Stop treating Facebook users like morons

Who likes kittens? Inane Facebook updates like these, posted by brand owners, are spreading like a rash reckons Douglas Nicol.

Nine weeks ago the Ad Standards Board ruled Facebook pages managed by brands to be a form of advertising. This echoes the previous ACCC ruling to the same effect. As a result a terminal pox is developing in social media.

It’s evident on an increasing number of Facebook brand pages. I call it the brand ‘Kindy conversation’. Like a dodgy rash the problem is spreading and could be terminal for brands attempting to have a meaningful social engagement with the consumer.

Take some recent Facebook posts from well-known brands:

Who agrees that hot soup is nice on a really cold day?

Hey guys who’s having fun this weekend?

Who likes canned tuna?

Who likes this picture?

Who likes kittens?

Do you like a red coloured car or a black coloured car?

It’s not even the lowest common denominator – it’s just social media suicide.

A whole industry has grown up of people creating idiotic and pointless Kindy interactions with consumers. They earnestly create six-month content plans full of shallow, turgid interactions that never veer off course from their pre-determined and vacuous outcomes. Never will the content plan get thrown in the bin at the behest of the conversation flow of your customers. Spontaneity is at the heart of social media but many brands are dead to the world of communication and try to put content into a predetermined linear plan.

The sad thing is these posts usually get some response, from equally facile consumers – some marketers get excited when 137 very bored consumers post back comments. Treat the consumer like an idiot has never been a greatstrategy – if you wouldn’t say it to a mate in the real world you shouldn’t say it on Facebook.

We have moved from juvenile conversations before the ASB/ACCC rulings to the sanctuary of the Kindergarten. Why does this happen? Well, the Kindy is a safe place for most brands because it is a false world where everything is great, everything is super positive and nothing ever bad happens. You can avoid the real world where God forbid you might have a meaningful interaction with a real adult. The legal department are pretty happy with this approach too.

Dumbing down social media is driven by fear of a difficult conversation, and having to deal with the real fears and hopes of consumers. That’s why most brand pages will remain sterile and die from lack of purpose. It’s time for Australian marketers to grow up and have an adult to adult conversation with their customers. The ASB ruling is no excuse.

Douglas Nicol is creative partner and director at The Works



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