If you have a brand and you’re trying to make social media work for you as an awareness-building tool, the single greatest thing you can do is be remarkable. Seth Godin talked about this pre-Facebook with books like Purple Cow and Free Prize Inside. Being remarkable isn’t about gimmicky sales tricks, clever headlines or shocking images. Being remarkable is behaving remarkably. Making it a part of how a brand is… not just what it says it is. This takes courage. It’s risky. It can backfire. But when it works, it comes off as authentic in a way no advertisement can, and your customers do all the work for you from there.
The screenshots above are from a friend’s smartphone as shared through Facebook. They are stills of a video from aboard a Virgin Airlines flight. What you’re seeing is a highly flamboyant steward dancing his way through the pre-flight check while disco music thumps over the intercom. It’s straight out of the film Bird Cage and it’s completely wonderful.
What you don’t see are the multiple smartphones held by passengers who are recording this performance as said steward prances up and down the aisle. That’s right, they’re recording being told how to fasten a seatbelt, where to look for their floatation device, and what to do when the oxygen mask falls from the ceiling. Essentially they are joyfully recording the description of a worst case scenario. Better, the video has all the hallmarks of great advertising – it’s charming, attention getting, memorable and carves out a unique emotional space for Virgin. It won’t appeal to everyone, but good advertising never does.
I bet the passengers treated to this performance became true brand fans that day (or had their pre-existing fandom validated). They ‘liked’ the brand not because they were bought with a coupon or sweepstakes entry, but because the brand did something remarkable – it made them happy, treated them like they were valuable and delivered real satisfaction in a space known for skimping, up-charging and making people feel like cattle. Pound for pound, I would bet that the people won over by Virgin on that flight – and those of us who saw the videos they made – have a stronger positive feeling about Virgin than most of the social media fans claimed by most companies.
What business sometimes forgets about social media is that it wasn’t invented for marketing. Marketers usurped it – just as we do for any new medium people cluster around – but regardless of what we wish people used social media for, most use it to share things that stand out in their lives – moments, friends, and experiences. They just tolerate marketers because we’re pretty easy to ignore and every once in a while they get free stuff from us.
To paraphrase Howard Gossage’s famous quote about advertising, “People share what interests them, and sometimes it’s a brand.”
To build real fans in social media, companies might do well to think about how they could behave remarkably in their space. This need not be flamboyant dancers either. Sometimes just doing right by a customer at a moment when they expect you won’t is enough to get them excited. And most customers todays are armed to the teeth with ways to share an experience.
You don’t need more share buttons on your website or more headlines telling your fans to share. They know how to do that already.
What they need are more reasons to share.