It’s a weird world out there, and it seems like it’s gotten a lot weirder since social media has become a staple in so many of our lives. Still, for smaller businesses who are looking for help with social media marketing in Orange County, it can seem like there’s this whole world where companies like Wendy’s are making millions, and smaller companies like yours aren’t invited.
Back when traditional marketing like billboards and TV commercials ruled the world, what to do was pretty clear cut. There wasn’t really a way for a company to personally pester anyone, and it certainly wasn’t cost-effective marketing. Then along came social media, a tool allowing everyone to pester everyone, essentially for free. When businesses jumped on board in earnest, it kind of changed the game of what is and isn’t acceptable when reaching out to your customers.
Social is a place to listen, which often means, as a company, you’re listening to customers complain. But recently, some companies have begun experimenting in a more proactive strategy. To quote Ian Bogost, a guy that got a pizza delivered to him because he made a joke about Comcast on Twitter, “Brands have learned to go beyond reacting to customers’ complaints and anticipate what might enchant them—playing offense, not just defense.” This ‘offense inroad’ is probably a very small inroad when compared to the vast defensive needs of Comcast, and their ocean of potentially complaining customers—but it’s still an inroad.
Big Brands have it easier
This type of marketing carries a certain risk to it, and anyone who wants to laugh at corporations (and who doesn’t) can spend hours scrolling through corporate social media fails. When huge corporations experiment with unconventional marketing techniques, it’s less of a risk for them, because they’re huge. They have the market share to absorb a little back lash, and their other marketing efforts keep things moving until everything returns back to normal. But also, the payoff for them is exponentially bigger because they have a firmly established brand that these social media stunts point back to. A smallish company probably wouldn’t see much of a bump from sending a pizza to a customer, for example. Likewise, a controversial fail can completely wipe out a small company’s revenue stream in one go. Food for thought.
It can be effective—but there is a cost.
To be sure, Comcast buying a pizza for someone and thereby making a funny story and getting free exposure from the person sharing it is a good deal. Other more outlandish stunts, like Domino’s filling pot holes in a city, while more expensive, still generates tons of buzz, and even if people ridicule them about it, the adage is true that (almost) any exposure is good exposure. The problem is that this kind of marketing leaves a sour taste in the person’s mouth: the feeling of being used. This may be OK for mega-corporations, who were using people long before Twitter and FaceBook made it cool. I argue that it is not in harmony with the image of most small to medium sized businesses. Then there are the dangers that come from going too far, which are the same for companies of any size. Misstep, and you’ll be roasted alive by the patiently waiting Twitter community. If you really offend, social media makes boycotts move faster and cut deeper.
What to do then? Are big brands the only ones that can have fun on social media? I propose a different perspective. Social media allows businesses to be creepy and annoying and insincere. Big businesses are the only ones with the scale and money for this to somehow pay off. In a weird way, people expect it from them.
Small businesses will need to start social media a little slower. Build a presence, get a voice, make a source for content that people will actually like. This is all part of the greater mission of crafting your brand. As we said, any of the more experimental branding efforts will only work if your brand is well built, and supremely recognizable—and for many, these cheeky stunts are best left for those big, annoying global brands. As more small businesses seek social media marketing in Orange County, take heart. There is space for you out there is social. My recommendation? Don’t lose track of who your brand really is. Use social in a way that makes your brand shine. Have fun. And above all, don’t be creepy, annoying, or insincere.