What you missed | Brand storytelling through social media

A Vernacular report:  5:30 PM Tuesday 18 November 2014. Stop saying social, because your customers don’t think in those terms. Straight shooters put PRINZ punters in the picture.

Here’s what you missed –

I took a chair, slugged a beer, and pondered two questions.

One: is there anything more to say about social media that hasn’t already been said?

Two: in the history of communication, has any other topic spawned so many self-styled gurus so bloated with so many weasel words?

These thoughts, these dark thoughts are in no way a criticism of PRINZ’s Tuesday event or its speakers, who shot straight.

For years now, my sensibilities have been corroded by the sheer volume of industry doublespeak, the breathless hype, the fairy dust, the painting of mystery where there is none, and the tortured souls who have forsaken perfectly respectable careers for bug-eyed ranting and professional services that promise to measure, monetise, and amaze.

Hang on, Richard. Hang on. I think you’re plugged in to the wrong digital conversation. Mate, you’ve missed the boat and it’s not looking good. Can’t see you on any influencer index now, can we? Klout says you’re a nobody. A bloody NOBODY. Look at you.

I put down my bottle of Stokes Valley lager, turned away and hunched over a sinfully outdated Samsung Galaxy, thumbs a blur, double-tapping icons that would open windows to my social currency.

Twitter feed looks okay, more followers than followees. Facebook needs a bit of work. Hmmm, having second thoughts about my moniker, Wing Commander. I seem to have pulled the wrong crowd. Lots of thumbs up, but no real engagement. Organic reach a bit soft.

Darn those Wall Street capitalists for screwing that down. Pay and spray. That’s what they want. Lil boost for the share price. Turn up the engagement dial, add a few conversions. I’ll have to stump up. Get some action at the ad auction. CPM for the reach that’s in it, a few impressions before the end date. That ought to do the job.

Tom Bates stepped forward.

A co-founder of Contagion (an agency that promises world-class business and digital strategy, technology and ideas), Bates made his mark on the digital map with work for V and Air New Zealand. And it looks like his strategy for Tourism New Zealand has stopped our 100% puritanical nation from overflowing with tourists too old for necking craft beers and baring their breasts at rained-out music festivals. A good thing, too.

His opening gambit was a breath of fresh air. In your face. We must stop saying social, he said. Because customers don’t think social or mobile app or whatever. They’re simply talking to other people, sharing their lives, doing their thing. They’re not motivated by platforms. They see people, not technology. Like the dearly departed Steve Jobs said: “Technology should be invisible.”

It made good sense.

In many respects, nothing has changed, because people have been talking ever since Eve whispered all that naughty stuff in Adam’s ear. It’s just that now there are new ways to talk, and smart technologists have channeled our narcissistic tendency for standing in the middle of the action and shouting. And that’s the great commercial advantage. The leverage. The ticket to riches. The social media wet dream. Get them shouting about your stuff. Because people trust people.

Barnaby Marshall stepped forward.

Sharply dressed, too, as you’d expect from the co-owner of men’s fashion sensation (and New Zealand’s 5th fastest growing company, says Deloitte) iloveugly.

Four New Zealand stores, another in Los Angeles and yet another about to open for business in Melbourne. All this in four years. Remarkable. Clearly it’s decent clobber and a brand that sticks out like a cucumber in a Chippendale’s G-string. And it’s a sitter for social media, as all good fashion is. Lots to see and share, ideal selves to showcase.

According to Marshall, iloveugly’s social fan-base (mainly Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook users) numbers approximately 400,000. And when you add their fans’ connections, at any time iloveugly reaches two million people. These days they throw money at Facebook, now that its owners have throttled organic reach.

Marshall reckons anyone who opens a shop and expects people to walk through the door should get their head read. Pedestrian flow – forget about it. Community is where it’s at. Build a community (online) and then put down a few bucks on bricks and mortar.

Like Bates, and for all his success with social media, Marshall says the channel isn’t really the point.

Everything starts and finishes with brand. He says social media puts brands under the microscope, where holes and room for improvement come into sharp focus. Consistency is key and you’ve got to talk and present ‘on brand’ across every platform.

It takes sweat and creative nous. To keep them on the straight and narrow the iloveugly crew ask themselves: what would the iloveugly man do? They’ve even brought him to life, as a card-playing, whisky-drinking maverick who stalks downtown bars pimped out with mahogany and vintage leather sofas.

Acumen’s head of digital Corrie Dark stepped forward.

Facts tell, emotions sell, she said, reminding us that people rarely remember what we say, but always remember how we made them feel.

Below, the second sentence is emotionally charged. The first sentence is not.

A man died and his wife died.

A man died and his wife died of grief.

Telling a good story helps – just ask the folks at Contagion about their stories beats stuff campaign for Tourism New Zealand.

I’d heard enough and everything I needed to know.

It’s not social, stupid.

It’s people.

Do something worth talking about and people will talk about it.