‘Dunk in the dark’ is over: Why crouch and pounce social strategies distract brands

by Scott Brandt, CMO, Sprout Social

When it comes to social media, too many brands are embracing the “media” side of the equation and forgetting the “social.” Of course there’s glamour and acclaim to be had in putting on a good show on social media, but the real opportunity here is in the conversation brands are able to have with their customers on the regular.

Consider this: The Q1 2016 Sprout Social Index found that, on average, brands receive a staggering 10,968 inbound messages across Twitter and Facebook each year. Yet they acknowledge and respond to just 10.7%. At the same time, brands pump out about 3 promotional messages for every 1 response given to a current or potential customer.

That’s not totally surprising. It’s been three years and some marketers are still talking about Oreo’s “dunk in the dark” moment. Enough. The infamous power outage of Super Bowl XLVII definitely spurred some creative conversations in its day, but we are well past all that. Your brand is capable of much better.

In the time, and Tweets, that followed “dunk in the dark,” there have been precious few Oreo-sized opportunities to capitalize on. Even worse, this one-off moment of real-time marketing magic has shifted our industry’s thinking. Too many brands now hinge their social efforts on a stand-by-and-be-ready-to-pounce posture.

This outlook is woefully misguided. Not only are such epic events difficult to bank on (much less replicate), but they also happen so infrequently that trying to extract any meaningful ROI out of one quick-witted tactic is more wishful thinking than smart strategy.

Social marketers need to wake up. Our industry needs to stop trying to force “Oreo moments” at the expense of our fans. Instead, we need to acknowledge and respond to the people who are already reaching out to us in droves—many of them with much more pressing concerns. The thousands of messages sent across social every day, in real time, represent actual human needs—whether that’s trying to purchase a gift for the holidays or needing to resize an image for Facebook—and the way you respond makes all the difference in how your brand is perceived.

When you help people, they often become your biggest advocates. In fact, according to McKinsey, people who have an exceptional customer experience are 30–50% more likely to recommend that company or make a repeat purchase. What’s more, one positive post has the ability to generate earned media, go viral and even trump a bigger brand’s multi-million-dollar Super Bowl spend. No other marketing mechanism in this day and age has that kind of impact.

Sure, brands need to remain relevant and focus their efforts on agile, timely marketing opportunities. But they also need keep the day-to-day tasks of responding to, engaging, surprising and delighting fans at the forefront of their social strategies. A sound engagement strategy, appropriate team bandwidth and a robust social media management tool are critical components of that ongoing strategy.

No one can guarantee a power outage during the Super Bowl or Pharrell Williams wearing a hat that resembles your logo to the Grammys. Banking on these lucky breaks is no substitute for a real plan. Building brand loyalty doesn’t come from creating lighting in a bottle. It comes from creating a strategy to engage customers, not hoping for a magic moment that might present itself.

So what are you waiting for? The long-term return of these initiatives is much more prevalent, and much more potent, than the impact of any impromptu Tweet.

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