Client tussles and partying for your right to fight.
If you only make one major ad a year the maximum number of major fights with your client is also one.
Fights can be avoided but they are not necessarily a bad thing if you’re fighting for the right thing, for the right reasons, in the right way, and in the context of the right kind of relationship.
It’s a major ad for Christ’s sake and it has to be perfect. It’s worth fighting for if necessary. A good client wouldn’t expect anything else.
And you have a whole year to rebuild bridges. To paraphrase The Beastie Boys, you can party for your right to fight.
This, for instance, would never have seen the light of day without a bit of a tussle.
Advertising and branded content. From major to minor?
But what if you’re making 52 or 104 or 156 or 208 pieces of branded content for social media every year?
The maximum number of major fights starts to get out of hand.
I don’t know many relationships that can withstand 52 major fights in a 12 month period, let alone 208.
So do you downgrade the status of your creative work from major to minor and not bother fighting for it?
Or does the client downgrade the status of your creative work from major to minor, not bother fighting you over it, and just let everything go?
One of these options is highly undesirable and the other is highly desirable but highly unlikely.
Let’s say you’re running a Facebook page with somewhere between 500k and 1 million likes.
And let’s say it’s an earned media play with maximum weekly organic reach as its main objective.
(With three or four posts a week based on original branded content.)
That’s somewhere between 150 and 200 pieces of “lightweight” content in a year.
The content is “lightweight” because it is quick and relatively cheap to produce.
But it can’t afford to lack weight creatively.
If earned media is your business then content shares are your currency.
And thus your competitive set is not the brands against which you measure market share.
It’s every other piece of content that might get shared instead of yours.
You’re competing against The Internet when you get into people’s news feeds.
And you’re competing against Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm to get into those news feeds in the first place.
You have two reputations to manage on Facebook.
Reputation management on Facebook has two audiences. The people who like your page, and the algorithm that decides how much of your stuff those people get the opportunity to see.
Edgerank rewards content that stimulates reaction. And it rewards brands that continually stimulate. It also punishes content and brands that don’t.
And, as this data analysis by We Are Social in collaboration with SocialBakers shows, Edgerank is getting more punitive in its outlook. It is reducing the proportion of people who like your page that is organically reached by each of your posts.
Facebook is perhaps the toughest mainstream earned media platform on the Internet.
You not only have to be subjectively relevant enough for people to share your stuff with friends. You also have to be objectively relevant enough in the eyes of a fearsome gatekeeper to reach those people in the first place.
Operating Between The Lines
The only viable content strategy in this environment is what I call a “Between The Lines” strategy.
The first line is The Line That Must Be Crossed.
This is the invisible line which determines whether you are relevant enough to get a reaction, ideally a share. You have to cross the Line as defined by Edgerank. And you have to cross the Line in the eyes of the people you want to reach. You have to be funny enough, informative enough, original enough, topical enough etc.
You won’t know by looking at a piece of content before publication whether it crosses the Line, but will you will know pretty soon after you post it.
Any edges that are taken off the content before publication will more than likely stop it crossing the Line. As they say, the biggest risk you can take with social content is to not take risks.
The second line is The Mark That Must Not Be Overstepped.
The Mark That Must Not Be Overstepped is not invisible. But exactly where it lies is usually open to interpretation.
For some brands the Mark will be determined by the regulatory environment in which they operate. Any financial services content will need to be FSA compliant. But no two compliance officers will interpret the same piece of content in exactly the same way.
For most brands the Mark will be mainly determined by brand values. This again will be open to interpretation. It should also be open to discussion and negotiation. The definition of brand in social spaces should be different, in my view, to that which governs the creation and assessment of traditional advertising. And it should definitely include guidelines as to where the Line and the Mark lie.
Sometimes the Mark will be determined by the subject matter of the content. If you’ve ever watched a comment thread on a piece of football-related content rapidly descend into a moderation nightmare you’ll know what I mean.
When nothing matters but everything counts.
How do you ensure that 52 or 104 or 156 pieces of content a year will cross the Line but not overstep the Mark?
The brand’s social media reputation (particularly as defined by Edgerank) means that every post counts.
But each piece of content viewed in isolation is but a small fraction of the total output for the year. It doesn’t matter that much does it? Is it worth getting into a tussle over? Especially when you tussled just last week?
Operating between the lines effectively and consistently across a twelve month period is challenging even if agency and client have a shared vision for where the Line and the Mark lie. Without that shared vision you’re entering either a world of tussle-filled pain or a world of anodyne content that earns very little media.
Any social media content strategy should include some kind of structured, up-front discussion of what “Between The Lines” looks like for Brand X, from Corporate Culture Y, in Market Environment Z.