Brands: Don't Be a Boring Boasting Bully Who Begs

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Don't cheese off your fans.
Don't cheese off your fans.

Imagine yourself in a real-life social situation. You're at a cocktail party hovering by the cheese table wondering when the waiter's going to come around with another tray of those tasty little mini quiches. A distant acquaintance sidles over and strikes up a conversation…

Scenario #1: Boring

“Hey there. Wow, that cheese looks good. Stilton, eh? I love Stilton. But I also really like feta. Feta is good, but if you really pushed me—I mean, like really pushed me to the limit—I'd have to say my favorite cheese is plain old cheddar. That said I wouldn't kick string cheese out of bed, but…”

Scenario #2: Bully

“You're eating American cheese? Kinda lame. Just saying. No one eats American cheese at a party.”

Scenario #3: Boasting

“I know everything there is to know about cheese. Ask me anything. I spent seven years working under the tutelage of an Italian affineur in Southern Italy.”

Scenario #4: Begging

“I know we don't really know each other, but…can we be friends? I'm lactose intolerant, but if you like cheese, I like cheese. I'll just take a pill…every day for the rest of my life.”

When it comes to interacting with consumers via social media, the intuitive etiquette that applies in reality applies online. It's what McCann Truth Central, the research hub housed within agency McCann Worldgroup, refers to as the “4 Bs,” the avoidance of which is ground zero for brands that don't want to turn off their consumers.

“Who wants to live with jerks and boring bullies?” joked Kevin Nelson, global planning director and global telecom lead at McCann NY, speaking at Social Media Week in New York City. “I certainly don't.”

Simply put, brands need to behave themselves online, just like people do (or rather, should) at parties. According to a recent piece of qualitative research from McCann Truth Central, 57% of people think automated “personalized” messages are uncool. Genuineness goes a long way—and so does letting consumers have control of their own data.

“We all know what it feels like to be a bit bullied by a brand when they're going at you with a lot of content and emails and requests—and honestly, the way to make this better for brands is to let consumers feel like they've let you in,” said McCann Truth Central's Deputy Director Nadia Tuma. “Empower them; make them feel like they want you there. In fact, in our research, we found that consumers are much more likely to opt in than companies think.”

Because I like analogies, I'm going to belabor the cheese-related metaphor above.

Scenario #5: Balanced

“Hey, what's up? I'm just hanging out by the cheese table because there's a good sight line to the kitchen door. Can't wait till they bring out those awesome little mini quiches. Oh, you too? Ha, totally. So, anyway, what do you do…?”

Converse with your consumers like it's a conversation and not a creepy barrage, and you'll reap the benefits in sentiment and dollar signs. The same goes for data—use it wisely, said Laura Simpson, global director of McCann Truth Central.

“When it comes to using consumer data, there's a bit of delicate balance: If you don't use any consumer data as a brand, consumers actually start to get a bit irritated now, like, ‘Don't you know me better? Show me things I actually want,'” Simpson said. “But then, if [a brand] starts to use too much…people started to get creeped out.”

So, just remember the cheese table. If you wouldn't even talk to you...then how do you expect your customers to want anything to do with you?

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