Digital Transformation Agency

Social media is the world’s biggest party. Stand out by being who you are

By Sophie Bannister | Head of creative development

M&C Saatchi


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April 29, 2022 | 6 min read

The allure of virality lurks behind almost every social activation. But if social media is the world’s biggest party, desperately chasing viral moments is like shouting over the music and trying to get everyone to watch your breakdancing. Sophie Bannister, head of creative development at M&C Saatchi Talk, tells us how to avoid the social dad dancing and connect by bringing your true self to the party.

In the age of viral Oscar moments and overnight TikTok trends, marketeers start to ask how their brand can get involved, in an attempt to ‘disrupt’ and ‘go viral’.

M&C Saatchi on the success behind viral videos.

M&C Saatchi on the success behind viral videos.

The question, however, needs to be should brands be harnessing the power of these moments – what value will jumping on the trend add to their brand? Are they doing it to appear to be ‘keeping up’ culturally?

When brands forcefully or disingenuously tap into cultural moments, they unfortunately run the risk of unauthentic branding. Imagine a ‘dad at the disco’: loud, out of place, and sometimes simply embarrassing. The conversation around these ‘viral moments’ develops at such speed that often by the time a brand has approved and activated, the people who started the conversation have long moved on. Paired with the fact that there’s so much noise surrounding these moments, in order to cut through the saturated sound, the brand must be clear on its value proposition: how can this activation be more informative or entertaining than what already exists?

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Getting it right with meta-personas

Some brands are getting it right. On TikTok, Duolingo and RyanAir stand out. They use their iconography to create meta-personas which give permission to ‘rebel’ from the brand and behave as the ‘naughty social media manager’ archetype – a trope hugely popular within the culture of social media increasingly concerned with authenticity.

We’ve also seen success from brands that hand over their accounts to their local teams - most notably M&S Romford’s TikTok account that features customer-facing crew members. This typically means showcasing more true-to-life characters whose relatability shines through, tapping into trending dances and audio which creates an organic feel, moving away from a heavily ‘strategy-influenced’ corporate identity. Although, once again, in true ‘viral’ style we are seeing these archetypes and patterns being copied over and over, becoming hackneyed almost as quickly as it started.

Welcome to the world’s biggest party

While these brands are being watched by others as a ‘masterclass’ in how-to-do-social, the holy grail continues to be a brand’s very own viral moment (and yes, agencies do roll their eyes whenever this appears in a brief). Granted, some brands such as Weetabix and Heinz Beans have managed this, but they are few and far between. Remember: trying to be the life and soul of the party normally becomes the dad at the disco.

The art of conversation is a skill lost by many online. To help brands rediscover and refine this art, it can help to think of social media as the world’s biggest party - and to earn attention you must firstly understand the archetypes of the guests, and the party rules to play by.

The brands that are succeeding have baked trial, experimentation, and bravery into their social DNA. They are, typically, early adopters who are paving the way rather than copying others. This is how a true ‘life and soul of the party’ acts: with integrity and authenticity to their true selves. They quickly find others flocking to them and following their path.

But not everyone can be this person. And that’s fine - especially if it doesn’t suit the brand’s mission. Sometimes at a party there’s just as much value placed on the popular trendy people, or the person you have a deep and meaningful conversation with. It’s more about being true to who you are, what you stand for, and what the party needs.

So how do you do that? It’s not easy, but here are some guiding principles that will keep you far away from the dads.

Remember nobody cares

Even though we feel like our message is super important, it isn’t at the centre of our audience’s universe (spoiler – they are). The quicker we can accept this, the better for everyone.

It’s a two-way street

You must be able to either join a conversation, start one, or at the very least listen in. Don’t be weird and ignore people or just bark out irrelevant questions for the party.

Get an introduction

It’s much easier to get an ‘in’ if you have someone vetting you – social media is no different. Understand who the people genuinely talking about you (and the ones who are passionate about your brand) are and engage them.

Avoid the bandwagon

Just because the cool kids started doing shots, doesn’t mean you should too.

Remember why you’re there

It’s very easy to get caught up in something and before you know it, it’s far too late and you are discussing Einstein’s theory of relativity. People are drawn to people who are assured, know who they are and what they stand for. Stick to that.

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