Inside voices please: why brands shouldn’t shout on social media

Shouting out random things in a public space isn’t the best conversation starter in real life. And TRA’s Colleen Ryan argues the same applies in social media.  

Imagine walking down Queen Street and someone is passing car yells “Hey you, I don’t think we should change our flag.” You pause, consider, turn around to give your view or ask why they think that but the interlocutor has gone before you even caught a glance of them. You’d ignore these ‘random shouters’ and they’d be instantly forgotten.

So are brands having conversations that engage and deliver content that is interesting or are they random shouters from car windows? From monitoring many of New Zealand’s biggest social media brands on Social Pulse, our monitoring platform, we see the difference that consistency of conversation makes to levels of engagement.

It’s no surprise that people respond well to fully formed conversations. We are after all a sharing and caring species and brands are one component of people’s shared online conversations. They like to tell people what they have bought, interesting content is why they follow brands and they read what others say about products they are considering. It parallels real conversations like ‘which movies are worth seeing?’ 

Let’s not forget how new social media marketing is. Brands are dipping their toes into it with varying degrees of success. LinkedIn, the oldest of the major social media channels, was created just over a decade ago. TV advertising by contrast is more than 70 years old.

But marketing budgets are moving from traditional channels into emerging channels and as this shift gains momentum it will be key for brands to optimise investment in social media to maintain their brand presence and clarity of communications.

Getting social media marketing right is about nailing the fundamentals. Social Pulse indicates two clear points that separate out the leading brands from the rest: consistency and alignment with the core brand strategy.

Brands that perform the best in social media are those posting regularly with a strong presence on all the major social channels. The conversation is ongoing, evolving and engaging because you can only engage if there is continuity and consistency. It takes a bit of time for people to pick up the thread, see where it’s going and grasp the point of view (i.e. to get past the small talk and into an engaging narrative).

A handful of posts a month is not enough to effectively engage an audience and draw a coherent conversation. Of the brands that we monitor, the ones that most effectively activate their followers are posting multiple times per week or even multiple times per day. 

For example, Brand A and Brand B are competitors in the telco market, with equal numbers of Facebook followers. Social Pulse shows us part of the difference in engagement is because Brand A posts more often than Brand B. The difference is disproportionate however because Brand A’s posts are consistent and connected, whereas Brand B is ‘randomly shouting’.

So why isn’t everyone getting it right? Partly because it’s too easy for a brand to post a competition on Facebook and garner a lot of likes. But in order for a post to be truly effective it needs to draw attention with engaging and consistent content. It needs to positively trigger emotions and connected thought processes directed towards the brand. 

Consistency doesn’t mean that every conversation has to be directed at everybody. You just have to listen to people talking about topics they share a passion for to understand how powerful niche messages can be. Nor does consistency mean wittering on to anyone bored enough to listen. 

Our Social Pulse analysis of posts, traffic and sentiment shows that the messages need to be aligned with brand strategy. Ownership of social has to reside with marketing and it needs a plan like any other channel. We can’t delegate it to specialist parts of the business and still deliver a consistent experience with the rest of our marketing activity.

While it’s great to see brands embracing converged media strategies, let’s not forget the level of commitment that creating engaged conversations means for these new channels and brands need to show that they get what a real conversation should feel like. Random shouters don’t get it and neither will the audience.

Colleen Ryan is the head of strategy at [email protected] 

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