We’re way beyond discussing whether social media is important for brands or not. We know this. All brands want to be liked and popular on social. The burning question now is, “How?”.
We’re all looking at the same handful of brands that made it truly big on social. How can you not? They’re followed, loved, shared, talked about. We marvel at how cool and funny and great they are. Sooner or later, in this collective admiration, someone in the conference room inevitably says, “That’s not our brand. We’re more serious, value-driven, and non-offensive.”
That’s always partially true. Each brand is different. But how much is seriousness a personality trait?
No one is always serious. So how we interpret our brand and its online personality is what can make or break our social media game. While we have brand manuals and guidelines, we sometimes adhere to them too strictly. We forget that, like humans, brands possess different personality traits in different environments.
I’ll take myself as an example. There’s me out drinking with friends: loud, oversharing, funny (🤞). Then there’s me in a mentoring session: informative, good-listener, strategic (🤞). Same person, different traits seen by different people under different circumstances.
Social media is a different game — it’s media with a personality
Most marketers know that social media has a different audience behavior than traditional media. Yet our behavior often fails to reflect it. Brands know that social media is different. As marketers, we tend to forget our own humanity when we take on the role of a brand behind the keyboard. Something happens, and our marketer persona takes over.
Social media is a different ball game. Imagine this — you go to a casual party at someone’s house. You come dressed in a formal office suit and carrying a suitcase full of detergents you’re selling. Not only that, but you start walking to people opening your suitcase and forcefully cleaning their clothes. Would people like you? No. Would people buy your detergents? No.
Now, you might be thinking, “I understand, but at the end of the day, I still have to sell detergents and it has to happen at the party.”
(the party is a metaphor for social media. just making sure I didn’t lose anyone.)
Fair point. But there is a better way to do it. Join the party, tell jokes, share interesting stories or facts, and casually mention your detergents between sips of cocktails. Make people laugh or marvel at your presence. If they like you, they might end up liking or even buying your detergents. Even if that’s not why they came to the party in the first place.
Translation to social media marketing? Marketers have the goal of selling, yes. On social media, people aren’t always buying. They come to engage in conversations and be entertained. If we don’t align with the prevailing mood, we’ll find ourselves excluded in a corner.
TikTok changed the rules
Social media was different from the very beginning. Brands have had to adapt. However, more often than not, they only made minor adjustments. Are you following any brands on TikTok that are just being their own regular selves? No.
You’re following the ones that go crazy. Ryan Air with their weirdly personified airplanes and snappy jokes. Duolingo with their crazy personality. Brands that are different. That have a “must-watch-this” identity.
Did these brands explicitly mention these character traits in their brand manuals? Doubtful. They found their inner quirkiness when they decided to do TikTok. And that didn’t destroy their brand image. It made it better.
Brand consistency is more flexible than we think
At Planable, we have a comprehensive brand guide that outlines our tone of voice, personality, topics of discussion, and desired behavior. It’s really friendly and you could say it’s quite quirky.
According to it, we’re a super friendly and casual brand. We’re snarky and witty, too. But we’re also very intentional with the values we stand for. We’re argumentative and not condescending.
It sounds good when you read it, but tough to implement when you’re actually creating the content. We strive to strike a balance between casual conversation and clear, unambiguous messaging. We aim to be snarky without crossing the line into offensiveness.
Overthinking gets in the way — there are many subjective situations which we consider when we’re working on our social media strategy. The only way for us to be on social is to keep things simple. We are human beings — actual people — writing this content. We channel the human inside of us and turn down the volume on the marketer.
People love finding the human side of brands. Not the brand guide.
So far, we’ve established that social media is a place where casualness and authentic interactions win. People, however, are accustomed to brands being safe and corporate on social.
Which is why they give so much credit to the brands that manage to break through those obstacles and entertain. Courage, added value, quirkiness can make brands go viral and stay viral on social. It’s these behaviors that surpass people’s expectations and redefine the conventional role of brands in social spaces.
It’s not about not selling. It’s about ditching the marketese.
Before we delve into this concept, let me clarify: I am a passionate marketer who loves everything about marketing. I’ve been in marketing for almost a decade and can’t imagine doing anything else. So please don’t take offense to the term “marketese”.
Personally, I’ve been guilty of speaking marketese many times in my life. And it still happens from time to time. I’m aware of it and make a conscious effort to dial it down. ChatGPT doesn’t make it any easier, but I persevere.
Social abhors marketese. It’s considered cringe and it doesn’t help people like brands more.
Speaking marketese is bad. Social selling isn’t. As marketers, our ultimate goal is to promote the products or services of our company. However, there are both cringe-worthy and non-cringe-worthy ways to achieve this. There’s a difference between shouting, “BUY THIS NOW!” and subtly highlighting the impressive functionality of our products.
Quick tip: Whenever I sense the perfect opportunity to sell, but the mood may not be ideal, I acknowledge the potential cringe factor. For example, I might say, “I have to mention Planable here. What did you expect? I work here.”
How to convince your stakeholders about this
Share the link to this article.
When you decide what the social media personality of your brand should be, understand what your stakeholders appreciate. Don’t ask them directly what they think the brand should be on social. Ask them top 3 brands they follow and why. Ask them why they go online. Ask your customers the same thing. Then find the patterns to illustrate the points above.
And when inevitably someone in the conference room says “but that’s not our brand”, engage in that conversation. Why? Explore why they feel that way and what the audience might think if the brand were to start sharing jokes all of a sudden. Differentiate between genuine risks and unfounded fears.
Once you alleviate fears, establish guidelines that strike a balance. It’s ok to have certain rules that define what’s too much or simply not smart to do.
@planableapp Of course we’re making fun of you. We appreciate all the hard work 💚 #socialmediamanagers #hardwork #hardlyworking #socialmediamanagement ♬ Vibes – ZHRMusic
For us, for example, a rule is that we don’t make fun of agency clients. Yes, some of our audience loves to make fun of clients. We don’t, because we cater to agencies and clients. And we believe Planable helps these two sides collaborate better. We also think that the disagreements are caused by the lack of a good workflow. Which is what Planable provides.
So we don’t make fun of agency clients.
We’re still quite funny (🤞).