If you patronise your audience, there is going to be one winner, everybody else.
Businesses and brands can no longer presume their message is going to resonate with everyone else, no matter how well crafted they think it is. If you get it wrong, you get torn down. It doesn’t matter what size your business is.
When you treat others as though they should all fit in the same box and think they should be grateful for how you communicate, then you might as well still stick to the 1990s ‘they’ll all love this’ approach.
So, what’s the solution? Whilst we all acknowledge that relentless interruption with no heart (or alignment) does not work, what does work is to respect someone else’s time and deliver content that is going to make their day/week better.
You can’t just send with a smile, turn around and walk away. You have to stand should to shoulder with the people who have decided to spend time in your space.
Showing You The Proof
There seems to be plenty of ammunition out there at the moment that highlights the ignorance of the etiquette of channels, not from the public, but from brands.
There is proof of brands taking others for granted.
The recent World Athletics Championship, the National Lottery ran their #Represent campaign on Twitter. This was intended to retweet messages where members of the GB team held up placards showing the text sent and thanking people for their support. You sent a message via #Represent and you received an automated message back, including your Twitter name, so this means extended reach and also more followers for the brand (perhaps yet another brand that is chasing numbers as a business goal/measurement tool?).
Sounds simple enough?
We can’t think that our digital lives reside in an automated world, where no one else cares or can’t be bothered. People are going to do something about it. That is exactly what people did last Monday (14th August).
What should have started as an innocent response, resulted in athletes making reference from Jimmy Saville to Madeline McCann. It wasn’t until the following day (Tuesday) that the National Lottery took action and cancelled. However, the damage was already done. The British public had a field day, similar to the one they had with #WalkersWave this summer.
The #WalkersWave was Walkers crisps venturing into the world of ‘we’ve got a clever social idea’ and completely backfiring when they were giving away tickets to last seasons Champions League Final.
Here is what happened….
What these both highlight are brands who took their audience for granted. People do not want to be snubbed where automation takes the lead. People want to be entertained, they want to enjoy, they want to be heard.
It is similar to the school teacher leaving class mid-lesson and before leaving the room saying, ‘get on with your work.’ In my secondary school, what we did was create our own amusement when there was no authority in the room. I can remember no teacher for 15 minutes, and seeing someone held out of a window to hiding whatever was in the teachers drawers.
This is what is happening today. Social campaigns, such as #Represent are completely backfiring. This is because brands are walking out of the room and expecting to come back where we have all behaved obediently and done as we were told.
The lessons from The National Lottery #Represent campaign:
- Nothing felt genuine
- There was no control when automation took the lead
- Automation tarnished a message
- Human engagement hasn’t been cracked on social media
- When you are not genuine with a message, you get found out
- People want to feel part of something, not treated as fish in the same pool
- You need to resonate with your audience
- People do not want cheesy campaigns
A social example that represents the polar end of turning your back on everyone is what Southern Rail did during June. A 15 year old work experience student took charge of their Twitter account. What is normally fuelled by frustrated commuters took a different turn. Instead of the rants and anger, people warmed to Eddie (the work experience student) and the conversation flowed to the point of #askEddie trending and picked up by numerous news feeds. The example here is when you put someone in the seat and not on the reliance of AI, people behave differently.
What About You?
The last thing a company should ever do when communicating a message is to take everyone else for granted. Whilst for you this is probably not at a scale as #represent and #WalkersWave, it is still present in terms of:
- offering nothing that is different
- treat content creation and distribution as a mere tick box (because others are doing it)
- assume you know everything
- there is nothing relatable between the message and the recipient
- the focus is always on what can be taken from someone else, not the value created
- a complete lack of connection
Lets give you an example. For many recruitment companies the default switch when it comes to sharing expertise and knowledge with others, is the same tired path that provides nothing different to candidates.
Regurgitating something that has always been said with no touch of feeling or stamp of voice from the company is just treating everyone else as an afterthought. The common themes come up time and time again on Google: How to dress for an interview results in 61.5m results; how to write a CV results in 36.8m results; how to prepare for an interview results in 104m results. Lets just say, that they are popular topics, covered to eternity.
When speaking to Margaret Magnarelli, managing editor and head of content for recruitment giant monster.com, they stand for is to ‘bring humanity to the whole job search process’. You can see this in articles such as, ‘What to do when you and the interviewer just don’t click,’ or even a section that looks at your horoscope to plot your next steps.
What I am trying to emphasise here is when you take a deep dive within your industry to encourage others to participate as you are more than a fleeting blog article, you become recognised, as having a responsibility.
This is about treating your audience with respect and a role that can be of guidance and to entertain. This is not about treating every piece of communication as a chore and thinking that a photoshoot of smiling people will suffice as an approachable company.
To be seen as a company that doesn’t take others for granted, you recognise the difficulties and struggles that others have and be that guiding lighthouse beacon. More importantly you have to be persistent with it and not patronise everyone by throwing money at the corporate video that makes a company, not the individual watching, more important.
In the world of recruitment, Margaret acknowledges the challenge to resonate with others, “Consumers are beginning to feel overwhelmed with content—especially as they look at the sea of it on their social channels. It’s hard for brands to come into that sea and build trust with one-off campaigns. I believe that if you want your content to resonate, you need to consistently create high quality, high-integrity and high-utility content.”
“Ultimately, content marketing has to still be marketing. It has to be about serving an audience need.”
Showing Others That You Care
The opposite end of taking everyone else for granted, is to prove to others that you have an interest and are interesting. As a company you want to inspire confidence and align yourself with customer values, not interrupt while you’re also not paying attention.
By automating your world and taking others for granted is the equivalent of paying for a cleaner and then letting your plates and cups pile up until they come round for the next clean. You are not that bothered as someone is scheduled and will come and do the hard work for you. This is where businesses are today, they can schedule posts to go out while they are fast asleep but no one is there to respond or look to pick up any form of interaction and flow. What is the point of being social when you are absent?
Understanding the people who formulate your audience takes time but it also lets you recognise what they want (and more importantly what they don’t want). A company that can talk with their audience, gets rewarded. This is how more meaningful connections are made.
Lets Round Up
You can’t think you have the best intentions so others are drawn to your space via a few crumbs of content or the one campaign you put all the eggs into. You have to recognise what makes someone else tick and then nurture so it builds recognition with others.
When brands expect a sunny world where automation rules, people are going to throw something into the machine that makes it act differently.
You can’t take those you share your message with for granted. Whilst we don’t have all the answers, at least lets start a conversation that has meaning, rather than cut and paste from someone else. When you put a face, a voice and a sense of meaning at the front of your armoury, you create something where others come to trust and want to participate.