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Why Popularity Alone Is Not a Winning Strategy

by Martyn Tipping  |  
December 8, 2014

You can learn a lot about social media metrics by watching classic teen movies and TV shows. Anybody who has seen the show 'Glee' or the classic movie 'The Breakfast Club' knows that there's much more to success than being popular.

The same holds true for brands.

In social media, popularity is no substitute for strategy. And yet according to a recent ANA study, over 80% of US marketers rely on popularity-based metrics, such as Likes and shares, to measure the effectiveness of their social content.

Does Popularity Matter?

Popularity is an important social media metric, but it's not necessarily a true indicator of brand strength. For example, with over 4 million followers on Twitter, BlackBerry is a more popular brand than Coca-Cola, Nike, or Victoria's Secret.

Looking to boost your popularity score? Post a picture of a kitten (ideally doing something cute like playing the piano) or ask people to tell you their favorite color, and you're sure to see a surge of Likes, shares, and comments. But achieving popularity can come at the cost of building a strong social narrative.

Every Facebook timeline, Twitter feed, or Instagram gallery is an opportunity to build an engaging social brand narrative—a story created by the cumulative impact of social media posts. The medium may be short-form, but the potential to use social media as a channel for developing long-term story arcs has gone untapped by most brands.

Going Beyond the Popularity Contest

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Martyn Tipping is CEO of Brand Chorus, the social business intelligence practice of brand consultancy, TippingGardner, and home of StoryScore.

LinkedIn: Martyn Tipping

Twitter: @metip 

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  • by Max Marine Thu Dec 11, 2014 via web

    I question whether or not the huge social media audiences are receptive to brand storytelling. When I do go on Facebook or Twitter, I am not particularly interested in a brand's posting about a holiday. In most cases, people use Facebook as a communication tool or as a news discovery tool, not to hear about a brand's story. Cocacola just made a post "Tis just as good to give a smile as to receive one". Wonderful, .003% of their fan base "liked" it. That's 3 in 100,000.

    Just because there are big audiences at sports games or behind televisions or on the internet doesn't mean they want to be told a brand's story. Also, popularity is the state or condition of being liked, admired, or supported. Maybe Facebook should have an "admire" button for brands. That would be a true measure of popularity.

  • by Martyn Tipping Fri Dec 12, 2014 via web

    Max - thanks for the comment. I'd argue that the Coca-Cola post you refer to is actually a great example of a brand using social media to reinforce its story – in this case, Coke is picking up of their core brand themes, Happiness. Storytelling shouldn't be confused with telling the brand history – I agree that this would not be a good use of social media. But over the course of a month or year, a brand's social media posts should reinforce their positioning, reflect their personality and tell you something about what they stand for. That to me is storytelling.

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