It often takes something special to stand out as a brand on social media. As marketers, however, we tend to stick to the safe, the tried and tested and the market-tested. We create messaging in committees and then tumble it through stakeholders and higher-ups before we bring it out into the world.
This results in work that is lifeless, repetitive, and completely predictable. You saw it over and over again. Carefully curated flatlays, uninspired UGC (user generated content) campaigns, and branded hashtags that sound like they were spooned out of a corporate soup.
And we understand. We all work to the whim of the market – constantly concerned about intangible variables such as brand perception, share of votes and customer loyalty.
You can’t get lost if you stick to a map. But you will never discover anything new either.
This is a call to action for all of us. Let’s loosen up a little. Social media has the potential to be a liberating space in which our marketing can be more than what we are currently doing with it. More sincere. More open. And more honest with people. It starts with your social teams running faster, funnier, and wilder.
Bonus: Download a free, customizable social media schedule template to easily plan and organize all your posts in advance.
Here’s a look at why you should be making your social media managers weird. And how to do it in a way that is measured and branded.
Good things happen when brands get weird on social media
Weird and whimsical social media marketing tactics may seem a bit cheesy, but their business value definitely isn’t.
From brand awareness to longevity to differentiation, a more liberal social presence can give your brand a competitive advantage that you simply cannot develop if you play it safe.
Weetabix almost triggered an international incident
And it was a good thing.
The BBC called it “the tweet that sparked international outrage”. Israel’s official state Twitter account believed it had the potential to solve political problems in the Middle East. The Irish KFC wanted him to be prosecuted under the Geneva Convention.
On February 9th, the year of our Lord 2021, Weetabix gave this monstrosity to the Internet.
Why should bread have all the fun when there is Weetabix? Serve @HeinzUK Beanz on Bix for breakfast with a twist. #ItHasToBeHeinz #HaveYouHadYourWeetabix pic.twitter.com/R0xq4Plbd0
– Weetabix (@weetabix) February 9, 2021
They could have stayed with social media posts that were as dry as their fibrous brown breakfast hay, but instead they chose to get weird. And the strategy paid off.
The tweet spent hours doing the rounds of the internet, making international headlines, and achieving the kind of organic reach that most highly curated and well-funded branding campaigns can hardly dream of.
Trust us, this is not a match
– Tinder UK (@TinderUk) February 9, 2021
Weetabix with baked beans: a debate “more divisive than Brexit”?
Commons chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg calls the combo “utterly disgusting” and instead prefers “nanny’s homemade jam on toast” https://t.co/tKukXyb0Ol pic.twitter.com/hikUhtTYuE
– BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) February 11, 2021
Found the best way to serve it pic.twitter.com/YTizKUgbef
– Justine Stafford (@JustineStafford) February 9, 2021
Jesus didn’t die for this …
– York Minster (@York_Minster) February 10, 2021
Skittles made their whole brand “weird”
Bowling built their brand around being weird, that’s no secret.
Their now iconic Taste The Rainbow campaign has been running since 1994. During that time, they have filmed over 40 TV commercials about diseases, anthropomorphic piñatas and half-man-half-sheep hybrids.
The use of the term “SKITTLES STAN” is …
– SKITTLES (@Skittles) January 15, 2021
The premise of the work is so simple: Making things so strange that people can’t help but remember them. It’s a principle that has naturally found its way into a successful social strategy.
Taste the Rainbow’s longevity and success should teach marketers the value of shock and awe.
While an idea that seems risky or unspecific may appear to be a risk to brand identity in the short term, the long term effects are making absurdity a core part of your marketing, loyalty, and enough brand recall to build a candy empire.
R / GA reaches the limits of boring B2B
B2B marketers are happy. It’s not just the B2C people who are having all the fun. Welcome to the corrosive, strange world of Twitter by the interactive agency R / GA.
Should a brand speak with a human voice? Where is the data to support this?
– R / GA (@RGA) February 18, 2021
Yeah i know i’m dumb I am talking to myself. I’ve been doing this a lot lately.
– R / GA (@RGA) February 19, 2021
– R / GA (@RGA) February 19, 2021
Sarcastic, funny, angry, and bizarre, R / GA’s Twitter missives come straight from the brain of Chapin Clark, executive creative director of social content.
In a 2013 interview with Digiday, he bluntly explained their Twitter strategy: “I aim for a mix of useful and utterly useless, funny and dead serious, local and global. I watch the reaction to different things and then adjust. “
At the heart of R / GA’s social strategy is the notion that social marketers shouldn’t be burdened by breaking control over what they say and how they say it. And that the art of successful media marketing is trusting that your social media managers know how to articulate your brand.
Clark sums up R / GA’s position well: “We can have a strong voice, a point of view. We should use that. ” And you too.
What should you do about it?
World-famous examples are nice and all, but what does this mean for your company on a functional level? How do you carefully liberate your social marketing voice in a way that is both measured and branded?
Give your social media managers more freedom of choice
For the love of God, trust your social media managers more.
You fit your audience more than anyone else on your marketing team. It’s one thing to look at buyer personalities and surveys, another thing to talk to customers every day and get a feel for how they think and feel.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that social media managers are not doing well. They have diverse jobs that are often underestimated (not to mention the fact that they are constantly dealing with the underbelly of the internet).
Giving them more creative freedom is good for their wellbeing. It will signal to them that their skills and knowledge are valued – and that they are not the afterthought they so often feel. Get out of their way a little.
That way, your social media managers can do their jobs more effectively and reach customers more effectively on the channels they know better than anyone else.
Separate your “social voice” from your brand voice
There is an unwritten marketing rule that says your brand voice should be consistent across each and every customer touch point. We are here to tell you to break this rule.
You can have a social media voice that is mutually exclusive from your typical marketing brand voice without compromising your customers’ opinion of your products.
The most successful brands on social media have been quietly breaking the rule for years. Just look at this print ad from Wendy’s against one of their saucy tweets.
Or, compare one of Shopify’s social posts to more traditional out-of-home promotions.
That separation works when we finally admit to ourselves that marketing is inherently intrusive. We need to get rid of the searing myth that consumers want to hear about our brands, that they want to have a conversation with us, that they want a little “brand love”.
These ways of thinking only tarnish our judgment. They make us believe that we are welcome in people’s daily lives. That we deserve to occupy your time.
We are not.
Rather, we need to know how people use space – physical or digital or whatever – and make sure that our work, and especially our voices, fit into these environments and serve a purpose while people live their lives.
When it comes to social networks and people are not there to talk to their human friends, they are there because they are bored and want to fill their free time. Even if your brand isn’t known for its marketing wit and humor, you can free yourself to take risks on your feed.
Lean into what people want. And what people generally want on social media is to have some fun.
Increase the heat with the mild to wild scale
What is our advice worth if we don’t take it ourselves? In Hootsuite, the instruction to move the envelope comes from above. Our Vice President for Corporate Marketing urges us to come up with ideas on a scale from mild to wild. It looks like this:
This framework is the perfect starting point for figuring out if, and when, some stranger execution might serve you better than sticking to best practices.
A mild social contribution is what everyone expects from you. It’s okay, but maybe a little boring. Up one level there are the social posts that excite you that you can’t wait to get published. Finally, there are the really wild posts that will scare you to death and you have to close your eyes just to hit the “post” button.
Not all of the content your brand publishes has to be over the top. The point is, your content should of course mix the three levels up. Most brands never tick over mild on the scale, but they could all benefit from breaking out of shape more often.
Sometimes it is helpful to take a concept and try all three possibilities to see which execution works best for that particular message.
Use a format you’ve never tried before. Make some terrible posts. Create an Instagram story that makes you uncomfortable. If it doesn’t feel right, you can always zoom out.
But at least in the end you tried to go beyond the tried and tested. And maybe, just maybe, we as marketers get to a point where our social media content is as worthy of people’s time and attention as we’d like to believe.
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