Seth Godin, author of Tribes, gave a TED talk in 2003 on the importance of being original when trying to grab consumers’ attention. He pointed out that no one would stop to see a cow grazing alongside a highway because they’ve seen the same scene countless times. But a purple cow? You might stop and take a look.
Godin’s comments rings true nearly nine years later, although the amount of advertising and marketing consumers experience every day has no doubt increased exponentially. Doing something different — even if it’s bad — is the only way to get noticed, he says.
As fledgling PR practitioners, avoiding the obvious is hard to do. We may need a period of working within tried-and-true boundaries before we’ve earned the chops to innovate. On the other hand, we don’t have the baggage that comes with spending years entrenched in the industry’s “old” ways — old in this case meaning prior to 2004, when Facebook was born.
With new channels of communication seemingly sprouting up by the minute and the subsequent diffusion of ideas, the PR industry has been reborn. But just because you have content and the Internet doesn’t mean your message will stick in a target’s brain. Facebook and Twitter mix PR content with updates from family and friends — how does one compete with a cousin’s new baby photos or the pithy observations of one of those social commentary-focused Facebook friends?
Compelling content is the obvious answer. Discounts, promotions, contests, giveaways and interactive games all offer more than just an announcement of a product line debut or the opening of a new store. That’s probably enough to earn a few “likes” and followers, but it isn’t a long-term strategy. In fact, any long-term strategy in social media is probably a losing one. The media landscape changes quickly, attention spans are about a nanometer long and oceans of content sweep over the heads of “connected” individuals everyday, so sticking to the same tactics long-term will fossilize your organization’s online image.
To add to the challenge, a study published in Science reveals that using the Internet changes the way we store memories. Instead of remembering content, we remember how we found it. We recall the path to the Oracle, but not the words she speaks. Does that fact, perhaps, restore some credibility to the traditional method of securing media coverage (and a third-party endorsement), rather than inundating consumers with rapid-fire social media gimmicks?
Godin believes in the power of the passionate minority and suggests businesses target them, rather than the mass market. Could it be the case that Godin’s tactic of targeting potential tribe leaders with new, unexpected and remarkable messages is what social media ought to be about? Why does everyone seem so obsessed with massive numbers? Followers, likes and check-ins are measurable and sometimes impressive, but they don’t connote passion.
Maybe most of these “followers” simply wanted a $2 off coupon, so they clicked a button — they’re not obsessive fans, as some might like to think. Much of the content in social media appears to drive the initial act of “liking” or “following,” no doubt a valuable “in” for a continuing conversation, but is it a measurable relationship?
Jim Morris, tag-line specialist, says a brand only exists as a “bundle of impressions, associations and predispositions.” What are the most memorable uses of social media you can recall (without Googling them) that didn’t just spur you to click a button for a reward like a lab rat, but actually caused you to form a meaningful impression of a brand?