Friday, 27 February 2015

Social Media and the Absence of Negatives

Social media, by the headlines in the trade press and the regular press, carries some hefty negatives for brands which engage in it.

Just yesterday Dunkin’ Donuts was caught out by a tweeted image of the Liverpool Football Club’s emblem which had been edited to be a bit of a silly Dunkin’ style graphic.

To do so they edited out the Eternal Flames on the emblem which commemorate those killed in the Hillsborough disaster.

Not the wisest of decisions.

With the internet being what it is, any mistake made by a brand can be captured and repeated and paraded across the world in moments – instant tsunamis of disapproval sweeping away months of built-up good faith.

This pattern has played out across multiple channels, many brands, and is simply a part of the fabric of social advertising at the point.

But why do brands take on the risk of such a fast-paced media? It’s not as though they gain much out of it. It’s rare to see many brands using social media for the purpose of direct sales. Most of the time it’s simply for branding purposes.

The answer is, to a large degree, to remove a negative.

Social media isn’t generally much of a positive. But the absence of social media is a real negative for brands which ignore it. It’s as much to show face as to show an attractive face.

As with the Burberry case earlier, being in control and being consistent in your brand voice are key. Social media is about defending your brand and not ceding the territory – either to other brands in the market or to negative perceptions of a poorly done and underfunded social presence.

Now, of course there is the viral quality of social media. This can cut both ways and can be a huge benefit in terms of awareness, certainly if you’re a large brand. But it’s hard to build a campaign around a hypothetical viral success, especially now that every brand and its mother (parent company?) are trying to do the same. These things have a limited predictability.

So how do you consistent succeed at social media? Again, it’s all about removing negatives. Successful social media is in large part simply about consistency, and thoroughness. Slipping up is both more likely and more dangerous. You just have to be careful, constantly.

Which is why brand social media is generally either dull or wildly controversial.

Which is why brand social media is so often just a game of damage limitation.

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