It's Time to Kill Kitty


Many brands continue to treat their Facebook strategy as if marketing has moved no further as an art since the days of glamour models on car bonnets. I’m struck dumb by the lack of meaningful engagement so many moderators offer in their schedule of posts. Whether it be the ubiquitous “win this if you press like” or the “it’s funny because it’s true” sharing of the everyday-odd, I wonder if there is a goal behind the effort.

Of course, in the run up to Christmas, every other brand will be launching a competition in order to extend their fan-base. There’s nothing wrong with that, everyone likes a chance at winning something for themselves in the season of spending. Come January however, when the big bucks have been spent, I think it unlikely that the new fans will represent an increase in engagement in line with the inflated fan figures. I’ve written about the complexity of competition positioning before on this blog, however it’s the lack of ‘engagement strategy’ that worries me more today.

With Facebook admitting that they have made a particular change to the newsfeed, giving a greater weight in the selection to whether people complain about a post, brands are more aware than ever of the need for ‘sameness’. "If nobody complains, the promotional posts get through", might become the mantra. In a world in which brands are built on the basis of a “them or us” battle, such a muted approach can only leave Facebook the bland brother of everything else. A post still needs to be engaging (thus representing a high click through) in order to reach the feed, however, we all know that a cute bunny or a promise of a dollar off is as likely to get clicks as anything else and is fairly safe from the ‘unlike’ effect.  It’s tough to innovate in those circumstances.

Yet, innovate we must. I see muted content everywhere. Brands that I know to be powerhouses of “bigger, bolder, best” come to Facebook with a tone and editorial style that suggests either that the social media policy is so restrictive it suffocates or that the agency is simply unaware that social media is the natural home of conversation not cuddles. Under Armour for example, a $billion brand is celebrated on Forbes for their “The biggest, baddest brand on the planet” attitude, yet fills the UK Fan Page with training tips, including this gem “Just keep going. Everybody gets better if they keep at it” and back-patting congratulations for minor achievements. It’s like listening to the feed from the local gym next to Sainsbury’s, not the powerhouse that stormed Nike. Admittedly, Under Armour is better at this whole thing on their US pages but sadly they are not alone in forgetting their USP on Facebook-

  • Wetherspoon : Wow what a weekend! It's nearly lunchtime, what's everyone having for lunch?
  • Ribena: Share this picture if you could eat a berry muffin right now!
  • Weird Fish Clothing: It is the BBC's 90th Anniversary today, tune into any BBC radio station today at 5.33pm for a special broadcast.

Still, sameness is comforting. We do, of course, use Facebook to celebrate the things that unite us as humans. The colour of our Sunday gravy, the hangover sympathy, a baby’s first dribble. Yes, we come to Facebook to publish these things, so I do understand why brands adopt such neutrality themselves.  It’s as if we’re waiting for someone to change the conversation, announce a revolt, expose their buttocks, spill the beans. Within sameness comes expectation of change. I can see the brands out there who might be the instigators of the revolution- those who know it’s not their products that are honestly being “liked” but the comfort of their words.

If you’re not a party starter and prefer the status quo, I offer this - at least engage your fans with the product. There is little value in a one off communication that says “Hello, I’m a brand, we’ve never met, have a random token of my affection”. The new fan will be pleased but will not remember you and won’t change their retail habits.

Beyond that, once you’ve given away your trinkets, please, please re-engage immediately. Test your new user-base with some hard hitting, core value brand statements. If you don’t get a response, you haven’t reached the right people. Even if you’ve hit millions of people. Ask yourself if you’ve even hit your existing customers—on/offline integration with the actual store, the printed receipt, the packaging, it’s absolutely key to bringing in the type of consumer who reads the fine print and believe me, you want those on your side.

High value brands are extraordinarily good at creating an experience offline.  Attend the annual conference, the catwalk show, the trade event, or step in a store and you’ll see great minds at work. Bring those people in to challenge the boundaries of the big blue screen.  Ask them if they really want to be wishing the client a “nice day” or if they have something stronger to say. Teach them the rules and then let them at it.

A standard screenshot of today's news feed suggests that social media folk are simply not good marketers. It’s a shame. The geeks had a go but couldn’t get the hang of conversation. Sales and PR came in but couldn’t cope with being ‘real’. What’s left at the helm is usually a mishmash, an individual well voiced in the technology and limitations of social platforms, a happy soul full of mantras and philosophies, but rarely an employee with fire in their belly and a vision beyond their desk. Such people make good bedfellows for the legal and compliance team but let’s face it, you wouldn’t put them on stage.

I guess it’s too early for New Year resolutions, but here’s one anyway. In 2013, it’s time to kill the kitty. The time for “like and win”, “smile and appreciate” is over. I declare it the year of the storm. Be the brand who admits a set of core values and truly evangelises, explains, amplifies those through Facebook and Twitter.  Be liked for not liking. Broadcast from real world locations and meet your fans. Get your page taken down. Believe me, the resulting PR will be worth a hell of a lot more than the 100,000 people who like the photo of the office Chrimbo tree or won your surplus stock in a sweepstake.

I leave you with this today from Muller UK, “…Make sure you get a good night’s sleep and have some quite time before going to bed, it’ll help you to wake up feeling refreshed!” I’ll be sure to do that. I think they probably meant “quiet time”, but either way… quite.

Photo (cc) Sean Dreilinger


I Think you hit the Nail on the Head

"I do want people (or rather, those who I work with at least!) to ensure depth, rather than ease."


I agree

Hi Jon,

I agree with your comment, restriction is certainly an issue. Brand communications commonly need goals, objectives, perhaps measurable outcomes (debatably) and the 'like' is one that can be easily budgetted for. Being 'noticably pleasant' is a gain but in my opinion, it's not a goal that matches the opportunity. 

I don't want people to consider "shock" as an alternative to "niceness". I do want people (or rather, those who I work with at least!) to ensure depth, rather than ease.

Al :)

Best Content Marketers

I was always told that the best content marketers are/were the tabloids, bold attention grabbing statements and content.

However, not every brand want's to be bold, the need for brands to acheive the impossible 'to be loved by everyone' is more important these days than connecting with the real customers. 

The dull content you talk about might not just be because the people are bad marketers (i think a lot of them are) but that they are restricted marketers too scared to do anything interesting. 

I am going for some quite time ... a new Friday treat!