Become a social listener

Social media is nothing more than an ongoing, ever-changing conversation. The discussion topics are varied – sometimes obscure – the tone and landscape changes quicker than you can hit refresh.

This means a key element of any social media strategy should be joining existing conversations – particularly on Twitter, where a hashtag means entry into a debate, an argument, social commentary or, in the case of the recent #BICGate saga, a lynch mob.

If recent social media blunders have taught us anything, it’s that brands that self-implode are generally those that don’t listen to the public sentiment of the moment before communicating with their audience. They forget they’re talking to people, not consumers, and miss the opportunity to connect in a meaningful way.

This post – during the #BICgate debacle – from rival stationery brand Staedtler, worked well in the moment:

In just over 18 hours, this was retweeted 137 times, favourited 96 times and reached more than 32 500 accounts. These analytics show that an intelligently crafted response or comment about a trending topic can be extremely effective for your brand – if it’s done right.

It can mean organic exposure to a more diversified audience, with the added benefit of keeping your brand on trend and in touch. Here are the top five ways your brand can win at being a social listener:

Stop. Listen. Learn

Don’t spend all your time trying to construct your own conversation, rather start listening. Take a newsroom approach, actively search and anticipate trending topics, or keywords relating to your brand, and pay attention to what people are already saying. These conversations are organic and authentic, and present an opportunity to connect with users who might be genuinely interested in your brand.

This shrewd tweet by Nissan at the height of the #RoyalBaby excitement was well-thought out and right on time:

Be timeous

Make sure you’re being a voice, not an echo. Joining a conversation that’s beginning to wane will make you seem out of touch and irrelevant. If you’re going to join in, do it quickly (but carefully) so your commentary or opinion is discoverable. Remember that one post doesn’t a witty conversation make – follow up on your tweet quickly by engaging with users who engaged with you, always answering in the same tone as your initial tweet.

Groupon won at social media when they engaged in a hilarious stream of tweets in response to their post of a ‘Banana Bunker’:

Check for relevance

No one likes a know-it-all. And leaping into a conversation that has absolutely nothing to do with your brand will seem bullish. Random interjects can work, but they have to be uproariously funny and cleverly crafted. So rather stick to what you know.

This tweet by USA-based retailer Kenneth Cole during protests in Egypt – with a not-so-subtle reference to the Arab Spring – was an all-round bad idea:

Test it offline

No community is an island. Never post in isolation. Do your research. If you’re unsure whether your trend-related tweet is inspired or misguided, ask everyone and anyone for their opinion before posting. Get as many insights as possible. Weigh up the offline answers to anticipate what the online response will be. As we’ve already mentioned, social media is simply a conversation, in a different space. It’s run by humans, not robots.

This tweet by USA-based supermarket Best Buy got them into some seriously hot water. The tweet was related to a podcast series about a controversial murder case, in which the evidence hinged on whether the accused had made a call from a pay phone in a Best Buy store. This was probably not the wisest wisecrack:

Avoid the mob

Make sure your comment adds value or humour to the existing conversation – running to join a lynch mob just for the sake of it is neither endearing nor intelligent. Hurling abuse just to be “one of the guys” will do nothing for your brand’s reputation. A quip is okay. Overtly bashing another brand is not. If it’s appropriate, try compliments and encouragement, as opposed to unfiltered criticism. Savanna shows us how trend-tapping is done tastefully with this clever comment:



Top 5 Instagram trends for 2015

Since the trail-blazing millennials and too-cool-for-Facebook hipsters started the migration to Instagram five years ago, we’ve seen a visual content explosion.

With over 20 billion images uploaded to date, the challenge for amateur smartphone snappers, influential Instagrammers and brands is to remain not only relevant but also exceptionally fascinating.

With constantly emerging and changing trends, this is a moving goal post. So, what’s the latest?

Layout from Instagram – not just another third-party app

You may have seen, tried and deleted hundreds of collage and photo editing apps to date. What makes most of these apps more often misses than hits, is the fact they are created by third parties. Layout is different. It’s the latest photo collage app developed by Instagram for Instagram.

With a selection of up to 10 collage templates and several ‘tweaking’ options, it makes photo collages easy to create and share across other channels.

Why use it? It creates an element of intrigue that will stop users mid-scroll and keep them engaged with your content for longer. It’s also more user-friendly than other photo collage apps and integrates seamlessly with Instagram. Just don’t forget to include #Layout in your caption.

Instagram videos – do the loop

More customisable than Vine, easier to use than Hyperlapse and a whole lot trendier than Snapchat, Instagram video has become the golden egg of Instagram feeds. Earlier this year, the photo-hosting giant introduced ‘looping videos’ – stepping firmly on the toes of the unique Vine offering.

The short-form video format unlocks infinite opportunities for creative executions that tell compelling stories and keep viewers coming back for more – no replay button needed. Brands such as Mini and GAP have set the bar extremely high when it comes to drawing users in to watch the next instalment of the #CountryMan or #SpringIsWeird mini-series.

Use this medium to personify your brand, tell its story and bring it to life in new ways.

Nobody’s going to hashtag your brand #sorrynotsorry

Unless your brand has already received cult status, it’s time to drop your #CompanyName hashtag. The Instagram community sees right through your marketing strategy. Be subtle, be smart and be authentic as you tactfully align yourself with trends using a well thought-out and relevant hashtag strategy.

Instagram is all about being effortlessly cool – overt marketing tactics are the antithesis of that.

Integrate with already existing conversations and trends rather than shouting your unrelated messages out in a crowded room of tortoise shell wayfarers and skinny jeans. That also doesn’t mean that you should include all the conventional #love, #cute, #tagsforlikes hashtags championed by bored teenagers either.

Tailor it to your game and fit it to your target market. GAP got it right here too with their dedicated #DressNormal hashtag. If you’re an outdoor apparel brand, think #campvibes or #beaneaththebrim – something that speaks to your brand’s social personality and associated lifestyle rather than its commercial reputation.

Instameets – gather all the influencers (and their friends)

‘Instagrammers’ are the bloggers of the Instagram tribe. These creative geniuses can be persuaded to craft beautiful content around your brand persona in an authentic manner if you only treat them to the personalised products and experiences that match their creative pursuits.

Invite them for a chat over artisan coffee, casually conceptualise a collaborative Instameet for them and their equally creative friends and watch the visual content flourish around your brand.

Instagram advertising – no free-spirited hipsters here

There’s no room for purist hipster principles here. Social media channels have become a pay-to-play space and Instagram is not going alternative on this one. In 2014, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Snapchat all experimented with advertising options. Instagram will follow suit in 2015.

It is unclear exactly what form this advertising may take place on the platform. Early reports suggest targeting options based on age, sex and location. Start thinking ahead about how to best tap into the opportunities this presents.

The value of social interactions – decoded

In South Africa, brand pages on social networks are undergoing an evolution. What began as me-too mania as they all flocked to platforms like Facebook and Twitter simply because everyone was doing it, is now slowly becoming a far more nuanced and strategic understanding of the role these platforms can play in a broader communications strategy.

Central to this shift is a focus on creating value-added content. This in itself is a seismic shift for many brands whose social pages have been filled with nothing but bland marketing pulled through from above the line and a never-ending stream of content for content’s sake (think irrelevant motivational quotes and the desperate sharing of the latest memes in the quest for attention).

As more brands begin to dip their toes in the waters of unique, valuable content creation, the way success is being measured in social is changing too.

While a follower or a page ‘like’ used to be the social metric, it’s becoming increasingly clear it’s becoming more about how people actually resonate with your content.

The value of an interaction should be determined by the level of engagement required by the user to perform that action, and then the ultimate value of that interaction in terms of how it may amplify that post and extend its reach. This concept can be illustrated as follows:

With this in mind, the following is a guide to understanding the relative value of social interactions on Facebook: