Why are some brands still failing to recognise the power of social media?

This content is produced by a member of The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

I’m sure most of you would have heard about PureGym’s Luton and Dunstable site publishing an unforgiveable racist Facebook post during Black History Month. While I won’t dwell on the offensive details, it raises an important point: there are still brands out there that aren’t investing in social as a legitimate marketing channel. By that I mean they don’t have a strategy, tools and processes in place to deliver ROI or in this case avoiding a monumentally offensive f*ck up. Why is that? And why are brands surprised when it goes catastrophically wrong?

It’s undeniable that social media has changed the way we live our lives (have you watched Netflix’s The Social Dilemma?). The average person spends three hours every day on social networks and messaging apps, so for brands, social is an incredibly important channel to build awareness, brand loyalty and, ultimately, sell – as long as you have the right level of media to drive reach and frequency. But there’s also another opportunity here – one for the greater good – around starting conversations and creating communities.

Our client Bodyform is a great example of how a brand can use social for good, in this instance challenging the stigma around periods. We’ve been working with Bodyform for years and in July 2020, #wombstories swept across social like a crimson wave. It encouraged women to speak out against society’s censorship on what they should or should not feel about their bodies. The social campaign received an overwhelming response. Thousands of women felt empowered to freely share their stories of periods, PCOS, miscarriage, menopause and more – all in a safe, supportive and judgement-free space. As #wombstories shows, if you have a social strategy, with a clear narrative that supports your brand purpose, you can have a big impact.

But in the case of PureGym, which allows each of its 271 gyms to have their own social media channels, too often the responsibility is handed out without proper training. Without set guidelines or governance, mistakes are made – in this case, an unforgivable one that trivialised one of the most inhumane periods of modern history.

As a social-first agency with a conscience, we take our role in managing our clients’ brands seriously. We’ve put together a basic checklist to help you stay on track. And if you want expert guidance on any of the below, we’re happy to help.

The rules

Have a social media strategy in place: this should include your goals, the audience you want to reach, KPIs, competition analysis, content themes and calendar and performance measurement. Doing social properly is not dancing to the tune of the question: ‘Can you put that on Facebook?’

Ensure that your social strategy is aligned with the long term brand and commercial strategy.

No matter how many different social platforms you have, ensure they’re joined together by a consistent and unifying brand narrative.

Have a clear tone of voice that is replicated across all channels.

If your social media is decentralised, offer training to those with access to your social channels and a set of guidelines that everyone can follow, from the chief exec to an intern.

Make sure you have an adequate media budget to support your content. Your content will not ‘go viral’ – unless, of course, it is racist and goes viral for the wrong reasons.

Monitor your performance on social media and be prepared to adapt your strategy based on new data or audience insights.

Finally, a really simple one. Don’t post racist content.