The Challenge with Reactive Social Media Marketing

Navigating Chaos

Now is the season for reactive social media marketing. After Oreo’s effort nearly one year ago (requisite, obvious reference now made and forgotten), brands are seeing a time period in which a lot of emphasis gets thrust into clever, impromptu responses to current events. This month’s Golden Globes and Grammy’s may only be trumped by the Super Bowl and Oscars when it comes to value when passing on something clever into the Twitter night.

But how does a brand effectively create reactive social media? It is most definitely impossible for a company to schedule or plan this type of creative idea; unlike customer service or ongoing marketing campaigns, a potential idea for posting cannot go through a rigorous review system (or scripting effort). So what is required, or must be addressed, before a company can attempt a bit of fun with some reactive social media marketing?

The first concern has to be appropriateness. The hypothetical company has hopefully invested in developing a brand voice that also includes a general tone or messaging rhythm. It’s highly unlikely a furniture company’s voice would allow them to create an authentic, effective reactive social media effort that was “PG-13” or worse, versus, say a Maxim or Durex. Such is the reason that those enabled to create content must almost have their judgment trusted more than anyone who may just post the editorial calendar and have, say, the Twitter password, etc., because they may be tempted to try too hard or push the envelope.

The second area of focus must be quality. Loading something up for the sake of doing so will not make viewers roll their eyes and smile awkwardly like a poorly delivered dad joke. They will mock and deride you for your poor choices. And that’s probably warranted. This again falls back on the authenticity component: if your company isn’t known for cleverness, or you haven’t invested the resources to make something great, taking a stab at it at 9:49 PM because someone just said something outrageous on an award show likely is not worth the negative attention.

The final component to be weighed when a brand creates a great piece of reactive social media marketing is value. An effort that tries too hard to make something worth parody likely falls short of value, as well as quality (what is the deal with Grape Nuts?). A joke in this space only works if people a) know what you’re referring to and b) considered what you’re referring to be notable enough to enjoy a parody or ironic effort. Twitter handles related to an event (Angelina Jolie’s dress is now Pharrel’s hat) will never have as much retained value as how a brand handles a post (see what I did there?). Similarly, a brand that is able to make a quality post and then continue as usual will likely garner more love than one that tries for too long – similar to the guy at a party who drops a one-line out of the blue will stand out more than an attendee commanding an audience in the corner.

As social media becomes more popular, all of this becomes harder because we (brands, individuals in the space, even the developers/software creators) begin to exhaust ideas at a quicker rate and push to stand out among more static. However, by forcing your reactive social media marketing efforts through a strainer before execution, you can develop some insights and avoid problems.

Some exercises before your brand looks to create some reactive magic:

  • Spitball ideas of what would be horrific and fantastic in a post. This should not be “if it gets 10 Likes that would be great!” but, rather, “it can’t be anything involving profanity or controversial.” Flesh out where the line is collectively.
  • Know your sweet spot. If you can do a great piece of single imagery/microcontent, don’t dabble in editing a GIF or creating a parody song. Stick to what you have done in the past because it’s likely what your audience will recognize and appreciate the most.
  • All hands on board! If you are planning on doing something after hours on social media, ensure that people are aware and immediate review from stakeholders is possible. I wouldn’t recommend any reactive social media marketing be handled with just one person’s discretion and approval; the nuclear keys came in pairs if the movies taught us anything.
  • Reference Top Gun any chance you get. It’s funny and it has action and Tom Cruise wasn’t acting oddly yet and you almost forget Goose has an incident until it happens and you’re like “why couldn’t he live this time?” and Meg Ryan is so nice and don’t even get me started when they’re yelling at Maverick to get in the sky and dogfight and he’s sweating bullets. Epic movies deserve epic odes. But don’t screw it up because…
  • Be willing to do nothing. While Michael Scott said Wayne Gretzky said “You miss every shot you don’t take,” hockey shots don’t drop sales, weaken your brand image or get someone fired (usually). If nothing you came up with worked, be willing not to create something for the night and consider it a dry run.

It will be interesting to see what gets created this Sunday.

UPDATE (1/30 5 PM): An interview with the Arby’s Social Media Manager in charge of the infamous Tweet confirms all of the components and best practices above (emphasis mine):

“Our CMO has created an environment for our team to have freedom and flexibility,” said Martin, “I’m not going to put the brand in jeopardy. If I do think it’s controversial, I run it up the flagpole.” He claims the free range he has gained comes from building trust with his supervisors over time.

Martin is responsible for all of Arby’s tweets during big media events, like the Grammy’s and next Sunday’s Super Bowl. “We don’t try to force it,” said Martin in regards to Arby’s social content strategy. Martin shared that he had other posts planned for the Grammys, but pulled back after his tweet to Pharrell took off. “It was a great real-time moment.”

Photo Credit: Karen Roe

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