KEHLAN KIRWAN: Even the smallest of firms can connect with a wide audience on social media

Kehlan Kirwan reviews ways even the smallest of firms can develop a strategy to project a promotional message on social media. Video, he says, has become the most important part in engaging an audience online.

I have a theory about how Carphone Warehouse came about releasing its ill-advised “Pro-Choice” campaign.

This was an advertising campaign featuring pin-on buttons that proclaimed: “We’re Pro-Choice”.

The strapline of the campaign revealed of course that it had nothing whatsoever to do with the hottest of political debates and was instead claiming the retailer to be, “The only place you get to choose your network, phone and plan”.

I suspect some people in the marketing department crunched the data on demographics and identified that a sizeable chunk of its customers were under the age of 30.

They put the two together and went with what may be termed the “Paddy Power strategy” of courting controversy.

That’s fine if your Paddy Power, but not if you are Carphone Warehouse.

The betting giant has form in stirring controversy, the mobile phone retailer has not.

Either way, someone made a big mistake.

This just goes to show that having a visual strategy in your business is one of the most essential ways to project and connect your company to the outside world.

This has been driven by the large social media platforms which see visual as the key to engagement, but more importantly, as a way to generate content for their platforms.

In the past two years, we’ve seen a rapid evolution from photo posting to video posting.

This carries two problems for businesses. One is that it means you need to experiment with what works and what doesn’t.

And I mean to experiment in a good way, not in the way Carphone Warehouse went about it.

Breaking through the noise is hard. There is also a lot of promotional dross out there. It’s important you understand your brand and what the message should be.

Marrying the message with the content is an extremely important thing to do.

Both must go hand in hand to create the visual experience that your audience is looking for.

And both big and small companies can achieve this. This is best illustrated at the local level.

One of my favourite restaurants is Randaddy’s Restaurant in Lahinch in Co Clare. It sells a menu based on “a global menu”.

Owner Randy Lewis effectively lives his own menu. This year he has filmed his trips to Morocco and Hong Kong, as he goes on a tasting adventure.

He turned it into a miniseries on their Facebook page. It has been a fantastic connection with his brand and what they are all about.

He posts video content on recipes and food experiences. It’s a great marriage of message and visuals.

Most importantly it allows people to see ‘the personality’ of the brand. It’s about showing people who care deeply about what they are doing.

Video will be the single most important visual medium in the next few years, and will soon account for almost 75% of internet traffic.

The growth of Facebook Live means that broadcasting a weekly show is no longer in the hands of the wealthy.

Everyone can create content. What’s more, media organisations are now developing teams of video content producers to keep up with the demand from the public.

Mark Zuckerberg recently said that Facebook’s aggressive expansion into video was driven by demand.

“In 2016, if you’re sharing a photo you want it to be a good photo. What is powerful about messaging platforms... and live video now, too, is that it gives people more intimate environments and more raw environments where you have a reason to just be yourself.

It doesn’t need to feel like it’s super-curated,” said the social media guru.

People want to see the real people behind your business.

From newsrooms to businesses, the personal is what counts.

Video and social platforms are important for businesses, because they invite you into people’s personal space.

When people ‘like’ your page or your posts, they are saying they want more, that they want to see this content.

This type of connection cannot be replicated through newspapers, television or radio.

On those traditional platforms people may or may not engage with your content.

On social platforms, they tell you what they want.

We are now seeing that connection strengthen as more and more companies look to their audience for content.

Campaigns centered around audience submissions is increasingly popular.

How are people using your product or eating your food?

People are more likely to engage with posts where they feel they had a part in it.

People want to see brands engage with them and engage with them on the personal level.

There are a lot of social media platforms, and getting and finding your audience is important. There are different styles too.

It is important to note that you don’t need your business to be projected on every social platform.

You just need to be on those that work for you.

Demographics will vary from platform to platform and so will the audience. The same applies to content.

If you’re starting out on a visual strategy, it’s important to note that there will be hits and misses. You will need to find what works and what doesn’t.

The important thing is that you have to start one. It’s time you started.

There is no business in which a visual strategy is not important.

The demands of the modern business dictate that this must be part of your company.

You should see it simply like this – people want to engage with you, but you have to give them an excuse to do it.

That means you need to be looking at what you can share with them and what you can give them to absorb.

No matter if you make pasta or scientific instruments, engaging will be key to the future of your company.

The power of the visual to connect with people can never be understated.

Open the window and let them come in.

Keeping people out won’t do you any good.


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