How expert are you at walking the social media tightrope?

It’s easy to dismiss populist content but every content marketer should give a kitten in a hammock a chance.

I recently caught up with someone close to the marketing team at a successful media brand in the UK. The main product is a free magazine distributed widely across the country, supported by quality advertising, plus a website and the usual social outlets. The audience is primarily young professional urbanites with money to spend and time for leisure. They are digitally sophisticated and social media natives.

These people should be a dream for a digital marketer. But, apparently, they’re not. My contact described two recent social campaigns. One was a well-thought-through sharing of considered content, aimed squarely at the audience. The other was a bunch of naff nuggets of wisdom, you know the sort of thing:

  • Strangers are just friends you haven’t met
  • When it rains, look for rainbows. When it’s dark, look for stars
  • In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take
  • Your best teacher is your last mistake

The posts with the sickly aphorisms spread like wildfire, being shared widely and taking the brand to new audiences all over the world. The posts that the marketing team had slaved over performed poorly in comparison.

Beware the lowest common denominator

The case study provides plenty of food for thought. An initial conclusion is that we should all be telling our audiences that life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain. We measure campaigns by hard data and if sunsets and saccharine gains the most views then that’s what we should churn out.

These first thoughts are countered by other considerations. What will all these kittens and cod philosophy be doing to your brand? Arms manufacturers may not want to reach a wider audience by telling the world that ‘a negative mind will never give you a positive life’, but a cat food company may be less concerned.

The temptation, as marketers of integrity, is to turn our backs on such populism. But we should hesitate. There is no point in reaching a wide audience if they are not customers and will never become so.  There is, however, a balance to be struck between great social success and potential damage to brand equity.

It may be that you don’t have to go the whole ten yards and start putting out cheesy truisms. There may be some more populist content that you could share and that might boost your social reach. Build your base of followers and you’ll have a larger audience who you can provide with quality content in addition to some lower brow material.

That’s certainly a tactic employed by Buzzfeed who serve a mass of kitten-based cuteness that attracts clicks by the million. But there is more serious content on the site too, and some who come looking for feline silliness will end up absorbing insights on Syria.

It is clearly a balancing act. The key consideration is that we expend energy thinking about our audiences and how best to connect with them, rather than worrying about what our peers might think if we start sharing images of sunsets with the advice that ‘life is like a bicycle – to keep your balance, you must keep moving’.



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