Social Engagement Strategy: The Serious Business of Taking Things Lighter

Earlier this month, a Facebook user, Richard Neill put up a post that suddenly went viral. The post was a rant against Maxipad maker Bodyform alleging that they lied in their advertisements.

Rather than just let it go and hope the 84,000 or so ‘likes’ would be forgotten with the next viral wave, Bodyform put up a response immediately and turned the whole episode around. Their video response to Richards post was a masterpiece and worked to Bodyforms advantage like a charm.

You might think that kind of response is something that comes of a great ‘social media marketing framework’ or some super strategy. Perhaps, but in my opinion, I think not. And I’d also add that it is not about the platform, or the technology either, but about the actual tone of engagement Bodyform chose.

Let me explain.

Take a step back and look at what really has happened to us with all this social brouhaha. One of the most important impacts its had on us, in my humble opinion, is the sense of lightness it has brought to our basic cognition of communication itself. It has loosened up the whole ritual of writing and expressing thoughts and emotions. There are a lot of people I know who never wrote letters or sent emails longer than a line or two, because they weren’t up to framing sentences. It just did not appeal to them. But today social tools like Facebook have allowed them to step out of that mental block and got them sharing and engaging more frequently and with more people than before.

In a way it has sort of disrupted our mental blocks and mind-sets and loosened us up, giving us channels to share, incentives to comment, to collaborate and express views more freely, more openly. And add to that tools like twitter, which have further made us effective in how we say what we want to say. Result – there is more sharing, more humour, satire and empathy now than ever before. All this is happening at the audience end – the customers and influencers.

On the other end, from an organizations point of view, Public Relations has always been, and will always be serious business. Representing a corporate brand and taking its communication to the world was a very important job and called for a grim no-nonsense approach.

And here is my view of the basic problem: The new social networking paradigm thrives on various levels of simplicity of engagement,  informality and lightness. Don’t get me wrong – none of that in anyway undermines the importance or seriousness of topics involved in conversations. Marketing and PR are perhaps challenged to fit into that ask, and it is a sort of a struggle  to get out of that traditional mode of being rigid and all too serious. Years of serious pursuit of serious objectives can make it a big challenge to suddenly change gears and make it a lighter pursuit of the same serious objectives: engaging with an audience on a radically new platform, in a dramatically lighter vein, where satire, sarcasm, humour, maybe even a little flippancy perhaps work best, but without losing sight of the basic serious purpose of managing that brand.

Bodyform’s case is an excellent example of a firm responding to that supposedly negative post in the right spirit – with the same sense of humour and satire that Richard meant it in. Richards rant was certainly not a call to war

The best laid Social CRM or Social Engagement Strategies and plans may amount to nothing if there isn’t room for some lightness, some humor and, oh yes, a lot of conversation.

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Categories: Customer Service, Innovation, Social / Collaboration, Strategy

Author:Jaisundar Venkat

Jaisundar Venkat is a process professional specialized in Business Process Management. Jaisundar leads BPM Consulting at a large technology firm and is on a mission to help companies achieve the fundamental promise of BPM. His areas of interest include BPM, CRM, SFA, Sales Performance Optimization, Corporate Performance Management and general IT industry developments & trends. He writes on these topics at his own blog, BouncingThoughts.com and also writes for a few popular sites specializing on Business Technology trends, specifically the crucial intersection between Business and IT.

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6 Comments on “Social Engagement Strategy: The Serious Business of Taking Things Lighter”

  1. October 20, 2012 at 7:21 am #

    Spot on explanation here of 21st century media! No better examples exist than the Daily Show and Colbert Report. Like Shakespeare’s jesters, they reach truth through humor and sarcasm.

    • October 20, 2012 at 8:15 am #

      Great comment, Paul. Uptight breeds uptight.

  2. Souvik Bonnerjee
    October 20, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    And for an example of how it backfires when a company displays a complete humour bypass – check out the recent Volkswagen India fiasco which went global, including this article in the Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobileweb/2012/09/12/volkswagen-india-vibrator-newspaper-ad-women-dumb-drivers_n_1877827.html

    • October 20, 2012 at 10:33 am #

      Indeed…there’s no substitute for taste…

    • October 20, 2012 at 11:00 am #

      Thanks for that comment, Souvik. Humor for the sake of it NEVER appeals, especially if it is not by itself a natural extension of the brand or its premise. And that particular VW ad was quite off key. And Souvik, I liked your choice of words there. It was indeed a humor bypass. I got that days issue of the Times of India and it had this electronic device attached to it that buzzed when you opened the page. It was ridiculous to say the least, too contrived and totally pointless. There was very little you could relate that silly vibrating device to a leading car maker. I see this as a case of some misguided sense of humor for the sake of it. Not a light hearted pursuit of a serious objective. Chris is right – it was tasteless and off key totally.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Before you spend your first dollar on social media marketing… | Successful Workplace - January 6, 2013

    […] But the year has given us some great examples of smart use of Social Media – both as one-off instances as well as consistent brilliance in social strategy. Some notable examples include Taco Bell, Walmart, and, of course, Bodyform, maker of Maxipad about whom we wrote here earlier. […]

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