Whether it was in high school, junior high or all the way back in kindergarten, most of us have wanted to sit at the cool kids’ table. To get there, we might have dressed or talked like the in crowd; maybe we even offered to share our snacks if it would buy us a seat. Social media has turned the Internet into a vast cafeteria, and too many businesses are still trying to earn their way to coolness by mimicking what other popular sites do, using cliches they’ve seen on other sites or borrowing images from memes that become outdated before they leave the art department’s desks.
Here’s why that doesn’t work: As soon as everyone does it, it isn’t cool anymore.
Social media shouldn’t become an echo chamber in which everyone sees one innovator’s success and tries to borrow its cachet. The same look and style doesn’t work for every industry or even every company within that industry. Toward the end of the 1990s, the nascent home computing industry was poised to be huge. Apple defined itself in opposition to its largest rival, IBM, and its “Think” motto. “Think different,” said Apple ads, positioning the company as the alternative to the boxy beige PC. Even the Apple logo, with its colorful stripes, set it apart from Big Blue. While other companies faltered, Apple retained enough of a market share to remain viable. A large part of that was their distinctive voice.
Your voice is vital to making you stand out from the crowd on social media and in your site content. Use the same business buzzwords about being disruptive, establishing new paradigms or leveraging core competencies, and you sound as forgettable as the last thousand companies that did the same thing. Cliches become cliches because they were once startlingly fresh and original, but colorful phrases and images get their brightness worn away after too much handling. If copying another company’s social media successes resulted in success too, every site would look alike.
On the flip side are companies that aim to shock in hopes they’ll net enough likes and re-tweets to offset any negative press they get. One recent example was Kmart’s promotion of its new delivery service with the tag-line “Ship my pants.” The YouTube spots are certainly arresting, especially if viewers aren’t paying attention to their screens and hear those three words quickly. Ultimately, the ad campaign didn’t persuade people that Kmart was suddenly a trendy indie retailer with their saucy ads; the campaign drew plenty of social media attention, but that didn’t translate into more sales because the message and the product didn’t align. It was an overreach for a company that has a reputation for economy, not irreverence and cheeky fun.
Entertainment is one goal of your social media interactions, but it’s only part of the picture. You also want to educate, inform, share observations and listen to your customers. Not every brand has to be clever, and not every company should define itself against its biggest competitors. Sometimes, it’s enough to know who you are and speak in the voice that’s natural to your organization. Finding that voice often involves some deliberation and discovery. Is your brand altruistic? Green? Service-oriented? Innovative? Localized? Custom-crafted? Whatever defines you should inform your social media presence as well.
Make the table you’re already using into the cool kids’ table by finding your own brand’s unique look and voice. You may have imitators, but you won’t get lost in the crowd.
Contact our social marketing experts today at 855.867.3224 to help you devise a social marketing plan.
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