Thinking About Strategy
Finish This __________
Driving interaction and on-brand conversation has long been a motivator for companies big and small to adopt a social media strategy. With consumers more aware of the value and power of their voice online, fans, followers, likes, comments, shares, re-tweets, replies, views and ultimately engagement has been harder to win amongst the growing noise.
This challenge has been met with tactics: competitions, free downloads, fan-gated content and conversation starters, which leads us to: The blank line. A popular primary school activity go social media craze.
If you’re in the know about social media, you can skip the next paragraph.
For those who are playing catch up, here’s an overview. Over the past few weeks, major companies have been using open-ended questions to prompt customer conversation and engagement.
Coles: “In my house it’s a crime not to buy ______”
Coca-Cola: “Add a word to the person above you to create a happy story!”
Safeway: “Finish this sentence: this weekend, I can’t wait to ____”
And here’s what happened:
So, why have social media users suddenly turned on their favorite brands? Coca-Cola and Woolworths did, after all, place their questions on Facebook, meaning that the initial audience exposed to the question would be people who have actively ‘liked’ that page. As Coles posted their open-ender to the general(ly looking to make some noise) public on Twitter, well… we can’t be as forgiving.
This can only lead us to wonder, what went wrong? All over the Internet, critics are hammering these ‘social media rookies’, blaming them of being careless and foolish. However, the open-ended questions aren’t such a bad thing in theory. They create conversation around the brand, encourage new fans to engage and provide reasons for people to talk about the brand offline. So, what did go wrong? The answer, I believe, was the lack of care in gauging the sentiment of your audience, and ultimately the failure to learn from the mistakes of others.
Months ago, #QantasLuxury taught us that posing an open-ended question to a disgruntled audience is not a good idea. Now, the Qantas saga just seemed ridiculous- leading many to believe that it had been a tweet set up to post automatically long before the industrial action and other such events, and had then been forgotten. It did however, reinforce an important point- we do not control social media and should never assume the response we get. It is fair to say, that the above companies have been reckless, as they have failed to learn from past mistakes, and been far to assuming of their audience. When posting anything to social media- expect the worst.
Don’t let that last line however, make you afraid. Instead, let it be another box to check off before making something live. If you’re thinking about posting a question, make sure it’s not right in the shadow of company actions that might be considered negative, and craft it carefully- for example: “What is your favorite Coles brand jelly flavor?” Pretend you hate your company. Think of the worst thing you could reply to your own question. If it’s something along the lines of ‘I hate jelly’, then go ahead- at least it’s not outing Coles as home to rogue rats or directing racist comments at a fellow Coca-Cola lover.