To grab attention in the crowded virtual supermall we call Facebook, you must keep your audience on its toes. The right ratio of traditional brand reinforcement messaging and a spontaneous X factor is the critical factor.
In essence, agencies must have a duck, duck, goose approach to messaging, with the “duck” being a visual style that is dictated by an internal style guide, and the “goose” being a more randomly curated post. If properly balanced, this “sneak attack” technique works on two levels. First and foremost, a brand must remain consistent in tone and look in order to establish that look and gain mindshare. However, in order to avoid “social numbness,” you must keep people guessing by spicing up your feed with atypical content once in a while.
This phenomenon mirrors any social relationship, when you think about it. A baseline of trust and habit must be there in order to feel connected, but to avoid boredom, one must create variation from the norm on a regular basis. A successful ratio of baseline message to variation is usually around 5-to-1, but many lifestyle brands have found success closer to 3-to-1. Any more variation and you lose your brand in favor of randomness, which will never gain traction.
Although many social media marketers understand the rule-exception 5-to-1 concept, they tend to approach the X factor post with either trite content or content that is completely off-brand, in an effort to “switch it up.” Make no mistake: Even though your surprising post should look different, it should contain a thread of the original brand within it, and not vary wildly from the brand message.
In the case of Run DMC’s Facebook page, one of our successful posts (more than 9,000 likes and 500+ shares) was a hand drawn pencil sketch of the iconic band. This came on the tail end of four music-related posts, with one of them being promotional for an upcoming concert. The sketch, drawn with red-colored pencil, looks strikingly different from the more polished posts preceding it, which lends a special magic to the post: newness. It was a refreshing change within the feed, and it was appreciated subconsciously by the audience.
Being creative and breaking the box never hurts, either. When leveraging Facebook’s profile picture dimensions, I was able to create the illusion of reaching over the confines of the photo and literally picking my friends from their thumbnails. This type of post stimulates the natural creativity of your viewer, and is likely to be shared and gain traction.
I have had similar success with outrageous Instagram posts, where it appears as if I am reaching over the border and clicking the like button. That video has garnered me more than 1 million views and thousands of followers by being shared on various popular feeds such as @lol_vines.
The moral is to make consistency the rule, and to break that rule at regular intervals with surprising and intriguing original content that provides variety. Your audience will thank you.
Adam Padilla is chief creative officer at BrandFire, a New York-based creative branding agency that he founded in 2012. He was previously the creative director of the New Jersey Nets.