Craig Hannabus
Craig Hannabus

The politics of platform – should your brand even go viral?

by Craig Hannabus. Should brands trend on popular social media platforms? Should their campaigns even need to go viral to achieve brand objectives? It’s time to look at brand strategy and brand values.

by Craig Hannabus. Should brands trend on popular social media platforms? Should their campaigns even need to go viral to achieve brand objectives? It’s time to look at brand strategy and brand values.

Like a mosquito buzzing around society’s collective ear, special interest groups are at it on the socials again. In the latest buzz, a firm named ‘Targeted Victory’ has implicated Meta (Facebook) in allegedly trying to undermine rival TikTok. The grievance is a series of articles and content claiming that TikTok is dangerous to children, originating from our beloved platform for the aged, Facebook.

The only thing we know for sure is that Targeted Victory has indeed lobbied nation-wide media (US) to undermine the ByteDance owned platform and depict it as a danger to kids. There have been several innocuous trends like the #peeyourpantschallenge (self-explanatory) which have only served as an illustration of how boring lockdown can be. However, lunacy and idiocy prevail. When brands say, “let’s trend on TikTok”, I’m a little sceptical. Do you really want to trend alongside things like #poopchallenge (self-explanatory)?

Let’s come back to brand KPIs

I’m going to loop back to these things, but in order to do so, I’ll need my soapbox. While I’m fetching it backstage, please take the time to think about what your brand’s KPI’s are. Back. Firstly, ‘make it trend’ is the new ‘make it viral’. Agencies hear this all the time and while the phrase has changed a little, the sentiment stays the same. The sentiment being, I want a lot of people to see me, but I don’t want to pay for it. It’s a dream. Let go of it.

Trending alongside ‘peeing your pants’ is not a strategy – creating an effective marketing-based intervention is. If you want something to trend, if you absolutely need something to trend, consider the strategic imperative here. There are ecosystems on each platform and if it makes sense to trend within these ecosystems, then do it. Otherwise, stop and make compelling communication instead. Agencies, stop promising the trend on TikTok. Brands, stop asking for the trend on TikTok.

Take first-party data seriously

Secondly – and this is where I climb on my soapbox – take first-party data seriously. We have put the fabric of society, our culture, our intellectualism, into the hands of tech giants. Every time you pay for an ad campaign you’re funding them. Every time you click ‘like’, you’re making them more powerful. I don’t want to come across as a heretical, social-media is-trash type person, but seriously, look at the politics. And actually, I do want to come across as that person, somebody needs to. There’s millions at stake here and they’re employing every nasty trick in the book to control their commodity. Their commodity is you, their commodity is your customer. First-party data is your liberator. When you get it, your customer has bought into you, you’ve got a direct line of communication. Sure, you’ve still got to use some of these platforms to get them there, but once they’re there, they’re there. All you need is a compelling reason for people to buy into your brand. A value exchange, something that will matter to them. Sometimes it’s just your product or service, sometimes it’s something a little more like a bit of useful content. Whatever that ‘thing’ is (and I don’t care, as long as you do), get that first-party data!

Alright, I’m stepping off my soapbox. I’ll finish with a plea, please stop empowering the bad guys.


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Craig Hannabus is strategy director at Rogerwilco. He has spent 11 years in the digital marketing industry. During his career, he’s gained exposure as a community manager, content writer, developer, and UX strategist, before embracing a new role in business strategy. He has worked on blue-chip brands, including Standard Bank, Nedbank, General Motors, Nestle, Reckitt Benckiser and Caxton, etc.


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