Should All Brands be on Social?
Will we see more brands follow suit after Wetherspoons closed down their social media accounts?
Yes, probably. Hopefully. The position they found themselves in, with 900 accounts all being managed locally without a strategy, consistency and control would be one that most brands would find untenable in the first place. But that’s kind of obvious. I’d rather dig a bit deeper into something else they said...
Having worked in digital now for around 10 years, I have seen the advent of social, fought its corner against sales-driven people asking me to “demonstrate the value that it’s adding” and “how many sales does it deliver anyway?” Tim has now been widely quoted saying he doesn’t think Wetherspoons will lose any sales because of this decision. I don’t doubt him one bit over that. If you think social media is purely a sales channel, that’s your first mistake right there. Your agenda and your audience’s intentions on social are misaligned. They’re on social for downtime, for connection, for hoots – not for sales messages. It can be very jarring, and lacks a bit of self-awareness on your part. Have you ever checked out Apple’s Facebook page? They’ve registered, and over 11m people like the page, but they’ve never posted. I’m going to guess that their sales aren’t suffering as a result. Do they know something we don’t, and have Wetherspoons just figured it out?
If your objectives for your social media accounts are less sales-based and more brand and conversation-led – then, just like fish, you can’t judge success by their ability to climb trees.
I think some brands need to be honest with themselves about whether they need to be there. This is a U turn for me over the last couple of years. The Wetherspoons example has hopefully given some brands food for thought – it’s not a free, magical channel that’s the answer to all your problems. Some brands only need a customer service outlet on social. Or maybe a clever, relevant ad campaign to promote a useful tool or bit of content. I buy products sometimes and the packaging shouts “Follow us on Facebook” and I wonder, what could you possibly want to tell me on Facebook? Or have they felt the peer pressure of the Marketing department to set up accounts without solid investment: a sound strategy, time or budget behind it?
On the other hand, if you invest pain-staking time into your content schedule, your tone of voice, your strategy, but you have no budget for boosting at all, then please stop now. It is a crying shame, you’re doing everything right in theory, but getting no engagement because the rules have changed. Your content is probably brilliant (I have seen this lots of times), but your engagement and reach is minimal, and definitely not reflecting the effort you're putting in. Social is pay to play now. I know that this message has been threatened multiple times, and there will be opinion pieces that say, “If your content is great then there’s still organic reach to be had”. It’s hopeful, and I like hope, but I’m just not buying that anymore. You could be getting more attention throwing money off the roof – as this fantastic piece from Avinash Kaushik explains.
So is there value in social? I’m still conflicted. I love social for all its good, its real-time capability, its ability to connect people, the way brands can show off their personality and have conversations with the people they care about most: their audience. I think let’s give social a break, realign our objectives and ask ourselves why we really want to be there. Let’s not throw the channel out with the bathwater. It’s not social media’s fault that we haven’t all figured out to use it like Innocent yet. Let’s stop expecting it to be a sales channel, but play it to its strengths, and judge its success in a different way.