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Seven Laws of Social Media You Need to Use to Join the Club

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ILab Notes
If you're not going to be seriously smart about social media, don't even play.

Note from our editor:

Last week, our amazing post-millennial interns Diego and Marc wrote about how their generation sees innovation and the workplace; and gave us tips on how to design for them. This week, they focus on social media, debunking some assumptions companies have about it. Whereas Marc wrote last week about the real reason his generation is not on Facebook (not what you would guess) while Diego doesn't even mention Facebook on his post about the "big 3" social media platforms you need to be active on. Diego focuses on seven "laws" of the social media game and dares you to play it. He shows vivid examples of awesome social media moves, even by companies who are not at all sexy. One of "laws"- Law 1 - Don’t over-empathize - hones in on one very stupid move by someone who tried really hard not to be sexy, and succeeded, and tried even harder, unsuccessfully, to appeal to his generation.

marc velten & diego martinez
Don't be afraid to look at what this generation of mindful thinkers has to teach us.

By: Diego Martinez, diegom@ilab.dk 

Let’s be clear here. When I say “social media” I mean the platforms which dominate most smart phones and, in turn, much of the youth interaction with media overall. Namely Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. The big three. Business wise, it becomes more and more apparent each year how the more successful companies and brands are the ones who know how to maneuver in the social media world and establish presence with their consumers through this trio of apps. In the near future it may not even be possible to successfully run a business without social media presence. That being said, mere presence in social media is not enough; you need to be smart. Here are seven important tips for your business, whether large or small, in whatever industry you are, to empathize with my generation and successfully turn social media into a company asset. 

Law 1 - Don’t over-empathize. When you try to be funny, you’re not.

This first point is arguably the most important. Social media may be a jungle of complexities and a seemingly lawless abyss of information, but in terms of the big three apps, there’s usually a pretty wide range of relevance in terms of what’s deemed trendy and what’s not. The reality is that most of the information being shared on the three platforms is essentially the same, differing only in the methods and forms of delivery. This means that if you are successful with your target audience on Instagram, for example, you will likely be able to carry that buzz over to Twitter and Snapchat. Vice versa, if you are deemed “uncool” or simply uninteresting on any one of the platforms, it will be difficult for you to revamp your name on the others. Therefore, the first law of the land is do not over-empathize.

Seriously. Don’t try to post or do things just because you think it’s “in” with the kids. We see through when your social posts are not genuine and will be very happy to expose them. Hillary Clinton made an example of how not to relate to the youth when she made an appearance on the New York radio show The Breakfast Club. She appeared on the show around the time Beyonce’s highly beloved LEMONADE album was released. One of Beyonce’s most popular quotes from the album was: “I got hot sauce in my bag, swag”, and in an attempt to appeal to young voters, Hillary brought hot sauce (in her bag) with her on the show. Yup. That’s how stupid she looked. It was so embarrassingly clear how hard she was trying, and it was terrible. Don’t pull a hot sauce on us because it won’t work.

Empathy is great, but it has to be smart and genuine, especially if you want to reflect the light of someone else, Remember your Mom’s advice: “don’t try and be someone you’re not.” The best way to connect with the youth is simply being genuine and naturally cool.

Law 2 - Make it interactive. Make us think and do, not just stare.

No matter what type of business you run, you will be able to add value to your company through social media. Social media is all about interacting and expanding your network in ways you wouldn’t otherwise be able to. A great tip for business social media use is making your social presence interactive. This doesn’t just mean posting online deals and promotions, that won’t draw much attention to your business from the people that matter online. The best way to engage online is by giving consumers and users a way of feeling like they can really connect with you. If you sell a product, encourage your followers to post pictures or comments related to their experience with it. If you provide a service, encourage your followers to test it out and share their views. You can post coupons and interactive opportunities in social media, but make them exclusive. Whatever it is, make your customers know you are just as connected as they are, and that you will respond and react to their social media posts. 

Namecheap, a domain name registration company, is a good example of how to effectively break through the boundaries between business and consumer, and be freely interactive with online users. Although they are a domain registration company, they have 128k followers on Twitter. Why? Because of their interactive aspect. They constantly post interesting trivia and appealing animations that make their page very interesting to scroll through. They are ready to reply to comments and also post holiday tweets and trendy blog posts. Overall, their twitter account makes users feel like they are following an artistic and up-to-date company which blends their business in with careless social media pleasure. The result: sticky social media presence even for an unsexy company.

Law 3 - Be genuine. Turn the table on us without turning us off.

If you’ve followed the first two pieces of advice, then you’re already on your way to turning your smartphone into an asset to advance your for business. Be careful, though, because number 3 is where a lot of people and companies fail. One of the largest turn-offs when it comes to company accounts is a lack of authenticity. If you’re posting something on social media it means you’ve already made a step towards interacting with a new audience. Don’t throw it away by being too robotic or by using formulas we can guess from 10km away. Remember, social media is, among other things, a customer service tool, and people will comment on your pictures or “@” you in their posts to either commend your business or complain about it. No matter the case, you should be ready to respond in a way that makes them feel like there is a real human being on the other side. If you do not have the time or the staff to respond, do not post. Nobody will want to post something about you just to feel like they are talking to automated customer service bot or, worse, be followed by silence.

This tweet by Smartcar responding to a comment is a perfect example of turning the tables and keeping the rest of us glued to their feed. They were witty, interactive and genuine. I almost feel like going out to buy a Smart Car now (feel free to send me the money).

Law 4 - Be in the loop. Show us how smart you are.

Many companies are afraid of app and social media use because of the idea that it is mainly geared for a younger age group. That is precisely why businesses should be investing heavily in social media use. Do you really want to age with your users? Think of social media as a constant stream of trends. It’s important that you, as a company, catch on to those trends, because that’s how the youth will catch on to you. First we see that you are relevant and informed about what’s going on in social media culture - which BTW, is the only culture that matters to us, and then we will move on to follow you and accept you as part of our social media experience.
Take Whataburger, for example; a fast food chain in the south of the US. Though they only do business in 10 states, they are widely known for their smart use of Twitter. As most people know, Kanye West has been a popular staple of youth culture and music in the last decade, and in one of Whataburger’s many clever Twitter endeavours, they took advantage of one of Kanye’s tweets to span a whole range of their own tweets and generate a comically geared buzz towards their account, while still advertising their fast food.

I hope you see the difference between Hillary taking a bottle of sauce to a TV show and this. Moves like these are the ones that really get our attention. Social media appreciates companies who have wit, comedic taste and are well informed about trends. As they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When social media gives you something to talk about, talk about it. This goes along with point 3: be genuine first, and the rest will come along naturally.

Law 5 - Be creative. There is no box to think outside of anymore.

In 2014, Sourpatch Kids did a Snapchat campaign with a famous youtuber named Logan Paul. They had him do a “Snapchat Takeover” where he controlled the company’s snaps for a whole day and went around New York City pranking people. Would you dare to cede control of your Snap to a teenager?

This is an excellent example of a well aged company staying current and creative. Remember, social media platforms break all rules. There is no such thing as “thinking outside the box” because there simply isn’t a box anymore. Anything goes, and everyone is always waiting on the next creative feat. Obviously, not every company is Sourpatch Kids and not everyone can get in touch with millionaire youtube stars, but it’s all about catering to your specific audience the best way you can. There are no boundaries to creativity, so, for lack of a better term, get creative.

Law 6 - Find your social media niche. We have a space for you.

As I said earlier, social media is an ever extending stream of trends, ideas and connections. Within this stream there are many different niches you can fit into. The captivating aspect of the digital era is that there are communities for any imaginable taste. This tip is the sixth because it may prove a time-consuming development for some companies, but nonetheless, it’s essential that you find something you like or are good at and stick with it, no matter what your company may be. If you find you’re good at posting artsy videos, then post artsy videos. If you are good at posting witty tweets, then post witty tweets.

Check out AirBnB’s Instagram. Somebody at AirBnB was clever enough to not underestimate the far reaching capacity of quality photography, and thus they have turned their instagram account into a haven for aesthetic photographs. They now have 2.2 Million followers, and not because they offer deals or promotions, simply because they are very dedicated Instagrammers that post pleasurable pictures that we love to be inspired with. AirBnB, along with so many other companies who put emphasis on social media use, has proven that you can sell yourself without selling yourself at all. Not only is it absolutely brilliant, it’s absolutely the future of business.

Law 7 - Be consistent and confident. Dare to open up and participate.

The big three apps may seem scary, but they are super easy to master. Don’t be afraid, just start posting, see what ticks us and be consistent, we will catch on. Even if you start with two followers, it’s all about growth. You should approach social media consistency the same way you approach it in your product and service. You're creating a social brand and if you send us mixed signals, we will not understand what you're about; we will move on; we will ignore you.

Remember, customer loyalty is created by establishing a genuine connection with people, not by shoving your product/service down anyone’s throat… especially when it comes to social media. There are no excuses for not taking these tips into account. Whether you are Apple California or a one-person company in the middle of nowhere, you have access to social media, and if you truly want to expand your business potential in 2017 you must be an active member of at least one of the big three apps. So be confident and trust that a genuine social media effort can really add value to your name and make me and my friends like you.

Photo (header image) courtesy of friend of Innovation Lab and photographer Christopher Michel (http://www.christophermichel.com)