How to avoid wasting your time planning a pointless social media strategy

Grumpy Social Media Cat

I’m always shocked by the lack of planning many brands apply to their social media strategy. Most is ‘aimless’ engagement…When I see the word ‘engagement’ mentioned on Twitter, I must admit I get rather frustrated… it’s an overused and confusing word.

Unfortunately the word ‘engagement’ leaves me cold. An example of this was when someone Direct Messaged me (DM) on Twitter and said “hi thanks for following me let’s engage more here >>>”.

Why can’t we grow up, be useful and focus on meaningful and heartfelt communications?



Do We Really Mean Social Media ‘Engagement’?

Do we really ‘engage’  with our family around the dining table or friends in the pub? Do we really engage with loved ones?  No.  Relationships and empathy of others’ feelings are far more complex than just one word…

The word ‘engagement’ disenfranchises people. Perhaps this is because it’s a favourite buzzword for social media experts and politicians, for example, whenever an MP says “we want to engage with the electorate”, do they really mean it? Or do you really believe it?

Relationships are a lot harder to nurture than just using a gimmicky post. We must look beyond giveaways, viral video and memes. We need to communicate on an emotional level or become extremely useful to a consumer to get their attention. Or focus on ‘Youtility‘ as Jay Baer would put it rather than ridiculous memes.

To do this we have to understand what makes people tick. Why people subscribe, loyally follow you on Twitter, buy your products and services and perhaps even show you a little love!

What Are We Trying To Achieve With Social Media (and pictures of cats)?

What's up with using cats in social media?

To get people’s attention we don’t need the absurd or surreal, we simply need to focus on the ‘human interest’ element of the story.  Take cats for example, the internet is saturated with images of cats… Should we all use cats or cute animals in social media campaigns?   Is social media really as simple as that? Is the Innocent smoothies Facebook page a success because it gets ‘engagement’ i.e. lots of likes and comments, using the cute and the cuddly?

No, we need to think what we want our customers to FEEL and NEED first, before posting  ‘engaging’ content and hoping for the best. Pictures of cats (or any other cute animal) work not simply because they are cats, it’s because they provide an emotional attachment to the story and that is what we must focus on.

Even ‘Mr Engage’ himself, Brian Solis, sums this situation up perfectly with this quote: “When you study day-to-day [social media] programs, it’s clear that campaigns, contents, and conversations offer the semblance of engagement, but really add up to nothing more than meaningless platitudes.”

I am not saying that most social media is pointless, rather it is ‘aimless’. It is like a story without chapters, an introduction or even a happy ending.

So in a nutshell, when using social media marketing, we are trying to tell human interest stories to grab the readers’ attention and build relationships.

So How Do We Tell Persuasive Human Interest Stories?

If we are to get people’s attention and get them to listen, we have to understand what makes people tick.  First consider what makes you like somebody, is it the time they give you, empathy in common ground or consistency in relationship (i.e. always being there for you)?

Don’t loose sight of the fact that all great story tellers are great narrators too, i.e. they guide people through a story and suggest what the listener might want to do i.e. like move onto the next chapter, be afraid, show empathy or provide a well-timed call to action.

So let’s look at the psychology behind it all 🙂

The Primal Story – Grabbing Attention With The Romantic Fairytale And…Cake:

This is human interest at its most basic, we are all suckers for a love story!   Romantic fairytales have stood the test of time over 100s of years.  Love (or sex) is one of our basic needs, so romantic stories about relationships are always going to get lots of attention.

Princes of in short supply

Finding a mate is the most primeval emotion that we have. Love stories sell and images of beautiful happy smiling people sell. Using these images in social media give an emotional attachment to a web visitor. Remember, the success and proliferation of dating sites on the internet is no mistake or internet revolution, it’s a basic need.

Another basic primal need is food! It is no coincidence that Pinterest is dominated by recipes for cakes and must-have meals. If you write a food blog I bet your most popular posts are about cakes and specifically chocolate (naughty food) for example!

Another striking feature about the primal brain is contrast – good and bad, hard and soft, or in its most basic form ‘fight or flight’. We all relate to goodies and baddies and that’s why all great stories like ‘Star Wars’ are so popular. Also it’s why images are such an important part of the social media mix. Visitors to a website react to images up to 40 times more if they are large and striking. So use pictures to tell your stories!

It is also no coincidence that this is how mass media works when it talks about an “APOCALYPTIC STORM COMING”.  At this point the primeval brain kicks in and we rush off to the shops like consumer crazed lemmings!

Our hunter gatherer instinct of the primeval brain is a powerful one. If you want people to move on to a website or buy  from social media marketing, use calls to actions like ‘limited time only’, ‘while stocks last’ or ‘hurry before it’s too late’.

So let’s get onto the really important bit before your competitors find out!  🙂

The Emotional Brain – A Story With ‘Special Effects’

Let’s face it, a lot of the primeval brain when analysed in a post like this seems very basic, but why do we fall for it? Well we are animals that think with feelings.

Psychologists call this ‘changing the emotional state’ to help change beliefs.  Emotional impulses override our thought processes, this is why adverts are so glitzy, churches are full of music and light and the web experience needs to be well-designed and videos help sales.  So to illustrate this point, let’s use one!

Yes Evian uses silliness to ‘engage us’, but it also uses funky dance music, special effects, tricks and yes, babies to capture our emotions. It also cleverly tells the message that their water encourages your baby’s youth. How can you not agree?

Fortunately for us, we have back up against all these clever tricks – the rational brain…

The Rational Brain – The Voice Of The Narrator

There is a voice inside of you, a rational voice, when you are falling in love, deciding whether to be kind or unkind or simply helping yourself to that last piece of cake that says ‘What if?’

Our rational mind is always looking for evidence to support our dominant beliefs . . . the stronger the emotion, the stronger the belief and the greater the tendency to seek out supporting evidence.

I like to call this ‘the voice of your internal narrator’ that is questioning the story you have been told. This ‘voice’ needs persuading in order to justify a sale, commitment or subscription.

It is at this point that 75% of social media marketing falls flat, it pitches to the primal brain but does not back it up with testimonials, fact or proof of a brand’s value proposition. WHY?! 88 % of buyers say they’re more likely to click on a link from a familiar or trusted source and 93 % strongly prefer unbiased product test/reviews/opinion. This can lead to an uplift of 18% in sales according to Reevoo.

Reviews and third party endorsement are often ignored in social media marketing. Many hotels waffle on via Twitter and Facebook, but neglect TripAdvisor. E-commerce sites invest 1,000s on PPC but don’t invest in social media customer service or forget about onsite reviews!

Summary – The Happy Ending

So if you want your social media efforts to come to a happy ending remember, think like a story teller and:

Happy Ending

  • Tell stories that appeal to the primal brain – to grab attention and drive traffic
  • Try to tell your stories with images
  • Target the emotional brain to help convince people  e.g. movement and video
  • Help your customers’ rational brain – with useful content to persuade them to take action, back up the silliness, glitz and glamour with testimonials, reviews and third party endorsement.
[This post first appeared on the Norfolk Tech Journal]





Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

About the author

Matthew Anderson

Matt is our Commercial Director. E-commerce & social media strategist, obsessed with the detail – KPIs, ROI & driving sales for your business. He had 8 years’ international experience in boosting sales on Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, John Lewis and e-commerce sites for Sphero, Brabantia, Hillfarm Oils, Groov-e to name but a few. From international social media strategies in Europe & Russia to working with Pilgrim’s Choice, The British Council, The North Face & Norseland Cheeses, he’s a storyteller, social media & blogging geek.