How Brand Performance Affects Brand Performance, Part II

Last time, we looked at how philosophies of feeling the role coupled with technological revolutions lead to golden ages in both acting and advertising. Because of these, we’ve seen bona fide works of effective and affective art from both disciplines. This continues to work out very well for actors, whose undoubtedly most important medium is still the big screen.

The same is not true for brands and advertisers.


What’s different?

Digital, and especially social media, is a completely different beast. You’ve seen it all too often where a brand on social media just doesn’t feel quite right, even though its performances in other media hit home. How does a brand hit authenticity in this space?

Maybe they’ve stuck their TV spot up on Facebook for some reason. Maybe they’re always ‘having conversations’ that nobody else is part of. Maybe something comes off as rigid or scripted about their whole presence.

It’s likely the choice of venue for these communications. They belong elsewhere, like on TV, or a catalogue, or maybe even a DM piece. But on social, how should brands perform their character? The key difference that sets it apart is the ‘social’ part of social media. The audience is part of the performance.

We have to expand our definition of what a performance is when it comes to social media. It’s not cinema. It’s not theatre.


What is ‘performance’ in social media?

It’s improv. It’s stand-up. It’s vaudeville. It’s a concert.

Think about the funniest stand-up comedian you’ve ever seen live. Now imagine being the only one in the audience. Just isn’t the same is it?

Great social media work plays off the reactions of the audience to fuel more engagement. It doesn’t stop at the ‘What message do we want to communicate?’ part. Instead, it goes further into ‘How will our audience react and take their cues from each other?’


The solution?

The thinking is that there are similar techniques that help make actors and brands affective and engaging in one-way performances like film and TV, but they don’t hold for social media. Just like a stand-up comedian, there should be self-awareness in the performance itself.

The audience is well aware that behind the character they’re watching on the stage, there’s an ordinary person. For that reason, the audience did not and will never suspend their disbelief. It’s far more than breaking the fourth wall—there shouldn’t be a fourth wall to begin with, because the performer is so visibly within reach.

So what makes a stand-up comedian, an improv actor, or a vaudeville performer engaging, if they’re not employing the same techniques as dramatic actors? The key word is showmanship.

This character performance style is what smart brands are beginning to embrace on social. One of our favourite examples is Wendy’s. With us being Australian, we don’t have Wendy’s here. We’ve never seen ATL Wendy’s ads. Yet they keep showing up on social media because how they play their character on social media is outrageous, played up, and frankly, silly for the sake of silly being fun.

This brings us to a point which sounds counterintuitive. That it’s perfectly fine for a brand’s social media presence to divert in tone from the same brand on one-way media. In fact, it probably helps.


Why does diversion in tone help a brand?

It helps because diversion by just the right amount solidifies the brand’s social media page as authentic. When consumers see the brand’s character on social media as being too similar to the TV spots and posters, not only does it feel robotic, but there’s no way to respond because these communications were not designed to be responded to.

When the brand’s social media presence has its own interpretation of the brand’s character, it becomes real and believable. It should be designed to provoke a particular response—not ask for one. This is an important distinction, because a high goal should be for your followers to spend at least as much time scrolling the comments for what other people say as they do reading or watching your post.


So then, what is our main goal in social media?

Make your followers laugh together, cry together, be amazed together, do almost anything together and they’ll identify with the experience and the group. Once you’ve done that, you have followers for life. It all begins with a different approach to performing your brand’s character on social media. Remember showmanship. Showmanship is the key to having authenticity and unlocking the potential of social media for your brand.

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Branding Social Media