A recent saga involving the inner workings of a social marketing firm’s approach to planning offers a useful reminder: Lean too heavily on the pre-packaged stuff, and you risk missing out on the best outreach opportunities.
It took 45 days from beginning to end, but it’s not like those 140 characters were slaved over for a month and a half.
Last week’s Business Insider story covering the digital marketing agency Huge and its in-depth approach to social media planning got more than a few guffaws due to its somewhat brutal headline, which implied that a single tweet promoting a type of fancy cheese took the agency more than a month to plan from start to finish.
Huge wasn’t very happy about the result:
"We Got A Look Inside The Process Behind Writing Inaccurate Clickbait"
— Huge (@hugeinc) May 27, 2014
And one of its planning directors, London-based Martin Harrison, took the news outlet to task for taking a fully accepted part of the marketing agency process and playing up its absurdity.
“A fairly innocent article conflated a planning process with a production process, an editor well-schooled in the art of clickbait rewrote a headline, and suddenly I’m working at the worst example of big agency overload in the history of mankind,” he wrote on The Drum, a marketing blog.
He has a point. If it were a magazine layout or a billboard, there’s a good chance the process would be quite lengthy and wouldn’t be taken lightly. This kind of marketing approach certainly has its role.
But—sorry, Huge—the readers who mocked that cheesy tweet have a point, too. The process behind building the tweet shows the problem that brands often have with social media. The average person doesn’t put a lot of thinking into what they write on social media, which (as an ex-Business Insider exec infamously pointed out) has its pitfalls.
Overthink things too much, though, and authenticity gets compromised. That’s why people mocked the tweet—it felt fake and lacked intimacy, and it probably was a bad idea to even show off the process in the first place, because it only drew attention to that point. People can tell when you’re valuing form over function.
Smaller Networks, More Value
I was thinking about this whole saga while poring through venture capitalist Mary Meeker’s 2014 Internet Trends Report.
Meeker, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has long been one of Silicon Valley’s best thinkers about the future direction of online communication—and with a Wall Street background, she brings business acumen to her insights.
There’s a lot to dig through in the report, but two things stood out to me in my cursory glance: first, the fairly short half-lives of social updates (6.5 hours for tweets, and 9 hours for Facebook updates), and second, this slide:
The point she’s trying to make here is partly in relation to the rise of next-generation social networks like Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Secret, but I think it translates to all social marketing efforts, really. Simply put, we want deeper connections, which are harder to build and maintain but ultimately more valuable.
A tweet that Meeker cited in the report, by Yammer CEO David Sacks, made the point even more plainly:
Both WhatsApp and Secret represent the ascendency of the phone book over the friend graph. It's back to the future.
— David Sacks (@DavidSacks) February 19, 2014
Simply, knowing a few important people well is better than having tenuous connections with hundreds or even thousands of people. Thinking in terms of our online communities, this is plainly obvious.
Intimacy Over Approvals
Associations shine with the bread and butter of community, the ability to reach members and give them something of value.
The shift we’re seeing in social networks toward the more intimate is a good trend for associations, because we already get this—and we do it in person and online basically all the time. But there’s something to be said for thinking about this in marketing terms.
Social media strategy has to be a roving strategy, one that can shift at a moment’s notice and adapt as our needs change. Some of the greatest social success stories—think Oreo at the Super Bowl—have pulled it off by emphasizing a quick reaction time. But I think where we’ll see things go next is toward deeper relationships, where marketing is less about broadcasting and more about communicating. Where there is clear depth to the relationship and multiple tools in our toolkit. Where approval processes give way to strong instincts.
This strategy ties into a Salesforce and Deloitte study I covered a while back regarding the chief marketing officer’s role in an organization. It touched on a lot of things, but the real insightful point was that customer service is a form of marketing, and it makes sense to treat it as such.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s still room for planning, but you risk sounding stale if your strategy leans too heavily on broadcasting and not enough on quick action.
You gotta balance the fresh with the cultured, or otherwise it all ends up seeming moldy.