Cover Photo by abi ismail on Unsplash

Social media is only as interesting as the message.

That’s a fairly simple statement, but let’s unpack it for a minute. This thing that we call social media, in the business context, is really just the practice of creating content, publishing it, and having conversations in a public forum. So why do we do it?

Advertising, PR, promotions, and a bunch of other similar things that were made up over the past few hundred years are just the practice of pushing a message into a place that has the attention of an audience.

The only difference between the traditional and the social media profession is that, when social is done well, its message is the start, not the end.

I’ll give you a specific example from last week’s Super Bowl ads: Tide’s brilliant “It’s a Tide Ad” TV campaign was successful because people saw it, understood it, and remembered it. Hopefully that leads to a purchase in the future, but that’s about the end of the ad’s lifecycle.

Their social content, on the other hand, used the same content, but when it showed up in people’s feeds they laughed along in the comments, shared it with their friends, followed the Tide accounts, or clicked through to a landing page where they’d read more.

That impression was just the start.

So what? How does that matter to your social/digital plan?

Understanding the distinction between pushing a message and having a message that people care about is everything.

It’s the difference between brands that do everything right and just chug along vs the ones that seem to rocket out of the gates. It’s also the difference between a content calendar that feels like manual labour to create and publish every day vs. one that naturally flows and inspires new and creative pieces.

The difference between good and great social media is giving people a reason to tell their friends.

I mean that both metaphorically and literally, and here’s an exercise that I put our clients through to illustrate the point:

Your best, most loyal customer is out for coffee with a good friend of hers. She turns to her friend, and says: “You need to follow on because: ___________.”

If you can fill in that blank, then you have your entire content strategy set to go. If you can’t, then it’s pretty safe to say that your customer can’t either.

For the past few weeks we’ve been publishing a collection of posts that take you through our own digital strategy process, the fundamentals and tactical advice, revealing our goals, and some progress along the way (I’ve linked the series at the bottom of this post). While that stuff is crazy-helpful — possibly even essential — the world’s best execution will still only produce C+ results without filling in that tell-a-friend blank.

The good news, however, is that if you can fill it in then you get a ton of leeway. When people are stoked about you, your story, and/or the reason why you’re doing what you’re doing, then little things become significantly less important.

Last year I wrote about one such brand in a post called “Fresh, Local Ingredients, The Story Behind @HeyKokomo” and they are a perfect example of this principle at work. The owner is a friend, and she (like many of us) only has so many hours in a day, but she’s done such an amazing job of building up her story, getting people on board, and developing her community that, to this day, her social media success has been bananas.

Kokomo’s social content is very good, but so are many brands who are as good at content, but haven’t had their massive outpouring of support, and that’s really the point: All of the things that happen after you hit publish.

So What?

My intention is to call that out for you in every post that we publish. To make it painfully obvious how our content applies to you and how you can actually benefit from this stuff. That’s our So What, and here’s yours for this post:

When we build our social media plans using mechanical best practices and content that demonstrates traditional features & benefits, we can expect traditional results. But, when all of those same tactics and strategies are built around something that people care about, a story that they can pass on, or just something remarkable that they can get excited about, then the social effect really kicks in.

Now, you may be shaking your head at me, saying that messages like that only apply to pretty vegan bowl shops, or big budget CPG brands, but I optimistically disagree.

I believe that every business worth running was started for a reason beyond profit margin, and that every brand has a core group of people who love it for something more than just cost savings. The opportunity for each one of us is to revisit what those things are, and then apply them to our tactics & strategies in simple ways that can help us to create that social effect.

To take your brand through the fundamentals, check out these posts, and consider while you do: How do I use this stuff to create something that people can’t wait to share with their friends?

  1. Building a Digital Strategy
  2. Fundamental Social Media Tactics that Produce 80% of the Results
  3. Building Weekly Habits that Compound Over Time

If you’d like to receive summaries of posts like this, plus a couple of quick updates from around the world of digital, enter your info below. We promise to respect your inbox as if it were our own.