Social media has an element of the unknown just like Ouija. It appears simple enough on the surface but when you get your hands on it, it’s not quite as easy as you may have first thought.
Truth in advertising is hard to come by, but the Ouija board was “interesting and mysterious”; it actually had been “proven” to work at the Patent Office before its patent was allowed to proceed; and today, even psychologists believe that it may offer a link between the known and the unknown. [1. Rodriguez McRobbie, Linda, The secret of the Ouija board, The Week, February 9, 2014]
The playing of Ouija is an interesting metaphor to explore and use for comparison with social media marketing.
1. Social media has a mystical quality
Social media has confounded the biggest brands with how to leverage it for measurable marketing outcomes, customer service and the ROI of online authority. From DiGiorno’s inappropriate hijacking of the hashtag #WhyIStayed (about domestic violence) to the mishap by the NYPD using #myNYPD (which garnered a collection of photos about police brutality) [2. The 10 most cringeworthy social fails of 2015, Mike O’Brien, ClickZ] brands have made some poor choices for lack of foresight or understanding. We’ve crossed the line where mild ignorance of use case scenarios and current communication trends can be ignored without much concern.
Social media is mystical to many businesses – a part of daily conversations but the full context of the conversations and how social media can affect them is completely intangible to many. To be in the social media space, brands must be willing to eschew the rigidity of traditional marketing and ROI models. This doesn’t mean they need to completely abandon business sense. It means quite the opposite. They need to apply good business sense to the ever changing landscape of social media – but give it a longer leash and place it in the hands of people that know the brand AND the social media communities. Choose experienced social media veterans over the less experienced workforce (see Let’s Play A Game With Your Company’s Reputation).
2. What you believe influences what you see
Our opinion on any thing in this world is built with the cement of our experience and knowledge. We cannot escape it. “If people perceive events in a way that is consistent with how they believe that the world works, then their reports of the order of events in a complex situation may be wrong.” [3. Markman, Art, You See What You Believe, Psychology Today, August 23, 2013]
3. Outcomes can be influenced by others
Everyone on social media is dependent on the push and pull of others for their stature to some degree. Whether they’re followers that lend some credibility by sheer numbers or influencers that help funnel attention and authority. The results are driven by our interactions and how much each wish to help or hinder the other.
4. Outcomes are doled out piecemeal
Just like the planchette can only view one letter at a time and must spell out the word by moving over them in order, so too the outcomes of our efforts in social media come in incremental steps. Ideally we work from a plan and we know each step will help form the next. We have to complete the steps in order to complete the campaign but we cannot skip one or the end result is incomprehensible.
5. There’s an element of suspicion
Just like we’re never sure if our fellow players are subtly guiding the planchette to where they want it to go, we can never be sure the motives of those we interact with on social media. Let’s face it, the social media landscape is made up of bots and charlatans as well as many honest people. It takes time to get to know who we’re dealing with. Some are quick and easy – others take a bit longer for us to warm up to.
6. We have a desire to believe
We’re human. “…people are biased to interpret … evidence in ways that are consistent with their desires. That means that people may ultimately come to believe that the weight of evidence supports the position that they already wanted to believe was true.” [4. Markman, Art, You End Up Believing What You Want to Believe, Psychology Today, July 01, 2011]
7. We’re left to decide for ourselves
Ultimately we have to weigh our suspicions against our hopes and beliefs and mix in a pinch of reality before we come to a conclusion. Was that last Tweetchat really worth it? Did that video ad on Pinterest really work? Unless we establish a framework to work and measure by, we’re just guessing.