I saw a piece of research the other day which arrived at the shocking conclusion that consumers primarily use social media to enhance their personal lives rather than interacting with brands.
Tempting though it is to laugh at whoever paid good money to research this blindingly obvious fact, the sad truth is that an awful lot of brands just don’t understand it. Anybody who works in social media marketing will be very familiar with people giving them a piece of marketing collateral and asking: “Can you do anything with this in social media? Put it up on Facebook or YouTube or something? We need it to get ten million views to meet the project KPIs.”
If you want to think of social media as just another channel (although it’s not, but that’s not the point of this post) this kind of approach is exactly the same as trying to distribute your latest industry white paper in movie theatres.
Let’s think about the movies for a moment. People go to the cinema specifically for the purpose of being entertained, not to be marketed at, but over time smart brands have figured out how they can participate in this space without alienating the audience.
- Advertising: Watching the ads is optional for cinema audiences (you can always turn up 16 minutes late to skip them), but by creating campaigns that are edgier and more experimental than can be broadcast on TV, brands give the audience a reason to watch.
- Sponsorship: Orange’s sponsorship is a great example of how a brand’s relationship with cinema can go beyond simple advertising, offering regular 2 for 1 ticket deals, sponsoring relevant awards and events, and cleverly taking ownership of the “please turn off your mobile” announcements.
- Product placement: Admittedly, this sometimes gets horribly overused, but it can provide a more subtle way for brands to participate in cinema when implemented well.
While brands don’t always get this right, it illustrates that they had to find a way to appropriately behave in a space that is emotionally fenced off for entertainment rather than commerce.
Just like cinema, social media is a space that is emotionally ring-fenced by consumers. People go there specifically to have fun and connect with their social circle. Nobody ever says “Hey, I really feel like engaging with a brand on Facebook today!”
Barging into social media and beating people over the head with marketing messages is like crashing a party and trying to sell used cars to the invited guests.
This doesn’t mean that people aren’t open to interacting with brands in social media, but the point is that to be successful you need to understand why your audience is in that space to begin with so that you can figure out what your brand can offer to enhance the experience rather than hijack it.