Social media strategies and chillaxing the sales energy

Reading through a few different style guides by different brands, I came across the Mailchimp style guide.

One of the most interesting bits is the discussion of what they post on which social media channel:

Mailchimp has a presence on most major social media platforms. Here are our most active accounts and what we usually post on each:

Twitter: Product news, brand marketing, events, media mentions, evergreen content, “we’re hiring!” posts

Facebook: Product news, brand marketing, events, media mentions, evergreen content, “we’re hiring!” posts

LinkedIn: Product news, recruiting content, media mentions, evergreen content

Instagram: Design outtakes, cool office visitors, life at Mailchimp, cool stuff we made

This caught my eye for the way each channel has a specific job, and the brand has a specific type of content on each channel. So Linkedin mailchimp is all serious business time, and instagram mailchimp is fun and visual. Comparing facebook and instagram is especially interesting. Instagram reads as a ‘cool’ channel for mailchimp, whereas facebook is more serious. The biggest difference between the two is the way facebook works as an avenue for sales (product news), and instagram does _not_ do sales (it’s essentially about brand identity).

This caught my eye because I’ve been thinking about the way we need to develop an audience before we start to sell them things. Or rather, we create a relationship with people, and when they’re ready, they go looking for our products. This is a more long term strategy, but it’s also a less didactic, less aggressive relationship. Particularly in the dance world, where brands are often dance schools speaking to their students. We don’t see a whole lot of different brands using social media in a cohesive way in the dance world. There’re usually just bands, dance schools, events, teachers, apparel and footware brands, and perhaps DJs. There a couple of social enterprise brands (largely based on antiracism goals), and a couple of other odds and ends. But the discourse is largely dominated by pedagogy. Which brings with it a very… top down power dynamic and mode of address.

There’s also a degree of panic or anxiety about ‘time running out’ from the brand itself, as they fight to improve numbers for class enrolments or event registrations. Both have fixed due dates, and both tend to work with the assumption that more is better. I suspect this impetus is largely the result of a bigger narrative in the dance world: that we must ‘grow’ the scene. ‘Share’ the dance. It’s a powerful ideology, particularly when it’s coopted by businesses selling a product that can be attached to this discourse (classes in particular). And it of course brings a worrying blend of cultural appropriation, capitalism, and colonialism.

So if we are developing a brand or public profile for a business or entity (a dance school, a social enterprise, a band), how can we use social media to be economically sustainable _and_ socially sustainable? In other words, how can we not be pushing salesperson jerks when we speak to people via our social media.

I think that it’s most useful to remember a few key rules:
Build the audience before you start to sell.
There will be a lead time from when you start posting to when you should expect people to come looking to buy what you’re selling. So don’t try to sell your product right up front.
This holds true for brands that are doing things like anti-racist activism work as well. Speak to your audience, to your community before you start selling or asking for donations.

Devote an entire channel to the ‘other stuff’.
Offer stuff that you enjoy about dance, or that is central to your dance community (or community of people who also dance), and then create clear pathways to your product from there. Don’t push people to buy; let them come looking when they’re ready.

Don’t panic sell.
There’s a tendency in dance event social media in particular to suddenly ramp up the number of posts, and the urgency of the tone, the closer we get to the event date. Particularly if there’s a perceived ‘lack’ of sales. Guilt-selling is not a successful strategy.
Again, this brings us back to the idea that we devote our attention to nurturing the broader profile of the brand, rather than just focussing on sales.

And of course, this all brings us back to the point of the mailchimp style guide: plan ahead.

  • Plan your social media strategies well in advance.
  • Think carefully about your ‘brand identity’.
  • Make clear decisions about what role each social media channel plays in your overall strategy.
  • Let your content do its job; don’t force every post to sell sell sell.

All this will make your social media work much less stressful, and make engaging with your channels a lot more enjoyable for your audiences.

And if you are working with a social enterprise brand, then you’ll find your social media strategies fit more comfortably with your ethics and values. In particular, you’ll see your relationship with the people in your local community not as a series of chances to raise money or recruit volunteers, but as a network of relationships that build and sustain a community.

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