There is no secret formula for success on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, but they do lend themselves to creativity and experimentation.

The most remarkable social media campaigns are the ones with a point of difference and consumers, more and more, seem to have an expectation that if a brand is going to engage with them it not only needs to be compelling but creative and original. There is a resounding virtual cry of ‘Seen that. Done that. Show us something new…’

I have to admit, I’m a bit of a sucker for brands that are original and authentic in their interactions with customers. I want to feel like a company is genuinely trying hard to impress me and entertain me through their online interaction. I want to be shown things and not told things. I want to be left to think for myself because contrary to beliefs of lazy marketers, I’m actually not a mindless consumer.

A not so recent, but excellent example of a brand trying hard to entertain me through social media, without telling me why I should buy its product, is the Old Spice YouTube channel. What better way to build brand awareness around a largely forgotten ‘old’ brand. Not exactly politically correct, but I think that’s its appeal.
Old Spice: The man your man could smell like 

The new face of Old Spice

These days it’s simply not enough for a company to have an ‘online presence’ for the sake of an online presence. Companies need charisma behind their social media front or consumers will see right through it.

So perhaps the secret formula is to be experimental and real in your interactions with customers, but remember, experiments can often turn bad, and the same goes for social media experiments. Companies need to be mindful that when wearing the hat of ‘social media scientist’, there is always the risk of brewing a beaker of possible backlash.

A recent ‘miss’ reported on this week is Coke’s ‘social experiment going flat’ in which its customers began attacking each other on the company’s Facebook page.

There is no way to control what consumers or stakeholders are going to write or do in response to your social media experiments, but here are a few tips that can help companies keep control of any potential social media storms:
• Avoid name calling at all costs and this means referring to your competitors, individual people or organisations

• Do not use automated messages and actually interact personally with visitors

• Proactively monitor brand and trademark usage in the social media space 

• Respond immediately to online customer complaints

• Facebook page administrators should flag offensive comments as ‘spam’ allowing them to still be viewed by the poster and their Facebook friends (this prevents backlash after ‘deleting’ comments)

• Implement a social media policy. It’s best practice these days and your friendly PR consultants can even help you draft one. It should address ownership of social media accounts, user names, posts, and other content.

You never know how people are going to react to your social media experiments. After all, I can imagine my partner could be most perturbed by the Old Spice clips overtly sexualising men and making him feel inferior for using asexual smelling body wash.