The importance of relatability in social media marketing

Or ‘how small businesses can learn from the big boys’

Do you own a small business? If so, you’ve likely been told by a marketer, a customer or even a relative that you need a presence on whatever flavor-of-the-month social media site is currently being downloaded onto mobile phones across the country. 

It’s also equally likely that you struggle with implementing a social media marketing plan, besides the occasional Facebook post or tweet announcing an upcoming sale. 

Although Facebook and Twitter remain the anchors of any social strategy, visual sites like Vine, Snapchat and Pinterest are where many major corporations are focusing their attention. Why? It’s only partly because of those sites’ demographics – tweens, teens and twentysomethings. 

Let’s take a look at the various X factors that make image-oriented marketing such a gold mine for not only big brands, but your Main Street boutique as well.  

Nobody relates quite like the MagCon boys 

Vine is a six-second video-sharing app. That’s right, on this platform, you have only six measly seconds to make an impression. It may sound daunting to pack your company’s message into such a brief span, but when they’re done well, Vines can be incredibly powerful. 

Need proof? Check out MagCon, a convention/tour of “Vine-famous” boys who might not do much, but who do it very well. Shrieking tween-age girls squeeze hundreds of dollars out of their parents’ savings accounts to attend these conventions, buy shirts adorned with their heroes’ faces, and pay for selfies with the pseudo-celebrities.

magcon-boys 

Say what you will about the MagCon boys – that they lack talent, that they’re flashes in the pan – but they know how to create relevant, relatable content. They specialize in modern tropes like “the struggle is real,” “that awkward moment when,” and “my mom is the worst” to connect with their young fans.

Despite the dearth of actual substance, their videos routinely get upwards of 1m views in less than an hour, and the MagCon boys have built lucrative careers by just relating to teenagers.

These Vine accounts are so popular that major corporations have begun using the boys’ rabid following for their own marketing gains. One of the MagCon members, Nash Grier, posts videos captioned “#ad” that feature products from well-known brands.  

In one post from July 15, titled “When someone asks for more after you share,” one of Grier’s friend asks for some of his Crispy M&Ms, then complains because he only received two candies. In response, Nash throws about 30 M&M bags at the choosy beggar. 


While it may not be Seinfeld-quality humor, the post currently has more than 11m views (known as “loops” in Vine vernacular). Hard to argue with those numbers. 

Home improvement store uses “The Force” to appeal to consumers

Home improvement behemoth Lowe’s uses Vine to offer consumers handy tips. In 2013, Lowe’s launched its “#LowesFixInSix” Vine series, a collection of six-second DIY videos that has exploded on social media.

Just recently, Lowe’s posted a DIY Vine captioned, “Wrap Christmas lights around gift wrapping tubes for easy storage in an attic far, far away #lowesfixinsix.” The animated tubes wrapped with lights then move and make sounds similar to lightsabers, taking advantage of the Star Wars craze that is currently sweeping the nation.


“Lowes does a great job capturing the spirit of Vine in its videos,” said Jenn Deering Davis, co-founder and editor in chief of Union Metrics. “They’re cute, concise, and just the right amount of fun.”

The FixInSix vids are also helpful. Everyone loves a clever lifehack, and even though using a cardboard tube to store Christmas lights – rather than purchasing a specialized container from Lowe’s – may seem to defeat the retailer’s purpose, these posts are memorable, helpful and imminently shareable. The Star Wars tie-in doesn’t hurt, either.

By customizing its messages with the Vine medium (FixInSix probably wouldn’t work as well on YouTube or a static-image sharing site), Lowe’s also appeals to a larger audience than it has traditionally targeted.

An insider’s look behind the bars of the zoo 

The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) found a similarly perfect match between social media function and form in 2015 with “The Last Selfie,” a Snapchat campaign.

wwf-selfies

The WWF sent its followers a picture of five different endangered animals with the caption “Don’t let this be my #lastselfie.” Since Snapchats are impermanent – lasting only 10 seconds before vanishing – the resulting message is urgent and chilling. The WWF is encouraging Snapchatters to save its #lastselfies and share them with friends, and again the parallel is clear: save the picture, save the species. 

“The urgency to act and Snapchat’s dynamic were the perfect match to disseminate our message for species. The continuity of our conservation work is vital for success,” said Tuba Ugur, Communications Officer for the WWF.

“For this to happen, we have to clearly and creatively explained [sic] our reason for existence to current and prospective supporters. Millennials are targeted for this campaign and that’s why we chose to use Snapchat, which is mostly used by them.”

Animals are a fairly surefire subject on social media, and the Nagasaki Biopark, a zoo in China, used this universal in its recent video marketing initiative.   

One of its most popular Vines features a zoo worker rolling a whole watermelon into the unhinged mouth of a giant hippopotamus, who then eviscerates the fruit in one single bite.


Another video shows kangaroos playfully boxing while onlookers giggle and cheer. As of Dec. 2015, the Nagasaki Biopark’s Vine account has more than 95m loops, which has almost certainly translated into increased attendance. 

Although its campaign is vastly different than the WWF’s in tone, the zoo nevertheless also taps into our collective love for funny, cute animals – and possibly into our short attention span, too.

Testosterone-fueled sports league caters to female fans on Pinterest

What do the National Hockey League and mason-jar salads have in common? They’re both killing it on Pinterest, the social media site that lets users “pin” things like casserole recipes, inspirational quotes, craft how-tos, wedding ideas, and more.

About 73% of Pinterest users are women, and the NHL would not have been at the top of a list for ‘Potential Pinterest Powerhouses’ when the site was first conceived. 

However, the league has managed to target the site’s users very successfully, in large part because it reinterprets the typical Pinterest boards with hockey-themed suggestions.

For example, there is a Hockey Treats board in the Food & Drink category, a Future NHLers board featuring young children in their favorite team’s apparel, and even Fanicures and Hockey Style, where die-hard female hockey fans can look for fashion and beauty inspiration.

nhl-pinterestThe concept of thinking outside the box has become a cliche, but that’s precisely what the NHL did when it launched its Pinterest board. It recognized that sports are not simply about one team facing off against another; entire cultures have been built around the ritual of participating in sports from a fan’s perspective.

The NHL has tapped into the culture of hockey to expand its brand beyond the athletic contests that take place on the ice. 

If a deathmatch-on-ice can succeed on Pinterest, then pretty much any small business can find a social media site where its content can shine. 

The key is a combination of creativity, relatability and shareability. In other words, don’t think about your product or service, think about your fans. How do they use that product? How else could they use that product? What relatable, universal problem will your service solve? Which emotions do you want to evoke with your brand?

What all this means to you, the ‘regular people’

Note that none of these companies used an A-list celebrity to market their brand, nor did they require a massive advertising budget. In a sense, social media levels the marketing playing field, since any size business can, ostensibly, create a clever campaign that will resonate with consumers. 

Get your content in front of consumers’ eyes – whether it’s a six-second video, a photo that starts to fade away as soon as it’s viewed, or a collection of recipes and manicure ideas. 

The very essence of social media is organicism, rooted in the fact that regular people can go viral for something as silly as posting Vines of everyday situations. In the world of marketing, small businesses are those regular people, and with a little bit of creative thinking, any small business can strike gold in just six seconds.

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