Few things elicit more groans in a classroom than the teacher handing out a creative writing assignment.
It’s not just students who hate the idea of sitting down to compose something creative. Most adults do, too. That may be a sign that we’ve never really grown up, but it’s more likely a sensible response to a difficult task. Writing is hard work for most people, and “being creative on demand” is even harder whether you’re a professional author, a business owner or an employee in a company’s marketing department.
There’s one exception to the “creative writing is hard” rule, however. Composing social media posts can be satisfying and downright enjoyable – as long as you have the freedom to have fun with your posts. Even better, fun social posts encourage and reinforce the customer engagement that leads to long-term success.
Here how some companies use their brand identity to create fun social media posts, engaging their existing base while acquiring new followers. The posts were probably a lot of fun to write, too.
It’s tricky to use humor to promote a brand. It’s particularly tricky to have fun promoting toilet paper, without resorting to offensive “bathroom humor.” Charmin walks that fine line exceptionally well with the help of its lovable bear mascot, its “Enjoy the Go” slogan and its #tweetfromtheseat hashtag.
Among the company’s most memorable posts:
- The bear is pictured standing in front of a urinal while watching his phone. The caption reads: “What are your thoughts on streaming while streaming?”
- The bear is shown wearing a winter hat, holding a snow shovel with one hand and a package of Charmin with the other. The caption: “Charmin Ultra Strong’s washcloth-like texture is great for keeping your ‘driveway’ clean this winter.”
- The bear is dressed like the Marvel superhero Thor, the god of thunder from the mythical realm of Asgard. The photo is captioned: “We’ve always been an #Asgardian.” (This tweet was later deleted, but the company didn’t say whether it was because the reference was too obscure, or because the post was too risqué.)
This type of humour isn’t for everyone. But it’s gained the company more than a million social media followers. It has also positioned the Charmin brand as a fun, non-stodgy product choice rather than a commodity, in a segment that’s notoriously difficult for marketers to crack. (Sorry, we got caught up in Charmin-style humour for a moment.)
Sass and Absurdity
Social media humor isn’t easy to pull off on a regular basis. Creating a regular diet of sass and absurdity that attracts millennials and fits with the Adult Swim generation’s sensibilities is even more difficult, but it has paid off big for Wendy’s – to the tune of more than ten million social media followers.
What makes Wendy’s feeds so much fun is their unpredictability. One day there may be a meme featuring an (unbranded) sleeve of McDonald’s fries – dreaming about a tub of Wendy’s loaded fries. The next day, the company’s social feeds might feature an episode of a gonzo telenovela, ostensibly promoting a new product but deliberately making very little sense. And on the third day, the social media team may be joking with followers and taking shots at the competition:
- Tweet: I’m going to Burger King now.
Response: Now you’re just punishing yourself.
- Tweet: What should I get from McDonald’s?
Response: Directions to the nearest Wendy’s.
- Tweet: Can you find me the nearest McDonald’s?
Response: (Photo of a trash can.)
The true secret to the success of Wendy’s sass and absurdity approach: the company hires clever members for its social media team, and sets them free to engage, create, take risks and have fun, in just about any way they can think of (within broad company guidelines). And if the posters are having fun – chances are good that Wendy’s social media audience is as well.
Contests and Polls
Online contests and polls are easy to run on social platforms. Most, unfortunately, are dull and boring. They take up space, of course, so they’re often used as a last resort when the social media team is out of ideas or has been busy working on other marketing projects. Polls and contests will definitely generate clicks if the question is controversial or the prize is worth winning, but those interactions rarely turn participants into long-term followers or brand loyalists.
What most contests and polls lack is – you guessed it – an element of fun. The extra time spent designing a contest or poll that’s fun for participants, and also reinforces your brand message, will transform a social media “space filler” into a powerful marketing piece.
Perhaps the best examples of fun contests that went viral and helped build a brand were Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome campaigns. Whether participants were asked to submit photos of themselves with a Gnome on vacation, or post videos or pictures of their dream vacation spot with hopes of winning a trip there, contests featuring the Gnome theme have been extraordinarily popular on social media dating back to the days of MySpace. And the Roaming Gnome became one of the world’s best-known brand ambassadors.
Creating a fun poll is a tougher challenge, since polls have become ubiquitous. Anyone on social media can create one in seconds, and far too many do, on a regular basis. There’s a simple reason for that: social media services have found that polls are the most popular type of posts on their platforms.
So how do you differentiate your poll and make it fun? It’s all about the subject, which shouldn’t be too serious (politics isn’t fun for most people, particularly these days). Better choices are topics which people feel passionate about, or ones which will make people intrigued to discover the eventual “winner.”
The gold standard for this type of polls wasn’t even a social media post; it ran in 1995 when Americans were allowed to vote by toll-free phone numbers on a new M&Ms colour to replace tan. After ten million votes, blue came out on top with 54%. The enormous level of participation showed how much people love to vote in polls, and the public fascination with an unimportant result was unprecedented.
Since then, companies have successfully used similar models to create social media polls calling attention to their products while generating interest in the results. During a presidential debate, for example, Domino’s ran a poll asking followers which they thought would be higher, pizza sales or candidates’ approval ratings; the gimmick attracted widespread media attention.
Contests and polls won’t often be game-changers by themselves. Mixed with skillfully-created posts which are humorous, unpredictable and fun, however, they can contribute to the brand awareness and loyal followings that make social media platforms so valuable to marketers.