3 Things April Fool’s Day Can Teach Us About Digital Marketing

Every year, businesses attempt to convey their humor on April Fool’s Day. And every year, many bungle their attempts. There’s a lesson to be learned in that.

German automotive manufacturer Volkswagen has, reports Mashable, learned exactly how not to approach April Fool’s Day as a brand. On March 29, the automaker’s U.S. subsidiary claimed that it would be rebranding itself to Voltswagen of America as part of its commitment to sustainability. It even published a full press release on the change. 

Get it? Volts? Like electric cars? Do you get the joke? 

One day later, The Wall Street Journal reported that no, the company is not planning a rebrand. The announcement was, in fact, part of a marketing campaign for the company’s recently-released ID.4 electric SUV. Reportedly, the renaming was meant to be ‘playful and fun.’ 

The joke fell flat on its face for several reasons — and each of these lessons can serve as a valuable lesson for marketers. 

Know Your Brand’s Reputation

Volkswagen’s reputation where sustainability is concerned isn’t exactly clean. As reported by MIT News, the company spent years lying about its vehicle emissions, even going so far as to install devices designed to break emissions testing in its cars. Environmental conservatorship is not something a brand with Volkswagen’s history should be joking about. 

Mashable’s Jack Morse noted that when accounting for Volkswagen’s history, this publicity stunt’s message appears to be that it views green energy as a joke

Stay In Character

Some brands are built on comedy. They make a name for themselves on social media by being sarcastic, irreverent, or simply absurd.  Their personalities are geared towards millennials and Generation Z, and they remain consistent in never taking themselves seriously unless they absolutely must. 

Denny’s is a perfect example of this, regularly posting bizarre content on its Tumblr page that its target audience can’t help but enjoy. Wendy’s also exemplifies this trend, regularly roasting both its audience and its competitors. If either of these brands did something ridiculous for April Fool’s Day, no one would bat an eye. 

If a brand that was known for generally taking things seriously suddenly turned around and started trying to make bad jokes, though? That’s jarring. It’s another reason the Voltswagen stunt failed so spectacularly.

It came completely out of left field and was in no way consistent with Volkswagen’s previous online behavior. 

We aren’t saying your brand shouldn’t occasionally do something fun, nor are we trying to claim that there’s no place for corporate April Fool’s jokes, just that those jokes should be appropriate for your brand. They should be something your audience would actually find funny. 

Avoid Mixed Messages

Volkswagen wanted to have its cake and eat it too. It tried to do something ‘fun’ for April Fool’s Day, but it also wanted to advertise its new product. Unfortunately, the result was a jumbled mess that pulled the audience in two directions at once.

When you’re planning a marketing campaign, stick to a few core, interrelated objectives. Keep your messaging concise and focused. Because the more mixed signals you put out, the likelier you are to stumble headlong into a media circus. 

Just Don’t Overdo It

Ultimately, there’s a time and a place for comedy. As a marketer, you need to learn to recognize that. Otherwise, you’re bound to make the same mistake as Volkswagen’s marketing team. 

How (and Why) Your Business Should Apologize For Its Mistakes

From influencers to major businesses, people seem to have forgotten how to apologize. But if your brand messes up, that’s something you need to remember.

Nobody’s perfect. Everyone from the freshest intern to the highest-paid CEO makes mistakes now and then. Yet many of them seem incapable of what comes next — apologizing and resolving to be better. 

Recently, we’ve begun watching a YouTube channel called Observe.  Hosted by professional body language analyst Logan Portenier, one of the channel’s primary content streams involves analyzing influencers’ apologies for everything from ignoring COVID restrictions to being party to unsavory behavior. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of these apologies share a common theme.

They’re entirely insincere. 

A BluePrint For An Ineffective Apology

If you’ve spent any time following the recent controversy surrounding YouTuber David Dobrik and his group “The Vlog Squad,” you’ve doubtless seen shades of this. As reported by Mashable, Dobrik has himself posted two separate apology videos. We’re not going to get into what transpired, as in addition to being triggering for victims of assault, it’s not our focus here. 

If you’re interested in learning more, you can read the article we linked above. Instead, we’re going to look at what Dobrik did wrong in both cases. Because together, they form a very effective framework for how not to apologize for a brand crisis.  

In Dobrik’s first video, which fans and critics have widely panned, his mistakes are glaringly evident. 

  • Sweeping it under the rug. The apology was posted to Dobrik’s Podcast channel, Views, rather than his official channel. The former has only 1.7 million subscribers as opposed to the latter’s nearly 20 million. 
  • Dodging the issue. Dobrik never directly addressed the allegations against his brand, instead speaking in vague terms about consent. 
  • No dialog allowed. Despite the video being titled Let’s Talk, Dobrik disabled comments. 
  • A lack of commitment. The total length of the video is only two and a half minutes. Given the seriousness of the allegations against The Vlog Squad, most felt that was nowhere near enough time. 
  • Obligation, not authenticity. Portenier refers to Dobrik’s apology as “hollow,’ noting from his body language that it’s clear Dobrik doesn’t seem to particularly care about rectifying the issue. 

Unsurprisingly, this video was not well-received. After losing over 100,000 subscribers and multiple brand partnerships, Dobrik posted a second video a week later to his main channel. He did a lot of things right this time. 

He owned the fact that he messed up. He at least appeared genuinely remorseful. He asserted that moving forward, he will be implementing checks and balances so that something like this need not happen again and has delisted the videos associated with the controversy.

But he still made mistakes. 

  • Too little, too late.  Instead of getting ahead of the issue, Dobrik waited until he began suffering direct and severe consequences from the controversy. This has led some to assert that the YouTuber isn’t actually sorry that any of this happens, only that it’s directly impacted him. 
  • Poorly-staged. As some have noted, Dobrik went to great lengths to look pitiable, being close to tears, appearing disheveled, and filming his apology from the floor. 

“If [Dobrik] had come out and immediately apologized and immediately went to the people, that would at least show that he [recognized and owned up] to his idiocy,” Portenier notes in his analysis of the second apology. “Dobrik’s apology is genuine [but] perhaps for the wrong reasons.” 

Why Should Your Brand Care About Apologizing?  

In Dobrik’s case, the degree to which he mismanaged his apology has damaged his brand, perhaps irreparably. Just two days after his second video, YouTube demonetized his channels. Insider reports that Dobrik has, as a result of the controversy, lost nearly everything (content warning: SA).  

Per a study published by Science Daily, economists found that people are over twice as likely to forgive a brand that genuinely apologizes.  As reported by The New York Times, when a doctor honestly admitted their mistakes to patients, they were significantly less likely to take legal action. A good apology, in other words, costs nothing. Ignoring a problem or failing to apologize, meanwhile, can cost you everything. 

As for what’s involved in an effective apology, let’s refer back to Dobrik. 

  • Recognize the problem as soon as possible. The sooner you realize you messed up, the better.
  • Don’t try to dodge accountability. Be honest about what went wrong and why. 
  • Show that you genuinely care. Don’t just say you’re sorry. Mean it. 
  • Resolve to be better. Explain what you’ll do to improve in the future, and don’t make promises you can’t keep. 
  • Explanations, not excuses. Don’t try to go into the reasons things went wrong. 

Everyone makes mistakes, even the most prominent brands. The capacity to recognize and apologize for those mistakes can be the difference between repairing one’s reputation or damaging it beyond repair. 

YouTube is Considering Hiding Dislike Counts. Here’s Why That’s a Mistake.

Today on features no one asked for nor wanted, YouTube is thinking of hiding dislikes on its videos. That’s a bad thing.

Interaction is at the core of social media. Reactions on Facebook. Likes and Retweets on Twitter, Likes and Dislikes on YouTube.

It turns out that last one’s due for a change — a change literally nobody wanted.

“In a response to creator feedback around well-being and targeted dislike campaigns, we’re testing a few new designs that don’t show the public dislike count,” YouTube announced on its official Twitter on Wednesday. “If you’re part of this small experiment, you might spot one of these designs in the coming weeks.” 

It’s fortunate for YouTube that Twitter doesn’t have a dislike button. The announcement has been met with almost universal derision from some of YouTube’s top creators, and the only place we’ve seen even the remotest amount of praise for the decision are publications that likely aren’t even on the platform.  We cannot help but wonder who asked for this. 

Because it certainly wasn’t the creators who have for years been YouTube’s bread and butter.

YouTube’s reasoning for the decision, explained in a community forum post, makes very little sense. According to the company, the decision is intended to protect creators from targeted dislike campaigns. Said creators will still see the exact number of likes and dislikes in their studio, but the ratio will otherwise remain invisible to others.

The problem is that this ratio has long been a measure of content quality. Good content — informative, entertaining, fact-based, and valuable — accrues more likes, while bad content trends in the opposite direction. There’s also one other tiny detail YouTube is fecklessly side-stepping with this charade.

Its copyright claim system is utterly broken and has been for years. Even a cursory search brings up countless stories of creators who saw their livelihoods destroyed via fraudulent claims. There are multiple ‘creatives’ who are infamous for this, and BBC reports that extortionists regularly abuse it

The problem is that the entire system puts the onus of proof on the creator. The person filing the claim barely has to prove a thing. And if more than several videos receive copyright strikes, YouTube terminates the channel that uploaded them. 

And all this happens before the channel’s owner even has an opportunity to defend themselves. 

Jim Sterling, a reviewer and journalist with nearly one million subscribers, was subjected to so many fraudulent copyright strikes that Youtube implemented protections against it. Yet, that still didn’t stop a developer from recently attempting to get their channel removed from the platform. They only managed to reinstate themselves by threatening legal action, reports Heavy, and the man responsible is still filing copyright strikes against them.

If YouTube is actually interested in preventing “targeted harassment,” it needs to listen to its creators. It needs to address the actual vehicle through which people are being harassed and abused on its platform. It needs to get rid of ContentID and fix its fundamentally broken copyright system.

Until it does, it doesn’t matter how much it says it wants to protect its creators; it’s just shouting empty words into the void. 

No, Cookie Walls Do Not Work. No, You Should Never Use Them.

As a result of the GDPR, some websites have begun requiring that users consent to tracking cookies. This does not, nor will it ever, be a feasible tactic. Here’s why.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation has been described by some as the death knell for programmatic advertising (via Ad Exchanger). Its strict rules surrounding personal data and consent make learning about and targeting one’s audience with personalized marketing significantly more difficult. Some websites and publications have created a new type of content wall — the cookie wall. 

It’s not as delicious as it sounds. On the contrary, it’s one of the stupidest, most blatant attempts at data harvesting yet. Locking off content until a user agrees to give you their personal information is not consent. 

Per TechCrunch, regulators even confirmed this in 2019, noting that the consent obtained from cookie walls is neither specific, informed, nor freely given. Nor is it consent if a user continues to passively browse your site without hitting ‘accept.’ And no matter how much you claim to respect everyone’s privacy, the use of such a scummy technique demonstrates that you don’t care about your audience.

You’re just interested in harvesting your audience’s data. 

In 2021, that kind of attitude is both archaic and unacceptable. At this point, some of you are probably wondering what alternative even exists. How can you effectively monetize your content and target your advertising without the capacity to collect user data? 

Simple — by being completely transparent with your users about what you’re doing. If you must request customer data, do not block out any of the on-page content. More importantly, give them the option to reject your tracking cookies.

Will that make targeted advertising more difficult? Probably. Will it make market research more challenging? Certainly. 

But the marketing landscape has been moving inexorably away from advertising for decades now. In 2018, reports Forbes, analyst firm The McCarthy Group released research indicating that 84 percent of millennials neither liked nor trusted traditional marketing, though 58 percent don’t mind paid promotions viewed to support their favorite influencers. 

There are other ways to learn about your audience without violating the GDPR, as well: 

  • Offer discount codes/special deals to customers who fill out a survey or consent to ad tracking. Note that you need to explicitly establish what you’re doing and why to ensure consent is informed. 
  • Interact with your customers as people, not leads. Engage with them on websites like Facebook and Twitter. Learn about who they are, what they enjoy, where their interests lay. Instead of using ads to push your products, provide them with an experience. 
  • Collaborate. Find other businesses that cater to your target audience, and reach out to them. Work with them to create marketing partnerships that benefit both parties. 

The GDPR represents the first death knell for traditional data collection and marketing analytics, but this is hardly a bad thing. Advertising has been stagnant for several years now, with agencies skating by on passively-harvested data. We believe that the GDPR and other similar regulations are just the kick in the pants it needs to start genuinely innovating again. 

3 Important Lessons the Games Industry Can Teach Us About Marketing

Gaming is now a multibillion-dollar industry. The unique characteristics of this sector and their associated challenges have the potential to convey some valuable lessons to marketers and advertisers.

According to video game analyst Newzoo, the worldwide gaming market is slated to reach approximately $200 billion by 2023.  For context, the video streaming market — which saw explosive growth during COVID-19 — is predicted by analyst Kenneth Research to reach around $102 billion over this same time period. Video games, in other words, have become a massive global market, a titan of digital entertainment.

Gaming is also unique as entertainment mediums are concerned, with an extremely high level of interactivity and multiple revenue streams and marketing channels that are unavailable in traditional media. This coupled with gaming’s rapid growth over the past several decades can teach us some incredibly valuable lessons about how we shape our own branding and marketing. 

Demographics Can Change, and You Need to Adapt

As noted by industry publication gamesindustry.biz, there is a demonstrably false preconception that video games are exclusively the domain of white, cis-gendered males. At one point in the past, maybe that was true — gaming, like tech, has in the past been markedly hostile towards multiple marginalized groups. But this is no longer the case.

The core demographic of the games industry has changed entirely, and studios need to pull their heads out of the sand and get with the time. Demographics change. Just because your core customer base falls into one category today, that doesn’t mean it always will.

An industry shift can open up a business to an entirely new world, and it’s imperative that you understand that.

The Best Brand in the World Can’t Save a Shoddy Product

For years, Polish game development studio CD Projekt Red (CDPR) was among the most beloved brands in the games industry. They were widely held to be a pro-consumer organization, focused on quality, user rights, and creativity. Then they released Cyberpunk 2077 and completely shattered every illusion we had, setting fire to their brand almost as spectacularly as stock trading app Robin Hood. 

You’ve probably heard echoes of the controversy even if you aren’t involved in gaming, but in case you’re unfamiliar, here’s an overview. 

  • The studio broke multiple promises about the game’s content and capabilities. These included but weren’t limited to mini-games, advanced artificial intelligence, open-world events, player housing/vehicles, and a branching narrative structure. 
  • As reported by Screenrant, CDPR knowingly misrepresented Cyberpunk 2077’s performance issues on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The game on these platforms was so unplayable that Sony reverted its digital refund policy for the first time in history, allowing players to return their digital copies of the game and de-listing it to prevent future purchases. 
  • CDPR’s marketing of the title was called out multiple times for transphobia and other problematic behavior, running directly counter to the brand’s established identity as a forward-thinking organization.
  • Per Forbes Magazine, the studio was openly mandating 6-day workweeks in the time leading up to launch, despite promising this would not happen. Studio Head Adam Bedowski’s response to reports on this crunch can be described as tone-deaf at best; condescending and openly hostile at worst. 
  • In addition to being riddled with bugs, Bleeping Computer reports that the game launched with a bug that allowed malicious mods to take over people’s PCs, and potentially even gave hackers internal access to CDPR’s systems and data.
  • Most recently, CDPR was hit by a massive cyberattack in which the hacker locked down the company’s entire internal network with ransomware and sold off the source code for its games.

To describe CDPR’s implosion as catastrophic would be putting it lightly. It is quite possibly one of the worst brand disasters of the decade, and it’s still going. The lesson here is simple — no brand, no matter how renowned or beloved, is above reproach. 

And marketing is nothing without solid products/services to back it up. 

Influencer Marketing Is Incredibly Powerful

Released in June 2018, Among Us enjoyed several years of modest success, with a small and dedicated following on PC and mobile. Then a few influencers began playing it on video streaming service Twitch. As reported by CNBC, the title’s growth was both explosive and immediate, and it was downloaded nearly 126 million times in the first half of September alone

Influencers have always had a special relationship with video games. The medium lends itself incredibly well to a unique breed of performance on platforms like Twitch and YouTube known as Let’s Plays. Some of the most successful content creators, such as Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg, have adopted this format with great success. 

Even being featured on one of these channels can create an enormous surge in demand for a title. And although influencer marketing may not have quite the sway elsewhere as it does in gaming, it’s still an extremely valuable tool in your arsenal. You’d do well to leverage it. 

Game On

The games industry has come a long way from its humble roots. And as the pandemic wears on, there’s little doubt that it will continue to grow. You’d do well to pay attention to that growth — and not just because of the lessons it can teach you about marketing. 

What Is Outrage Marketing, and Should You Use It?

Few things are more effective at generating buzz than anger. Outrage marketing leverages just that. But is that a good thing?

These days, it seems like everyone on social media is angry about something. Like we’re all constantly on the lookout for the next thing to be outraged about. Buzzing with fury as we seek the next opportunity for an angry rant. 

But it also speaks to a negative tendency many of us possess. We gain a sort of perverse joy in outrage. We bask in shared anger and seek to spread that to as many people as possible. 

It’s why high-profile blunders by brands so frequently go viral. Why arguments on Facebook have become so common. Why there always seems to be an angry mob on Twitter that’s one tweet away from pouncing on someone. 

Anger, notes Dr. Jean Kim in an article published in Psychology Today, can be addictive. It feels good, giving us a rush that boosts our ego and triggers the reward centers of the brain. And for some people, it’s comfortable and familiar.

Outrage tends to be even more insidious. 

“Outrage is contagious…one of those emotions (such as anger) that feed and get fat on themselves,” Dr. Terri Apter, Ph.D. writes in Psychology Today. “Yet it is different from anger, which is more personal, corrosive, and painful.  In the grip of outrage, we shiver with disapproval and revulsion—but at the same time outrage produces a narcissistic frisson…Outrage assures us of our moral superiority.”

As you might expect, outrage can often be leveraged to do tangible good. 

It helps ferret out corruption. It helps bring criminals to justice they may otherwise never face. It calls attention to the misdeeds and moral failings of powerful people and groups. 

Some people even hold that it can act as the foundation of a new tactic known as outrage marketing. No, we’re not talking about the chaos that ensues when a brand unintentionally releases an utterly tone-deaf advertisement, as recently occurred with Chinese beauty company Purcotton (via Yahoo!). Nor are we talking about businesses that generate outrage by taking a moral or social stance. 

Outrage marketing is much more manipulative than that. It represents a conscious effort by a brand to shock and upset large groups of people — usually those opposite your target demographic. It plays off sociopolitical divisions, leveraging them in order to sell a product.

If that sounds reprehensible to you, that’s because it is. At best, you’re cynically exploiting actual causes for the express purpose of generating buzz. At worst, you’re being actively harmful and destructive, toying with people’s emotions and creating conflict.

Moreover, after the dumpster fire that was 2020, people are exhausted. It was an entire year of things going from bad to worse, an entire year of anger and frustration and fear and anxiety. Trying to manipulate people and deliberately sow dissent at this point in time is the height of moral bankruptcy. 

Outrage marketing is not something reputable brands engage in. There are better ways to generate brand awareness, better ways to bring in traffic and sales. Find them, because trying to leverage outrage simply isn’t worth the cost.

What Most Brands Get Wrong About Marketing to Millennials

If your marketing is geared towards millennials, then you should know how to connect with them. Because most brands don’t.

Millennial. 

It’s as much a pejorative as a descriptor these days. A buzzword used by marketers who seek to leverage the vast purchasing power of this golden demographic. There’s just one problem. 

Most brands have no idea what they’re doing where millennials are concerned. Sure, they manage to generate a few sales, bring in a few new customers. Sure, they might connect with some millennials. 

But for the majority, their marketing efforts amount to little beyond white noise. 

The problem here is multifaceted, but it ultimately boils down to one thing. These brands do not understand millennials. Many of them try to market to millennials the way they’d like to be marketed to.

Certainly, there are exceptions. Marketing agencies that have rid themselves of the old guard. Professionals who’ve taken the time to do their homework and generate audience profiles. 

But in most cases, they make a bevy of mistakes, including, but not limited to: 

Treating Millennials as a Monolith 

Millennials are among the most diverse demographics in the world, and the up-and-coming generation Z is geared to be even more diverse. You cannot simply go into your marketing campaign with the vague idea that you want to ‘engage with millennials’ and expect to have any degree of success.  While there are certainly common threads amongst millennials, you still need to be specific.

Ask yourself a few of the following questions: 

  • What are they interested in? 
  • What do they value? 
  • Why would they engage with your brand in the first place? What need are they seeking to fulfill? 
  • What demographic details define them beyond ‘millennial’? Examples could be income level, gender, cultural background, etc. 

Going Overboard Trying to Sell

As we said, there are a few common traits shared not just between millennials, but between millennials and generation Z. Generally speaking, they do not like being sold to. They’re interested in engaging with a brand that quietly understands and fulfills their needs.

That means blog posts that aren’t solely focused on driving sales. Social feeds filled with content that’s interesting, educational, or entertaining. They’ll still know you’re trying to sell to them, of course —but because you’re doing it in a way that’s not overbearing, most won’t mind.

It also means toning down the emails. Nothing is more annoying than purchasing a product from a brand only to have your inbox inundated with several emails a day. Sending a newsletter when there’s a new deal is one thing, but if you flood people’s inboxes with irrelevant nonsense, they’ll start tuning you out. 

Not Putting the Customer First

How’s your return policy look? What about your checkout process? Shipping and handling? Customer support? 

For a millennial demographic, these need to be as seamless as possible. Don’t shove popups in people’s faces, and make sure your checkout process is both simple and transparent in terms of shipping costs. Perhaps more importantly, make sure you have a concrete, generous return policy.

Too many brands operate on a purely selfish, money-first basis. While that might work for the older generation of consumers, for everyone born after the early 80s it’s incredibly aggravating. If you make it clear to your audience that you’re prioritizing their wants and needs, they’ll reward you with far deeper loyalty.

The Millennial Puzzle

Marketing to millennials is neither as difficult nor as complex as you might think. Provided you understand them as a demographic and do your homework, you’ll do just fine. And as an added bonus, you’ll distinguish yourself from the countless brands that simply cannot be bothered.  

3 Critical Steps to Avoiding Tone-Deaf Marketing

Coming across as tone-deaf is the worst thing you can do with your marketing. Here are a few quick and easy tips to help you avoid making that mistake.

One of the more unfortunate marketing trends centered around the pandemic is how often we’ve seen businesses and brands act in ways that are outright tone-deaf. Now more than ever, that’s an extremely bad thing. People are on edge.

We’re nearly a year into a global pandemic, a time marked by economic recession and social unrest. Some people aren’t even certain where their next paycheck is coming from, and others are constantly worried about their friends and loved ones. What that means is that their patience for brands that behave badly is at an all-time low.

You cannot afford for yours to be among those. 

Listen to Your Audience

The most important piece of advice we can give you is to look, listen, and learn. Ignoring your audience is one of the most critical mistakes you can make as a business. If you don’t make your audience feel heard, they’ll jump to another brand without hesitation.

Understand their sentiments, their needs, and their values, and focus your communication on aligning with those.

You might also consider looking at what other businesses and brands are doing. Learn from their missteps and mistakes. Pay attention to what they’re doing that works, and what they’re doing that you should avoid.

Don’t Schedule and Forget Social Posts

Scheduling your posts is an important part of any successful social marketing strategy. However, one mistake we frequently see brands making involves a ‘fire and forget’ approach. They’ll schedule content months in advance, then let it fly into the wild without a thought to how the social climate has changed in the meantime. 

We saw this in the early stages of COVID-19, with many tourism-related companies promoting holiday packages right as lockdowns started to come into effect. We saw influencer-style promotions of luxury resorts and first-class flights, celebrities enjoying travel and privilege while everyone else struggled, and brands effectively acting as if it’s simply business as usual. 

We’d advise taking a bit of time each day to double-check your scheduled content in order to ensure you aren’t stepping on anyone’s toes. 

Be Comical With Caution

Everyone loves entertainment, and everyone could use a good laugh right now. Just keep in mind, however, that comedy is subjective, and in some cases, can be incredibly risky. And if you make a joke that fails to land, you might be looking at more than a bit of cringe. 

As a general rule, you should avoid making too many jokes about current events. Instead, focus on creating a human voice over boring, corporate jargon. Reference the news with a light touch, showing that you understand what’s going on without being too pithy, mocking, or sarcastic.

Above All, Be Accountable

Even if your intentions are completely innocent, it’s all too easy to come off as uninformed, ignorant, or uncaring. At the end of the day, it’s impossible to predict exactly how a piece of content will be received by your readers. As such, if you do end up making a mistake and offending your audience, the best thing you can do is apologize. 

Own up to what you’ve done wrong, and resolve to do better in the future.

Today, it is more important than ever that your brand messaging is both direct and sincere. Give careful thought to the content you’re putting out into the wild, and avoid reacting too hastily or spontaneously to new developments. You currently have a unique opportunity to act as a positive influence during one of the most difficult times any of us have ever experienced.

Be careful not to squander it. 

Avoiding The Biggest Mistake Most Businesses Make With Social Media

The value of social media as a marketing tool has already been well-documented. Everyone knows by now that any brand worth its salt needs to at least have a presence on Facebook. What people aren’t clear on, however, is what exactly that presence entails.

The issue, as it were, is that businesses don’t take the time to learn what makes social networks unique. They treat Facebook as just another advertising platform, Twitter as a tool for rapid-fire sales, and Instagram as a product showcase. 

And that’s a problem. Not just because that’s not what social media is meant to be used for, but because audience attitudes towards sales-focused content have shifted.

Dramatically.

Today’s consumers don’t want to be sold to. They don’t want to be bombarded with marketing pitches, harassed with product information, and flooded with cold calls. Many of them have spent their entire lives dealing with that kind of thing — and at this point, it’s little more than digital white noise.

Consider, for instance, that as reported by online publication The Drum, a recent study by consulting firm Kantar found that just 14 percent of people trust advertisers. The Spring update to the Edelman 2020 Trust Barometer, which measures consumer trust in business and government, meanwhile, found that only 32 percent of people believe businesses are putting people before profits. Taken together, these two studies paint a very clear picture.

People do not trust any business they view as overly profit-driven. And that means that if you use social media as little more than an additional sales platform, your audience is just going to lump you in with every other brand they dislike and don’t trust. So what’s the alternative? 

Instead of focusing on your business’s bottom line and trying to drive sales, focus on your brand’s relationship with its audience. Instead of spending all your time talking about your products, think about what your audience might actually be interested in seeing. In short, instead of using your social channels as ad platforms, leverage them for engagement.

Ask yourself the following questions.

  • What content do my followers typically engage with the most? What sort of stuff do they share?  
  • Why do people follow my brand on social media? 
  • How are my competitors using social media? 
  • What sort of personality do I want my brand to present to its audience? What sort of content would best present that personality? 
  • What type of content can I produce in-house? 
  • What kind of third-party content do I want to share? 
  • How frequently should I post, and at what time of day? 
  • Does my audience differ at all across my social channels? 

In short, the most important thing to remember when establishing your business on social media is that at the end of the day, it’s not really about you. It’s about your customers, and how they relate to your brand. Focus on them —their interests, their needs, and their values — and you have an excellent starting point. 

How COVID-19 Has Changed Influencer Marketing

According to a survey released in April by market research SaaS firm Global Web Index, 87 percent of U.S. consumers increased their overall media consumption as a direct result of COVID-19 This doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Over the course of the pandemic, people all over the world have had to cope with lockdowns, social isolation, and in some cases, loss of income. 

What else is there to do but spend time on the Internet? 

As you might expect, this increase in media consumption means more people than ever are paying attention to influencers. People are looking for a sense of normalcy. Looking to distract themselves from what’s going on in the world.

Streaming media and video games aside, influencers provide the opportunity to do just that. 

This is a double-edged sword, however. The fact that more people are paying attention to influencers also means more people are scrutinizing them. And make no mistake — the Internet personalities who commit significant missteps during this pandemic will become functionally radioactive from a marketing perspective.

Take YouTuber Jake Paul. As reported by publication Insider, Paul was already a highly controversial figure before the pandemic. But over the last several months, Paul has made blunder after repeated blunder.

Per Vanity Fair Magazine, Paul recently threw a massive party at his California mansion. His reckless disregard for the coronavirus quickly made the news. And it wasn’t just the media who were lambasting Paul, either.

“Everyone who saw the video [was outraged],” Said Calabasas Mayor Alicia Weintraub “They’re having this large party, no social distancing, no masks, it’s just a big, huge disregard for everything that everybody is trying to do to get things back to functioning. It’s really just a party acting like COVID does not exist, it’s acting like businesses aren’t closed.” 

Will Jake Paul make it through this incident with his fame relatively unscathed? More than likely. At the same time, he’s a perfect example of an influencer your brand cannot, under any circumstances, engage with — at least, not if you want to present your business as socially conscientious. 

It is, in other words, now more important than ever that you do your research before engaging with an influencer. Moreover, once your brand starts working with an influencer, you cannot simply leave them to their own devices. Pay attention to what they’re doing, and be prepared to cut ties with them if necessary. 

People are exhausted right now. This is no secret. As you might expect, this means their patience has worn thin.

They’re more discerning with their purchases. They’re likelier to vote with their wallets. They’re likelier to write off a business or influencer who doesn’t appear to mesh with their values. 

The pandemic will eventually end, and the world will regain a sense of normalcy. However, the increased focus and scrutiny to which influencers and businesses alike are subjected is likely to remain.  Keep that in mind moving forward, and you should do just fine.