fans will seek out your content if they like you. They are subscribed to you for a reason. Don’t push it.


If you want to draw attention to a post because it is relevant in the moment to something newsworthy, go ahead and post, but include an introduction that explains the repost’s newsworthiness.


The Unpardonable Sin: Like/Retweet Begging


Perhaps the worst brand offense is also a very common one: begging. If you’re an active Facebook user, you can probably find a brand post today that is begging you to do something, whether it’s “More Likes” or “Please share this.” Often, many of these campaigns are a pure number grabs and deliver no value to their followers.


I, as a follower of your brand, DO NOT CARE whether 1000 people like you or 1 million people like you. You, as a brand, need to understand the fundamentals of social media, meaning that I am the only person who likes you who matters.


The relationship you have as a brand with your fans is about making each follower feel like you’re interacting just with him or her. If I show up to your birthday party, and you express to me how much you wished that someone else had shown up, I’m leaving with your present. Pay attention to the people who already like you and you will grow organically through word-of-mouth recommendations.


If you really want to get your numbers up through promotion, you should pay to promote posts that have had great engagement numbers (as seen in your analytics). The content, when presented at the right time to the right people, will engage and raise your numbers.


While these tips will help you look more professional and approachable to customers, it’s important to know these tips, in and of themselves, are not a “Social Media Strategy.” For a detailed social media strategy, you should consider hiring a Social Media Strategist to create the framework by which your campaigns can roll out throughout the year.


If you’re interested in regular examples of “brands doing it wrong,” I urge you to follow “Condescending Brand Page” on Facebook and Twitter. You can see reposts of actual brand updates and parodies of the types of posts discussed here.


The most important piece of social is the impression of one-on-one interaction. If you wouldn’t beg someone you just met for $5, don’t ask someone you’ve never interacted to share your content or recommend you to a friend.


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