Power to the People: Humanising Social Content

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As an industry, we love to make predictions, but I doubt anyone foresaw that in 2021 we would be watching staff from long-established British retailer M&S lip-syncing to Abba and dropping their own Christmas rap.

And with over 55k followers on the M&S Romford TikTok account alone, it’s clearly a marketing strategy that’s working for them.

Why are so many [brands] struggling to find a social strategy that works, or, worse still, reluctant to join in at all?

Rachel Wells

Executive Creative Director, MullenLowe Profero

With the average person spending almost two-and-a-half hours a day on social media (that’s not including everything else we do online), it’s unsurprising that social is forecast to overtake TV next year in terms of ad spend. Higher levels of content personalisation (think TikTok’s scarily accurate For You feed or Instagram’s Explore page) mean it’s quicker for brands to get into the natural conversations and content that their target audiences are already engaging with.

In short, social platforms are providing bigger and better opportunities than many alternative advertising formats, and we can only expect them to get better. But if that’s the case, why are so many still struggling to find a social strategy that works, or, worse still, reluctant to join in at all?

Low interest brands can be social superstars too

In the UK alone, there are now 17 million monthly active users on TikTok and almost 29 million on Instagram. And, while teens and younger people certainly make up a large part of each platform’s audience, older people are using them too. There’s a common misconception that social media, especially TikTok, is a young person’s platform to view and interact with, and that’s simply not true. In fact, TikTok’s demographics in the US suggest that 20.3% of those using the app are aged between 40 and 49, and 11% are 50+.

Research shows that social is the number one channel for brands to connect with consumers. If they choose not to, that’s a huge opportunity they risk missing out on.

But, putting age demographics to one side, we’re finding ever increasing concerns in the industry around brands being considered ‘low interest’ on their social platforms. They’re struggling to see how and why they should be incorporating it into their marketing strategies, but embracing these channels can open numerous doors for brands, even though many are reluctant to do so. Research shows that social is the number one channel for brands to connect with consumers. If they choose not to, that’s a huge opportunity they risk missing out on.

If you’re a brand that isn’t stereotypically ‘fun’ or ‘exciting’ – like insurance or healthcare  – that doesn’t mean you can’t be relevant. A great example is Specsavers. While this isn’t a brand that would traditionally strike many as high interest, it’s doing incredibly well on social. By fully embracing user-generated content (with the hashtag #LoveGlasses), it’s managed to stay relevant amongst its desired target audience. Its core strategy is to put people and humanity at the heart of its posts, and by handing the content over to its own customers, its social presence appears to be much more genuine.

 

Think you’re lacking the star quality to go viral? Think again 

Likewise, brands that hand over control to their own staff are also smashing it. M&S has given the go-ahead to its local stores, allowing them to set up their own TikTok accounts. It wasn’t long ago that many corporate comms teams would consider this to be a PR disaster waiting to happen, but M&S have proved otherwise.

72% of consumers report feeling more connected to a brand when employees share information about it online.

The company’s Longbridge and Romford stores are getting hundreds of thousands of likes and interactions on the content that’s been created by the very staff that work there (even team manager Craig Field has become a viral sensation in his own right). From jumping on the latest TikTok trends to dressing up as the store’s iconic Percy Pig character, the videos show a genuine humanity behind the brand which falls in line with what customers love most about M&S. In fact, 72% of consumers report feeling more connected to a brand when employees share information about it online.

Likewise, Irish airline Ryanair is another brand that often features content from its staff. From quips about passengers leaving toilet doors open, to the questionable landing capabilities of its pilots, this is a brand that has no shame in poking fun at itself and its customers. But it’s this less ‘professional’ view that helps it in showing a human side, which has been rewarded with an incredible social media following.

 

Perfection won’t get you anywhere

Brands should be paying attention to which conversations they can (authentically) join in with, helping them to find their voice within an extremely competitive marketplace. They must understand that it’s not all about having a highly polished social media post that gets scrutinised across several departments in an agency for months on end. Instead, they need to focus on developing rapid conversations that align with popular cultural moments and discussions that their customers are already involved with (or soon will be).

 

 

It’s not all about having a highly polished social media post that gets scrutinised across several departments in an agency.

To truly succeed in this space, brands need to be open minded. They must be prepared to show their human side, even if that means loosening the reins and handing the power over to their staff and their customers from time to time.

Despite what many of us have been led to believe, we shouldn’t always strive for perfection!