Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Katy Howell: Let’s never return to the rhythm method

Katy Howell, CEO of social media agency  Immediate Future, is one of the most experienced leaders in the social media industry and NDA’s monthly columnist.

Nope not going to talk about contraception, or the wild thing (well not this time). Gonna talk about content creation. Well, what I hope will be the death (I so very much hope) of the rhythmic, predictable, boring content plan.

You know what I mean. The repeated motivational Monday and the wisdom Wednesdays. The tedious shoehorn into national days and the piggy-backing of every holiday or seasonal theme. The life-sucking BAU (Business as Usual). It was never a thing for social media and never more so than today.

Why? Because….

Social media is a joy right now. Its bursting at the seams with creativity and jumping the tracks on topics as people switch ideas and pick up on new trends that appear from nowhere. It’s exciting, unpredictable and deafeningly noisy.

Audiences are testing social to the limits with a creativity that is emotional, eyepopping and filled with both sadness and laughter.  New behaviours are emerging with more Insta Lives and a preference for Stories over feeds.

Social video views now account for 20% of digital video consumption. And platforms are responding with accelerated functionality and formats. Some, like LinkedIn and Instagram are even launching beta functions early, they are so keen to keep audiences engaged.

People are spending more time than ever on social – across 13 global markets 45% of people are devoting more time according to Global Web Index. New audiences (mostly boomers) have accepted that they need Facebook at least, and are joining up and getting active.

Not satisfied with the big 4, TikTok is going mental with a surge in users (ah those TikTok challenges are sweet), and dark social is lit-up with messages (45% are using Messenger services more than before, GWI).

Brands aren’t just competing with each other. They’re not even competing cross category. They are competing with their customers. If you want to break the boring, you’ll need to get the juices flowing on your social content. You’ll need to stop ticking the boxes and instead get in the mood.

Stand out, wave it all about 

At least stand for something. Bland won’t cut it on social (See Bland Guidelines shared by the awesome @VikkiRossWrites). It starts with knowing your brand purpose, but if it’s like everyone else’s, it is not a brand purpose that will make a difference. It becomes whitewash.

And if you are being yourself, don’t be afraid to shout from the top of every Twitter hill you find. You need to celebrate your difference. Live it. Play with it. Be the brand that everyone wants to follow and engage with.

Let’s get natural

But purpose isn’t enough in today’s climate. You need to be original. Strip away all the washed and rinsed messaging, and show a little personality. Must you have a hashtag in every post? Are you showing empathy (are you even listening or are you just scheduling)? Are you reflecting your audience language? Trust starts with transparency. Be the brand you always wanted to be.

Remember, right now, what you say matters as much as what you do on social. Your positioning needs to be original and true. According to Ipsos 10% of people think brands are being tone deaf in their approach. Don’t be in that 10%.

Then get physical

Your audiences are coming together on social. Through group functions, Lives (Live Facebook viewers are up 50%) and Messenger. They are using Chat Bots and going crazy for Snap Filters.

Social is getting touchy feely. And 70%* of your audiences want to continue to hear from brands (note they want to hear what you have to offer and what you actually stand for).

Whilst you may not have more time on your hands (I have yet to speak to a marketer that does), you shouldn’t be producing volume content. You should be focused on quality – reading your audience and flexing with them. This will allow you to experiment with AR or beta that chat bot. Experiment now when usage is high, and you’ll get great data for a test and learn.

Produce content of value, and your audience will appreciate it. Go the extra mile with your thinking, your copy, your creativity and your functionality.

Slap and tickle

Being empathetic is not about being worthy. Social is playful. Social is a source of entertainment. The crisis doesn’t mean you shouldn’t story tell. Build out campaigns, run in themes and ideas and participate in the audience hunger for distraction too.

You want to connect. Form a bond now that will pay-off down the line. Being memorable, means evoking ‘subtle’ emotions. Yes, be helpful and useful, but you can do more. Bring people together with shared experience or guidance; use games and entertainment to share collective emotions, drive loyalty by being there when people need you.

And relax, chat and eat pizza

It goes without saying, you can’t just drift off social. You need to listen constantly. The mood can change fast and the content and context even faster. You need to hold it close and watch carefully. Only then will you move to a fuller, more rewarding relationship.

So, stop with the rhythm and go get adventurous – you will never look back.

*Ipsos study 2020