Thursday, 11 September 2014

Social Media By Design

Social media doesn’t have to be difficult, nor does it have to cost you an exorbitant amount of money, but what you do need to do, is commit. Commit to a concept, commit to a design and commit to the ongoing updates and engagement with your community.

One of my favourite social media campaigns that I worked on is from Amnesty International in New Zealand. Trial by Timeline is an app that connects to your Facebook page and by conducting [insert complicated algorithm details] is able to predict how many times you would have been flayed, stoned or killed just because you were you – whether it was because you were part of the ‘wrong’ religion, socialised with the wrong people, or were just the wrong gender. Sorry ladies.

The app followed the Amnesty brand guidelines in terms of colour scheme and the black against the yellow ensured the gripping visuals were noticed. While there was nothing particularly violent about the colour scheme, it was amazing to see how the designers shaped it into some quite menacing backgrounds at times.

Design is funny like that. Working in PR has always meant that I have a natural affinity for words, rather than images (although you may want to hold on judgement until you finish this blog), so I always enjoy seeing a successful social media play born from a simple visual.

One brand that seemingly has this aspect sorted is Oreo. A couple of years ago the company posted an image of an Oreo cookie with rainbow icing on its Facebook page in support of equality. This netted the company thousands more followers, but also cost them a few customers.  The following year saw the company react instantaneously (34 minutes) to a power cut with this tweet – something that essentially meant that Oreo won the Super Bowl.

It’s not just tweets and posts either, Facebook, and subsequently Twitter and LinkedIn have made it very easy for brands to interact with consumers. Ignoring the fact that Twitter and LinkedIn have redesigned to such an extent that they are practically Facebook replicas, the launch of the cover photo was probably the time where most designers gave up a silent prayer of thanks, because it is a sitter for consumer engagement. 

Looking at how big brands (and those with the most amount of money) use these visual features actually reinforces the concept that social media doesn’t have to be difficult. For example, Starbucks uses its cover photo to highlight its customer of the week, while Nike uses its cover photo to inspire. On Twitter, Spotify keeps its branding simple, standout images and very little copy, while McDonalds uses its background to promote a current marketing campaign.

Ultimately, however you do it; it’s about engaging with people and creating meaningful conversations within an online community. It doesn’t need to be the most expensive campaign, and it doesn’t need to be the one you spent years planning – all it takes is a clever design, a willingness to engage and a readiness to commit.

Written by Natalie Benning.
Senior Account Manager, Axicom
London, UK

Natalie is a PR Consultant and Digital Communications Specialist. New Zealand born and bred, she is currently working in London as a Senior Account Manager at Axicom, a technology PR consultancy. Natalie has worked for a number of high profile clients including Microsoft, Dell, Visa and Vodafone.

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