Five things we learned at Social Media Smackdown #9


It’s all going on in the world of social innovations right now. Apps that give you your own stalker for the day. Emojis, left, right and centre. Music speakers for your foetus. In an industry that’s constantly moving forward, it can be difficult to stop and think: what do I really need to deliver to my audience right now?

Last Wednesday we held round 9 of our Social Media Smackdown, supported by Affinio, the audience intelligence platform. Full of breakfast bagels and hipster coffee, we saw our speakers battle it out in the (imaginary) ring; we heard from We Are Social’s Creative Director Graham Jenks; Selena Harrington, Head of Consumer Marketing at Microsoft Mobile UK, Chris Hurst, Digital Development Editor at BBC Sports, and Raluca Efford, Head of Digital at Direct Line. All of whom were ready to deliver a knockout refresh on our social media knowledge.

All of them seemed to be fighting for the same cause: that sometimes, it doesn’t hurt to take it back to basics. When brands are competing to be the most innovative, the biggest, the boldest… it can be easy to forget that in some cases, less is more.

Let’s take a look at what each of our battling brands bought to the ring.

1. Stand for something
Today, brands need to stand for something, and put this at the heart of everything they do. Our very own Graham Jenks argued that if a brand can change behaviours and impact culture, it empowers its customers to be able to do good, and be progressive. Take a look at outdoor clothing brand Patagonia. Amongst the noise of Black Friday sales, Patagonia had just one message: don’t buy our products. Reuse, repair, and recycle. On a sales period based so heavily on excessive consumption, their campaign stood out for all the right reasons. It’s time to put meaning back into content.

2. Take things offline
Okay, so you don’t have to use a typewriter to produce your next content calendar, or send a tweet via carrier pigeon (pun intended). But don’t forget the value of an offline relationship with your audience. Selena Harrington of Microsoft pointed out that building “real life” relationships hugely impacted brand love. Microsoft decided to host monthly talks with women in tech, creating a hub of targeted fans celebrating online activity in an offline environment. Positive sentiment soared as attendees took to Twitter to rave about the brand.

3. Be distinctive
When BBC Sport discovered that their average Twitter follower is 24 or under, (staggering when you consider that their average Match of the Day viewer on TV is over 40), they knew they needed to take a different approach to social. The sport marketplace is crowded, and it would have been easy to resort to a ‘you won’t believe what happens next’ clickbait-esque content. Instead, they listened carefully to what their audience wanted, adapted the brand’s personality, and began to create shareable, engaging content to generate conversation. The approach boosted the brands follower count by millions. “Looking at where we were distinctive as a brand and using that to define our USP helped us stand out amongst all of our competitors,” explained Chris Hurst.

4. Thorough community management pays
We’ve all had a bit of a whine and a moan on our social channels. Tube strikes. Forgetting your lunch. Spilling your coffee on a new shirt. But imagine if when you did decide to get bitter on Twitter, all your prayers were answered in one simple surprise delivery? This is exactly what Direct Line executed for #EverydayFix. Branding themselves as “the fixers,” even outside of the world of insurance, they used careful community management to target users who had tweeted their first world problems, delivering everything from a tasty lunch, to a new pair of jeans. The result? A lot of happy customers who took to Twitter to say so. Microsoft expressed the importance of thorough community management too. They sought out Twitter users uhm-ing and ahh-ing over a new phone, and asked if they’d like a new trial of the Lumia 950. “We vetted them for their social footprint, ensuring that they’d be tweeting the arrival of their phones, and their review throughout the process,” explained Selena. “We ended up with this group of online Nokia advocates, tweeting and recommending the model.”

5. Know your audience
When House of Fraser started chucking Emojis at us like a frenzied 12 year old on their first iPhone, we all got a bit confused, (and scared). Where were the glossy, luxe lifestyle posts we were used to seeing? Were we being trolled? House of Fraser had misjudged what its audience wanted, and paid the price.

Both Microsoft and BBC Sport reiterated just how important it is to know your audience. Social listening showed that BBC Sport needed to shift their tone to be more witty and emotive, in order to appeal to their new, younger audience. Microsoft ensured their tech savvy audience were being catered to with exclusive talks, VIP seeding events and a gallery space for #ShotOnMyLumia at Social Media Week. Both saw a huge increase in follower count, and positive sentiment – that’s a thumbs up emoji from us.