Samuel Piqué-Perry, director of Monmouth-based So. Social Media, explains why it’s not such a bad thing if your social media brand is vulnerable, sometimes...

In 2007 a young Scot rose to fame on ITV’s X Factor. The then 18-year-old talent charmed the nation with his unlikely talent and youthful vulnerability. Two years later, Jackson was dropped by the Sony record label after an unimpressive number three in the charts. 

Two years earlier a 21-year-old Shayne Ward had taken to the stage and captured the nation’s hearts with his uncertainty and self-doubt; traits which both emphasised his talent and made his performances entirely relatable to the public.

Six years later, after a disastrous pop career, Ward was dropped by the label in 2011. Matt Cardle, Sam Bailey, Joe McElderry, Ben Haenow – that’s right, the same story. 

The question is, why do these promising winners meet such bitter public defeats, when their runner-up counterparts such as Platinum-selling One Direction, quadruple-number one Olly Murs and chart superstars JLS are blessed with public support? 

One perspective is that, quite simply, UK markets dislike success, and this national distaste stretches far beyond the television screen. 

In 2002 the universities of Warwick and Oxford undertook research to establish just how much people ‘Hate a Winner’. Researchers Professor

Andrew Oswald, of the University of Warwick, and Dr Daniel Zizzo, of The University of Oxford, designed a new kind of experiment, played with real cash, in which subjects could anonymously ‘burn’ away other people’s money, but only at the cost of giving up some of their own.

Despite this cost to themselves, and contrary to economists’ usual assumptions, 62 per cent of those tested chose to destroy part of other test subjects’ cash. In the experiment, half of all the laboratory earnings were deliberately destroyed by fellow subjects. 

Now we are fully armed with an understanding of ‘haters’, how should we approach this within our marketing? Providing your brand with an element of vulnerability and truthfulness is an ideal place to start. 
Consumers want to know that, despite your successes, your brand has flaws and is always learning from its mistakes. Did you make a public faux pas? Did your last newsletter have an embarrassing typo? 

Tell your followers – we all make mistakes and your brand is no different. Monopolise on those times when you put a foot wrong and let your consumers know that you’ve learned from it. 

Insurance giant GoCompare provided a notable example of this when it axed opera singer Wynne Evans from its TV advertisements in 2012. The brand recognised that the public had more than just a little dislike for his vocal talents and killed him off with sensational effect, even defacing its own billboards in an attempt to let Britain know that it was ‘saving the nation’ from this terrible singer.

However, GoCompare’s monopolising genius did not end there. Once axed, Evans became a lost national treasure in the eyes of the public, far from being an advertisement winner, Evans became vulnerable, the nation’s opinion changed in line with his public demise and he became missed. So, what did GoCompare do? In 2016, it brought him back.

By tracking the public’s fickleness toward perceived winners and losers, the brand was able to achieve, not two, but three marketing ‘wins’ off the back of their Wynne Evans campaign. Within the social media spectrum these ‘wins’ and ‘losses’ manifest much faster than other mediums, based on social media’s instantaneous nature. 

Your brand may be a ‘winner’ at 6pm and a down-and-out ‘loser’ by 8.30pm simply because of a shift in public perception. 

So how do we keep our brands from drowning? The overruling basis of social media is keeping your content ‘social’. Imagine for a second that you are promoting your brand to your friends at a party – would you shout your angle from a soapbox and tell your friends exactly what they should think of your brand? No, you’d chat, make jokes and explain in a way which your friends would react best to. 

Furthermore, if one or more of your friends disagreed with your perspective you would then have to think creatively, address the concern while keeping your position clear and, all the while, maintaining a friendship. 

This principle is the same for social media. So why do we find it so difficult to promote ourselves online? The simple answer is ‘accountability’. 

Much like road rage, social media provides both consumers and brands with a veil of protection from complete accountability for their actions. 

As such, providing your social media marketing strategy with a healthy dose of accountability is important. Track failures and successes as you would in public. 

Perhaps you won’t be the victim of an unexpected right hook, but the social implications of mistakes are as detrimental to your brands position as an offended member of the public may be on your jawline.

What have we learned? Social media is as fickle as its users, this much is clear. Your brand may be a ‘winner’ or it may be a ‘loser’, but finding a balance will build consumer trust. It’s clear that the public are far less likely to affront another ‘human’ than they are a ‘brand’. 

Illustrate how your brand is learning and reinstate the ‘social’ aspect of social media to humanise your campaigns and gain control of those changeable perceptions as best you can. 

No one person or brand can foresee every potential transition, but proactively building a humanised campaign to deal with the majority of these will see you through most of the social storms.