Levity is not your enemy:

the case for having a laugh.

Managing corporate social media is a battleground. In my experience, the people at the top take both themselves and their brands much too seriously. They’re double the danger to innovation: both very risk adverse and pretty clueless about how social media works.

On the one hand, I get it. If, for example, you’re an institution subject to academic rigor, there are reasons to be worried about whether or not people take you seriously online.

On the other hand, while execs are trying to use social media for marketing, most of us are just trying distract ourselves from the tedium of our lives. Obviously this is a generalisation, but on the whole we’re all bored shitless, and we use social media to escape. If it’s not interesting or amusing, we’re scrolling on by, and if you keep posting tedious, irrelevant crap, we’re unfollowing you. (I was going to put a graph here but you all know how I feel about statistics.)

‘Figures of authority’ may have the hardest time striking the right balance on social media. It’s a critical touch point for audiences they may not reach otherwise. Content needs to be engaging enough that people interact with it so it shows up in as many feeds as possible, but serious enough to get the point across.

I think us kiwis have a slightly easier time with this, because our cultural norms around social structure aren’t as hierarchical as some countries. For example, many kiwis wouldn’t hesitate to approach our Prime Minister for a chat or a selfie, and as a rule we don’t generally stand too much on ceremony around titles either.

So it really grates when people at the top of the chain, who don’t even have social media accounts, act like social media experts, dictating how social media should be used. This is often accompanied by insinuations that by lightening up a little online, we’re not serious about our jobs, or about representing our brand professionally. (Once, I was reprimanded for using the word ‘bloody’ in an Instagram post about the weather. Apparently swearing is ‘unprofessional’. (Tell that to Australia or Toyota!))

Timeless classic

But instead of having a whinge about all the cool stuff I was prevented from doing in my previous roles, I thought I would keep it positive and share some local examples of organisations where reputation is critical, but they’re still nailing social media.

Civil Defence Waikato

This organisation is responsible for making sure we don’t die horribly in a natural disaster. It’s absolutely vital that people take them and their advice seriously. It’s literally life and death. So how on earth do you make posts about the weather interesting?

The first thing they did was give their social media a distinct and relatable voice. They created an ongoing narrative thread with reoccurring characters and colloquialisms. They created a community vibe by cracking jokes and taking the piss out of other cities and districts.

People engage with the jokes and funny drawings which means they see more from WDC in their feed, so when it really counts WCD has a captive audience for life-or-death updates like flooding, earthquakes, tsunami etc.

It’s been a bit dry recently with COVID19 and I think some staffing changes. There was a cartoon posted that coincidentally looked like a cock and balls, followed by a post ribbing the new social media guy, but when I looked just now to take a screenshot for you, it was gone. Coincidence or conspiracy?

Waikato Police

I’ve noticed that recently Waikato Police are introducing a bit more flavour into their posts. The key messaging is the same, so it’s still very much ‘on brand’, but their recent diversification in tone means they’re reaching more people.

It’s not all doom and gloom reports about criminal activity, or admonishments for breaking the law.

They blend serious police business with feel good stories and jokes pitched at the right tone for their audience.

They also create community and provide opportunities for people to become part of the narrative by requesting assistance in locating missing persons and updating people on outcomes.

Community building

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this brilliant campaign to help keep kids safe online. Tough subject? Yes. Risque? Yes. Engaging? Hell yes.

It was great seeing our politicians, and authority figures sharing the hell out of this video, and others in the series.

Who do you think does great social media and why?

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