Twitter Trending Activities: A Poor Show by Social Media Agencies

Two of today’s trending topics are obviously manufactured social media Trending topics 19May13campaigns. I clicked through not because the tags engaged me but because I’m seeing so many of these, I feel I need to say something. Both use the same shoddy style that people who call themselves professionals, need to reconsider.

Right off the bat, both #LoveAtFirstSniff and #IFeelRoyalWhen put me off because of their sheer length. 140 characters is so little, every single one counts. A hashtag that takes up too space, gives people less space to say what they want. On social media, that means they will not care and hence not participate.

My experience with social media professionals tells me that many of them do not even think about this. The common refrain is that ‘it has to carry the brand’s message’. Well, social media is not advertising. Imposing a brand’s agenda onto communication channels works against the brand, by generating resentment instead of participation.

I also do not see why social media needs to follow traditional communication’s norms. What’s wrong with abbreviations? The language of social media, especially short-form content requires it. The concern appears to be, ‘How will people know what it is about?’ Simple, they’ll know what it’s about, if the tweets using that hashtag explain it adequately. This requires more thought being put into the content of the tweets than just 140-character shortened general marketing messages.

Neither hashtag was particularly engaging. That’s not very friendly, and on a medium that is by its very name, social. All interest on such activities is generated by offering goodies or contest wins. Why would you need to bribe people to participate in a conversation? If you’re interesting enough, people will want to participate. The wonder of social media is that it makes numbers possible not by bribing but simply understanding, relating and engaging with real people.

Both these hashtags smack of brand agenda as well as an indifference to what people want. On social media, who cares what a brand wants? Other social media users who are the people who make a topic trend, are not marketing channels for the brand. They have no interest in what a brand wants. If a brand is smart, it will understand what these people want and create a conversation that they’ll be drawn to, and aim for that mental association with a consumer requirement. #LoveAtFirstSniff and #IFeelRoyalWhen are both examples of what I call ‘brand-outward’ rather than ‘audience-inward’ communication.

Due to patchy understanding of the medium as well as a need to quantify business actions, most clients either want or are appeased by social media agencies proposing ‘trending activities’. In reality, after the activity is agreed upon, a small group of people spend their efforts pushing out tweets onto the hashtag in an effort to make the numbers required for the tag to trend. What business value does this serve?

The hashtag appears on the ‘trending topics’. If you’re looking for visibility, that’s not particularly relevant visibility since the average Twitter user does not care about a topic that is not relevant to him/her. Participation by a few social media executives and their immediate circle that is being begged, cajoled and bribed to push out tweets isn’t engagement either. In what way does this benefit the brand except to be able to boast that it spent money making noise that nobody listened to or cared about?

If you are a marketing manager, think twice about wasting your budget on activities that do not add any real value. If you are a social media agency, such activities make you come across as an outfit that’s just conning its clients into forking out marketing money for no real value.  As professionals, the onus is on you to understand what role communication plays in your client’s business and how it can best be used & managed on the social media.

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