With Facebook cracking down ever more diligently on content infamously known as “click bait,” two members of our digital marketing team jump into the ring to take on the merits and risks of using catchy, nappy call-to-actions (CTA) in social content. In one corner, we have Ijeoma Nwatu, a Senior Community Manager, who's seen social CTAs drive boosts in engagement. In the opposing corner, Anthony Fiore, our Digital Content Manager, is not so sure these metrics can really be valued at such a high premium.
Sit back and enjoy the show
Anthony: So, we’re talking about social media engagement; what’s the right way to do it?
Ijeoma: To engage or not to engage? Or—more specifically—to prompt or not to prompt?
Anthony: I think one of my first questions surrounding this issue is, how intelligent are the people we’re talking to on social media?
Ijeoma: Is that a trick question?
Anthony: Haha. Well… no. But that’s really kind of what it comes down to. If we’re assuming that the people engaging with a brand need a very clear direction in order to act —like, say, “retweet if you love summertime”—then that seems like really hollow engagement to me. It doesn’t lead to brand recognition or lasting relationships. I would rather receive less engagement from people who really know what they want, than a bunch of retweets from people who are just sort of mindlessly consuming tweets.
Ijeoma: I don’t think it’s all that harmful to prompt people. At the end of the day it’s still about producing quality content. But if it’s new content, and you’re not really sure how or if people will engage with it, I think it’s OK to use prompts to test the waters and see how your audience responds. As long as it’s not overdone. If it gets to the point where every piece of content is literally prompting people to do something, then I think—over time—your content becomes more about what you’re asking people to do and less about what the content actually is.
Anthony: OK, I see what you’re saying. That’s interesting. So it’s not really click bait. You’re not just doing it to rack up clicks or likes, you’re doing it to crowdsource sentiment from your audience. So it’s still focusing on your community. It’s using the prompt as a mechanism to learn and provide the best experience.
Ijeoma: Right! If your content is really strong, then I think a call-to-action hopefully reinforces that you think it’s worthy of being seen by other people.
Anthony: So I don’t think we’re on such different pages after all. But my question from there is, shouldn’t all of our content be at that level?
Ijeoma: That is a better question, isn’t it? In theory, yes.
Anthony: Right. We need to find that place where we’re communicating with our audience on their interest level and hopefully driving engagement that way. Which has always been my point of view—you don’t really need prompts if you can connect on that personal level. Brands should be producing content that people want to share, something that they want to get other people to see. Because that’s what social media is all about, right? That’s what makes social so fun: seeing what our friends are sharing every day.
Ijeoma: That’s why we’re always late to work.
Anthony: Yeah, that’s how the entire world winds up talking about llamas and dresses for days at a time. It’s funny. It has social context, you’re always more excited about the latest news when it’s hand picked by your friends or by a trusted media outlet, or brand, or whatever.
Ijeoma: And it helps if it’s relatable content, too. There are so many ways to deliver really interesting content on social directly to people who you know will love it. Like if I’m a sports brand, and I know I have a bunch of NBA fans in my network, I know that behind-the-scenes content and exclusive highlights from last night’s game will really resonate and get shared. As brand community managers we should be looking for those common interests in our communities. Why are people following us, why are they engaging with our content, and how can we use our content to connect with friends of our fans to grow?
Anthony: So now we’re both agreeing with each other—that’s kind of boring. But the fact of the matter is—no matter what we think—Facebook is cracking down on this stuff that they’re calling “click bait.” “Like if you…” “Share if you...” that kind of content is being penalized. So let’s talk about some brands that are really pushing the limits. Who’s thinking outside of the box to receive social engagement?
Ijeoma: I’m kind of in love with Starbucks’ #HowWeMet Instagram campaign. They’re having people share their stories about how they met at Starbucks, or how they fell in love and they’re crowdsourcing these stories and featuring them on Instagram and Facebook. They literally have hundreds of stories. They featured one for National Adoption Month of a woman who brought her newly adopted daughter to a Starbucks one of the first times they met. It was such an amazing story. I was like, Starbucks, why do you always win?
Anthony: Right, that was in line with their “Meet Me at Starbucks” video, where they recorded something like 10 different Starbucks locations in 10 different countries over the course of 24 hours?
Ijeoma: See, that’s something I would get really excited about. Their content is great. And it’s really because they get their fans involved. They share what people share back to them.
Anthony: So it’s not all brand-centric. So many brands just like to talk about themselves. But the ones that are really doing well are those going a step further. They’re getting that feedback from their fans and then reciprocating. This is a perfect segue into my favorite. So my favorite is from Old Spice. They tweeted a super basic question: “How many fingers am I holding up?” That’s it, one tweet, real simple, but it’s clear that they’re looking for some kind of engagement. And people start answering. So one guy replies to the tweet, “5.” And Old Spice replies “You’re right” with a picture of a hand holding up five fingers. And then someone else says, “Three and a half,” and Old Spice replies “You’re right” again with a picture of a hand holding up four fingers, but the pinky’s chopped off at the knuckle. And then someone says, “You’re holding up a chicken,” and they reply, “You’re right,” with a picture of an arm with a chicken head attached at the wrist. There’s this same kind of reciprocation as what you were talking about with Starbucks. There’s this sense of social community, where people respond to the brand content, the brand listens, but then reciprocates back to the community with something original and interesting.
Ijeoma: It goes full circle. The fans become part of the content. Who wouldn’t love that?
Anthony: Right. There’s a two-way conversation happening. It’s not just, “Let’s talk about me.”
How many fingers am I holding up?— Old Spice (@OldSpice) May 8, 2014
Ijeoma: A brand acknowledged you—your personal story, your presence in the conversation—and in turn made you a part of that brand. For some people that’s a big deal.
Anthony: As a brand that people love, you have all these great assets—your fans! They’re right there at your disposal, ready to create amazing, genuine content. You just need to figure out how to activate them.
Ijeoma: You have assets on assets on assets. That got close to sounding a little dirty, but it didn’t.
Anthony: And I think there’s a crucial component there, which is keeping it authentic, keeping it true to your community.
Ijeoma: So true, so true.
Anthony: Well we’re agreeing again. So much for our battle. I guess that’s as good a place as any to hop off.
Ijeoma: Indeed! Until next time.