It’s going to be LEGEN…wait for it… I’ve been binge watching “How I Met Your Mother” lately (I’m only up to season 7, so no spoilers), and the more I spend quality time with Barney Stinson, love him or hate him, the more I feel he personifies the current state of Social Marketing, at least in part. That might sound like a stretch, but stay with me and see if you see your brand in his suave, yet sometimes flawed character. If so, maybe there is something for us all to learn here.
Every day, brands suit up. We pretty up, use language that is often incomprehensible yet beautiful, and rarely show our bed-head or sweat pants. Why? To be brutally honest, we do it to score. More likes, more tweets, more follows means more names for our little black books, I mean weekly reports. Gaining more attention is not necessarily a bad thing, but how often do we make the call for a second date? Are we truly looking for, building, and nurturing relationships, or are we really just faking intimacy and sneaking out in the morning? Too often, brands focus on appearance and manufactured charm instead of quality, transparency, true substance, or what might amount to a courtship. Brands use magic and pizzazz to lure people in and pad their numbers, yet they lack the substance necessary to build and sustain loyalty and commitment. In Barney’s case, it’s all on purpose and for a purpose; whether or not it works out for him in the end, I don’t know yet (#nospoilers); however, I question whether brands even recognize the ecosystem they have built and are participating in. When is the last time you truly courted a customer? When is the last time you sacrificed appearance for substance? And how often do you follow-up after notching another fan/mention/follower in your belt?
Going back to incomprehensible marketing speak and transparency, it’s time for many brands to take a good look at their story. Perusing the social accounts of many top brands feels more like taking happy pills than true narrative. As Barney so infamously stated, “When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead.” In the marketing sphere, we preach authenticity, transparency, and even vulnerability in an attempt for our brand to have a face. People don’t respond to logos, right? But try and find a brand that exhibits true emotion or true humanity (update: I salute DiGiorno for doing exactly that). What I see are two extremes: either happy, happy, happy or overblown, extreme emotion (i.e., “totally, amazingly shocked…”; “you will never believe…”; “so overwhelmingly excited about…”). Looking at my Pages feed in Facebook feels like a manic trip, where the first company is groveling about an error, the second is crazy-eyes excited about some article, and the third just could not be more excited about being included on some list. Now, I don’t propose that we brands expose our banality to the world, but perhaps our audiences would be more receptive to our authenticity if we were, in fact, more authentic. Because the honest truth is that the majority of us work, or have worked, at businesses that aren’t always super awesome or super sorry. Sometimes, we’re just more Ted than Barney, and perhaps that is why HIMYM was smart enough to present us with both.
Barney’s Batting Average
The seed of this post actually began back at episode 86, titled “Right Place, Right Time.” After hearing for years about Barney’s exploits, Marshall decided to calculate the batting average of our suited-up Casanova. After doing the math, he ended up somewhere just north of 1%. 16,640 girls propositioned…200 deals closed (at that point in the show). Sound familiar? Maybe not, but think of this in terms of the number of friends/fans/followers that your brand regularly reaches via social impressions. Email open rates are certainly above 1% (yay!), and currently Facebook (unpaid) reach sits north of that dismal benchmark, but how many of us are actually expecting an increase in social reach? Probably just north of 1% of us…if that many. According to EAME managing director Marshall Manson, “Increasingly Facebook is saying that you should assume a day will come when the organic reach is zero.” Zero. Even Barney might reject that challenge. When facing such drastically decreasing social reach, what should we do? Be more like Barney in our shallow, hit-on-everyone mentality, or is it time for us to seek a lasting, trusted relationship with the right partners? How would your batting average look if your brand focused more on quality than quantity? How would we feel if all of our community members were purged, save for those we are truly intimate with?
Start Being More Awesome
Perhaps the connection of social marketing to Barney Stinson holds up, and perhaps it doesn’t, but the question remains whether brands are truly being awesome, or just pretending to be. Do we seek real connections with our audience and court them, or are we spending most of our energy hitting on those who don’t respond and quickly nailing (down) those that do? Though Barney is awesome by all accounts (his, chief among them), maybe it would be better to see a Ted, Robin, or even Marshall in the mirror. Let’s long for something that matters and stop counting the numbers that don’t. Otherwise, we’re just giving ourselves self-fives, and that might just be the lowest of fives.