Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Will big brands ever understand social media marketing?

I read a wonderful short article by Philip Beeching a while back, an entrepreneur I had the honour to work under during my time in London, but as my first post I really felt it was a topic that I wanted to return to as the article was in reference to how big brands can sometimes get it so wrong when it comes to social media marketing and I tend to agree.

The article made reference to a Google Hangout hosted by the House of Fraser, which was an embarrassing mish-mash of bad lighting, bad audio and even worse, bad bandwidth.

So why do some big brands get it so wrong?

Large corporation are slowly realising that they have to face up to social media being the new marketing tool, but many rarely understand how it works because none of them actually really use it.

The marketing team used are probably quite good when it comes to thinking about ad campaigns or planning an expo, but with social media it is very easily assumed that it's easy and anyone can do it, but not everyone can, least of all large corporations because social media is about individuals chatting to each other, forming communities and the sharing of interests. A large company can't just swan in and act the way it always has, it needs to think on the micro level if it doesn't want its audience to press that X button, but it must also still keep it's professional image.

With regards to the House of Fraser Google Hangout mentioned above, firstly they failed to understand the point of hangouts as they attempted to relate to the individual, but worse they produced a hangout in poor quality, show-casing what could easily come across as a work's party to a mass audience. If you're a big brand, you need to ask would you put this on TV as an advert for your business? I highly doubt it.

Google Hangout's work well for individual's and vloggers. I have sat through some hilarious hangout's in the past and you can forgive the bad audio on occasions, even choppy bandwidth and the awkward silences when everyone is too busy sipping their beers on camera because you expect that from individual vloggers, but when a big brand do it, it's just looks embarrassing and feels awkward and possibly be quite damaging to their brand.

Also, you don't know the people, you know the brand, and this is what big brands can get oh so wrong. I half imagine some big executive has instructed some inexperienced employees to get together and 'work on the social media marketing' but no-one really knows how to go about it and have probably never watched a Google Hangout in their life! All normal marketing experience goes out the window to try and 'be cool' and 'fit in' with the new social trends. It's like watching your parents trying to be cool, watching people trying to fit in to what really is supposed to be a fun tool for vloggers who can't afford the television studio to host an interview session.

People expect more from a big brand.

The same applies to Facebook or Twitter, people don't want to see more sales talk or latest offers, yes we all love a good bargain, but reading them on every single post it just becomes noise. It might work on TV ads because it's what people are used to (not that we really listen, I'm still rather fond of my mute button), but on social media it's a massive marketing no no.

People want to read news, they want the personal connection to your brand, they want to know who you really are, who works there, why they do what they do. The marketing mind-set needs to change from mass marketing to micro marketing. Get your ad campaigns down to the personal level, connect with your subscribers. This is why social media works so well for individuals, because people can connect with a real person. When you're just a huge brand, no-one knows who you are, who is posting and it feels cold.

So what should big brands be doing? 

Change the mind-set from mass marketing to as if you were sitting with a friend. Talk to your subscribers, tell them who you are so people can connect with a real person. If you can't do that try the news route, share stories, share interesting articles that relate to your business, engage your subscribers, don't bore them with offers day in and day out.

If you use YouTube try filming mini documentaries. I watched a great video by Pepsi Max recently, where a man called Damien Walters runs the human loop the loop. It doesn't matter that I have no idea who Damien Walters is, he runs 360 degrees in a loop, it's cool, it makes me want to drink Pepsi. Ok it doesn't make me want to drink Pepsi but the advert works, it was interesting and made me watch more of their videos. It also benefited from music and used good lighting, it was like watching a mini documentary or advert on TV, what it wasn't was embarrassing or cheaply done.

So my message to House of Fraser? stick to what you do best, good branding and good ads, leave the hangouts to us individuals because, well, that's just the way it works! And if you really have to do Hangouts, then show the world that you can afford decent lighting, audio and connection, otherwise it just makes you look like you're having a closing down sale, well unless that's the look you're going for.

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