You Don’t Do Social

Will the day come when presidential candidates are scrutinized by the content they shared as young people on social media?

It’s about as certain as tonight’s Facebook news feed containing an Instagram photo of your friend’s dinner. Social media is not just changing the way in which we communicate with one another. We, too, are changing.

Times they are a-changin’ 

Last year, eventual GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney hit a snag when it was revealed during the primary that, as a teenager in 1965, he bullied a classmate believed to be gay, pinning down the teary-eyed boy and cutting his hair. Romney apologized and the story largely moved to the background, but social has changed the game for today’s young people.

If the same incident were to happen today, one of Romney’s friends may have created a Vine (a short, looping video from Twitter’s mobile video app) or blasted out a post-haircut photo on Snapchat (60 million “disappearing” photos are shared by Snapchat users every day).

In this new world, where the average Facebook post lasts for roughly 60 minutes, content is king and it can go viral more quickly to a bigger audience than ever before.

Don’t Do – Be

We don’t need to “do” social because we are social. Technology allows us, and the brands we represent, to express ourselves in new ways to develop a clear voice and build meaningful relationships.

Here are five tips for being social:

1. Be an early tester and a late adopter – The key to social is to experiment. Get to know what’s out there and see if it fits your needs. The next biggest thing could be the next biggest failure, so don’t throw your precious budget dollars into a new venture until it has been thoroughly vetted and shows staying power. If you’re looking for a place to start, begin with your personal use. Check out Timehop, Flipboard and RebelMouse, listed among Sree Sreenivasan’s five biggest media innovations of 2012. If you’re watching a long-awaited game or TV show, monitor Twitter – roughly 90 percent of all TV conversation happens on Twitter.

2. Social for brands is not about their friends; it’s about the friends of their friends – Word-of-mouth and earned media are still the best ways to build your customer base and reach new audiences. According to Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. Users don’t share your content because they like your brand; they share it because they like their friends. Create shareable content that is compelling or timely, such as interactives and infographics. You can also excite your friends and fans by engaging them in fun, creative contests – gamification – as long as the results speak for themselves and are worth the initial, and sometimes costly, investment.

3. Tell a story – Enhance your content and its appeal by crafting stories that are meaningful for the users who share them. Posts should connect people with people and headlines should be intriguing. While keywords are important, the message is what provides meaning. Check out BuzzFeed to get a better sense of what’s shareable (Hint: don’t just see animals; learn about their secret lives).

4. Measure your effectiveness creatively – Social analytics should be built around a common goal that is specific to your program. Once your goal is identified, an agency can put in place unique, key performance indicators that measure the effectiveness of the campaign and allow for course correction; any plan is only as good as its first point of deviation. These course corrections should be driven by data-based solutions – not knee-jerk reactions. For creative measurement options, pre-crisis analytics can help a brand respond effectively in times of crisis.

5. Manage your expectations – Don’t forget, just about everything you do on social will be missed by almost everyone. If you count on one post to make the difference, it’s not going to happen. Incorporate social into your regular activities – make it a part of who you are – and you’ll get what you’re looking for.

If this fails, show more pictures of last night’s dinner or cute animals.

Follow Travis on Twitter at



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