If you’re going to use social media for a specific awareness programme – remember one thing: social media users are by and large stupid, and I include myself in that.

Too Complicated!

This Ramadan I’m seeing many social media campaigns from major corporations on my feeds – some of them actually look and feel like something I might want to get involved in. A great prize up for grabs or a good cause being supported, perhaps even just a worthy message of awareness, they intrigue me – particularly during Ramadan.

Unfortunately if I can’t figure out what it is I’m being asked or required to do to actually ‘engage’ with the campaign in the first 15 seconds, then I’ll probably move on, in some cases with a degree of annoyance and frustration, both at the organisation for making things too complicated and at myself for not being able to figure it out (as I consider myself reasonably social-media savvy, you know).

Trouble is I am all too well aware of the way the meetings behind the campaigns will have gone. Some jumped-up young social media hotshot, barely past puberty, presents a dazzling array of trend analysis data, colourful graphs and drops lots of thoughtless-provoking buzzwords like: Immersive Experience, ROI, Contextual Marketing, Ideation, Gamification, and (oh I like this one) Showrooming – all of which I had to go look up just now – and everyone gets taken in. Pfftt!

Then someone actually comes up with a good basic idea, but it’s deemed too simple and samey and in desperate need of some ‘Custom Activation’. It gets tweaked and tormented by the spotty-faced experts and eventually deployed as a contrived and convoluted solution to a problem no one had, whilst the sane, and generally older, heads in the room are too afraid to speak out, because they’ll appear out-of-touch and not really ‘getting’ social media.

In fact in their eagerness to impress and come up with the ‘Viral’ ‘360 Campaign’ through ‘Agile Marketing’ the newbies forget one crucial buzzword (the one buzzword to rule all buzzwords if you like): KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid.

I remember just before last Ramadan working up a great concept with an agency here, that would have tied up our website, Motoring Middle East, with a car brand, to raise money for an extremely good cause.

The idea itself was beautifully simple – they wanted people to test drive their cars, so the idea would be that for every kilometre clocked up on their test cars during Ramadan, they would donate a set amount to the charity. (BTW should anyone else now do this, I shall be consulting lawyers!)

In order to kick this off and get engagement, we at Motoring Middle East would create hype and interest by kicking off the campaign with marathon drives in the test cars ourselves and using our readers.

The alarm bells started ringing almost immediately when the ‘creative types’ weighed in with ideas on how to measure and reward engagement with overly complicated tricks and methods, offering up the potential to set up unnecessary tasks and challenges, and of course creating micro-websites and accompanying assets (well I suppose an agency’s got to to make money off it too right – as do we in fact), but the biggest stumbling block was something else altogether.

In their rush to go ahead with the brilliant concept, no one had stopped to think about how much mileage could actually be put on the cars. For us it was an easy calculation – and once we revealed our estimates I could almost sense the horror and dismay, and the shift in attitude that would see the whole plan go south as the basic premise collapsed.

To me it seemed that they suddenly realised they’d a) put too much mileage on the cars and b) might have to give away too much money. The conversation then turned to how to limit and control the mileages – like we’d only have to drive to Iftars and back etc…

At that point I should have realised the project was doomed as it no longer made sense. Our involvement in it would have made us look like morons, because as professional motoring journalists, putting miles under wheels is not an issue for us, and our readers would know that.

If we just drove ourselves to an Iftar, stuffed our faces and then went home to bed, when we should be driving round-the-clock to raise money for a good cause (which we could easily do), we’d be laughed off social media altogether.

And thus it goes…

Good basic ideas are stretched and pulled and twisted either because they haven’t been thought out properly in the first place, or because some agency wants to go into a Creativity Hyperstream (I just made that one up – you like?) and dazzles the client with a scheme of such brilliant complexity that it gets green-lighted out of sheer curiosity.

And then fails because nobody ‘gets it’.

However the experts must not forget that even smart social media audiences have limited attention spans. So the truth of communication remains as it always has – stay simple and to the point.


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