Since McDonalds and AutoTrader talked about being bold with content, it has been front of mind for me. I cannot stop thinking about the minutiae of being brave with social comms.  It matters. Social is so noisy, you need bold content to grab attention. But it is a complex challenge – being brave is not easy. And more recently we’ve seen it all go wrong.

Burger King was the most recent brand to misstep its way on social. Hoping, I suspect, to be outrageous and thus grab attention, it failed. Leaving a nasty stain on its otherwise quite wonderful social marketing. Social is littered with brands that are simply tone deaf. Lacking in social and cultural awareness, they blurt out content like over excited toddlers having learnt to swear and enjoying the reaction of adults.

Shock and awe ideas can work. Sometimes. More often than not though, it’s a gamble. It can go the wrong way and gives you publicity you don’t really want.  So, if you plan to step into politics, hijack movements, jump on bandwagons or simply be provocative, then you need to have safeguards.

Here are ways you can ensure you balance the bold with a tone that sees you the right side of a fine line between fabulously brave content and badly done bravado.

Diversity is your compass

Voices from many different backgrounds give you a kaleidoscope of views. They often see what you cannot see. They offer a different lens. The putdown, that you thought was funny, or the provocative statement that you thought would get audiences rallying, ends up crass at best and downright dangerous to the brand, at its worst. If you don’t already, make it a priority to build a team that reflects your audience – old, young, of colour, female, male and everything in between.

Leaders can be your hole in the boat

It’s just far too easy for the senior team to scupper the boat. It’s not that they mean to do it. They don’t intend, for the most part, to upset customers. But they are not trained. They are not media trained to spot when their own views do not reflect those of the organisation. When their voice is at odds with the values of the business, all hell can break lose.

Simply, if they are on social. Even being quiet for now. Get them trained.

Listen to the ocean of chatter

Most failures on social tend to come from an inability to read the room. You have to be socially and culturally aware. And that means using tools like Brandwatch and GWI to understand your audience. Listen to them. Measure beyond your KPIs and metrics and look at how your audience is behaving. Spot the sensitivities, listen and hear concerns, or moods. It isn’t hard, but it is often ignored for the easier route of just doing your own thing.

Social media marketing takes effort. Part of that effort is in listening to your audiences. Understanding where they are at. Then crafting your content, with your values in mind, to be authentic – to be genuine.

Don’t jump overboard too fast

Before you jump into that lake of a trending moment – take a peek and check there are no sharks. It is so easy to publish social content. You can shoot from the hip in response to a post without thinking. And it may get you into hot water. The best way to tackle the opportunity to be in the conversation is to have a framework. One that plays into your messages and values and acts like a filter to stop you being inappropriate.

The second-best way is to get your lovely diverse team to have a look! They will spot the mistake.


Be bold and brave. We know it works. It works very well indeed. But counterweight that opportunity, with a safety net that ensures you treat every tweet and post with rigour. Be ready to defend your position and just stop being tone deaf.



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