Tackling social’s obesity crisis; the curse of social junk
I read with interest the news that Aer Lingus has decided to put its Twitter handle on one the side of one of its planes. To begin with, I couldn’t fathom if this was a good idea or a bad idea. However, the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was perfectly representative of the modern marketing curse of social media junk.
Sure raising awareness of a Twitter account might make sense to a business that wants to increase its follower numbers, but does it have any benefit to the customer? Has it been conceived with a customer need in mind? Would the customer even notice it? And if they did, would they use it? And if they used it, wouldn’t they use it to complain about the delays or rude service that customers all too often encounter when flying?
I’m afraid this is no isolated example. In fact, there is a worrying trend of marketers producing social media activity that is simply ‘social junk’. Hash tags that no-one would conceivably use are now tagged onto the end of TV commercials; sizeable investments are made in apps that people use once and then never return to; Facebook posts are created by brands with little to no understanding of who they’re trying to engage and what they want them to do next; Twitter promotions (such as McDonalds’ #McDStories) are hijacked because no one has anticipated the potential implications from a customer viewpoint; the list, I am afraid, continues.
Which leads us on to the inevitable question – why IS the marketing landscape littered with social junk? Well, it’s inevitable that with anything ‘new and shiny’ marketers will experiment, for the novelty, because of the need to be the first to do something, to be famous, for being a maverick. Of course experimentation is no bad thing, but in order to come up with any successful marketing initiative (especially social), you need to avoid doing something for the sake of doing it, with little to no consideration of the customer or end user. It’s imperative marketers know what makes their audience tick, what they need, what they don’t need, what they want, what they don’t want. Just because you can do it on social media, it doesn’t mean you should.
How do marketers tackle social’s obesity problem? Well, first of all, they need to admit there is a problem. And secondly, as with the obesity crisis, it all comes down to prompting the audience to consider how they can live healthily. Using this analogy, marketers can interrogate the health of their social initiatives by asking the following questions:
- Are we doing this for the business or for the customer?
- If it’s for the business, how can we tweak it so that it fulfils a customer need?
- What is the key customer insight/need that it addresses?
- What’s in it for the target audience?
- Are we asking too much of them?
- Would people do it once and never return?
- Is the content or functionality useful or entertaining enough for it to be shared?
- What is the worst-case scenario we could encounter from a reputational perspective?
- If the social initiative is successful, how will it impact the business?
So the next time you’re originating ideas for your latest social initiative, make sure you ask yourself the questions above. Very quickly, they will enable you to understand whether you are the sort of marketer that’s contributing to social’s obesity crisis, or whether you are the sort that’s creating healthy customer-centric social marketing. The question is, which one will you be?