Even though Citizens United declared corporations are people, large companies still have a difficult time humanizing themselves to consumers.
Advertisers have leveraged almost every medium to get their message out from the sidewalk to the sky, so it’s no surprise social media became utilized for marketing. Art critic Thomas Crow has said, “[…]the avant-garde serves as a kind of research and development arm of the culture industry.” For as commonplace as it is today, social media was quite a revolutionary development in modern communications, and brands are still trying to find their footing on how to effectively use it for marketing purposes.
Since social media is relatively low cost, it can react to news almost immediately and allows a high turnover of content, this medium becomes one of the best atmospheres in which to experiment with and construct a relatable brand persona. Users don’t want to see a print ad repurposed into a Facebook post that lives among news of their friend’s engagement and the birth of their new nephew. It’s disingenuous, and ultimately a bother.
Of course the rub lies within using the language of social media—memes, emoji, pop culture references — and melding them to your brand’s voice to make a consumer smile rather than recoil in chagrin.
A good example of the latter is a recent tweet from Burger King which reads, “These Chicken Strips, tho.” A very uninspired way of adopting Internet memes, the post lacks any brand equity, cleverness or irony. It’s just an example of billion-dollar corporation trying to sound like a teenager. It’s trying so hard to be cool, but they just don’t get it.
On the contrary, IHOP has succeeded with a very similar tweet but theirs has a truer voice behind it. They have spent the time to hone their specific brand voice and stick to it. All of their tweets have the same audience in mind and their consistency has not only built equity with their current followers but has also grown their following by 18% according to AdWeek. They have tapped into the young Hip-Hop culture and have been retweeted by culturally relevant artists like Funkmaster Flex and Missy Elliot.
Another good example of a sponsored post on Facebook that utilizes the concept well is done by Seamless. A play on the 2007 meme “I Can Has Cheezburger?” the post encapsulates a variety of positive elements: a logical relationship to the brand’s equity, a clever spin on a familiar joke, and a subtle CTA, all in one line of copy.
Speaking the same language as consumers on the Internet is paramount to social media marketing. Memes aren’t necessarily the right fit for every brand, but it’s important overall to know how the ecosystem works and how you can organically insert yourself into the conversation. Of course sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest can be seen more as laboratories than conventions, allowing marketers to experiment with what works and what doesn’t, but ensuring a logical grasp of Internet culture without self-sabotaging or illustrating ignorance is the proper first step.