It's time for brands to stop the social pollution

Most people’s new year’s resolutions have probably been put to bed already because let’s face it, they’re unrealistic. Dry January, anyone? But actually, marketing is more in need of a detox than most people. When it comes to 2017 resolutions, I think we should all start being more realistic with our clients (and ourselves) about what is actually being achieved through social.

Until the next big thing comes along, social is going to continue to be the most effective, value-for-money way of amplifying any brand message. But a much clearer understanding of what engagement actually means needs to be established across all agency-client relationships. We also need to end our obsession with reach. A lazy, almost ‘all publicity is good publicity’ approach is creeping into many social media strategies, and books are being cooked left, right and centre, when it comes to measuring the level of exposure and engagement content actually achieves.

More attention needs to go on quality control, just as with every other medium in advertising and marketing. If a brand was offered a free double-page spread in a national newspaper, on the proviso that it had to be in some way tenuously linked to the fact it was International Baked Potato Day, would they still take it? Probably not. And even if they did, would the people it resonated with be right for their brand? Probably not. Yet social media feeds continue to be needlessly polluted by brands trying to piggyback conversations they have no place joining. Just because they can.

A few years back, we were at the height of a bloody arms race, in which agencies were battling tooth and nail against each other to be the first to shoehorn the latest bit of tech into a creative idea. We’re now in the midst of a nonsensical bun fight, in which brands and agencies, alike, are competing just to be heard, regardless of what the conversation is or how relevant it was to them in the first place.

This ubiquity of messaging renders the majority of content utterly meaningless. Social feeds are becoming as chaotic as the Black Friday sales, overcrowded with brands climbing over each other to waste their hard-earned money on crap they don’t need, just because it’s there. They need to stop treating social media like the final round of Supermarket Sweep. Rather than rushing to load their trolley with whatever they can grab, they should assess whether the act of grabbing is at all strategic in the first place. The strategy must be intrinsically linked to the target audience and match what their followers actually like to see.

Knowing what followers like isn’t a guessing game. Take the under 30s audience, who are more brand discerning than ever. They want a greater understanding about a brand than just its product and advertising but also stories, heritage, provenance and values. And with most brands, it’s all there in the public domain for them so brands need to go deeper to build affinity.

In 2017, less can definitely be more, so long as the focus remains firmly on relevancy. So, if at any point you find yourself in a meeting room discussing what to do for International Baked Potato Day, please remember that. In the words of Plato, “wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” These words should be at the top of every social media brief written in 2017.

(At the time of writing, there was no such thing as International Baked Potato Day. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this is no longer the case.)

Matthew Bennett is chief creative officer at ZAK

MB

Matthew Bennett

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