Please unfollow me on social?

Zuckerberg testifying before a Congressional committee on social media platforms’ responsibility in society back in October 2019.

Accusations flying left-and-right about deceptive political social media propaganda. Reports of parents dealing with teenagers detached and despondent due to social media overload and addiction. Meta-esque hashtag campaigns such as #deletefacebook. And the list goes on.

Add Miller Lite’s bold October 2019 campaign, which asked consumers to unfollow the brand on social media, and you start to see a trend for social in 2019. One that’s continued into 2020.

Calling their brand “the original social media,” Miller Lite asked consumers to unfollow the brand on Instagram and Facebook (platforms where it had 119,000 and 2 million followers, respectively), offering a free beer to each consumer who proved they had done so, by texting a screenshot to a designated number.

Yes, in a largely unexpected turn, a major consumer brand took a tremendous risk – taking a big stand against your crazy uncle with his social media rants du jour and your long lost “friend” on Facebook who baits others with political incendiaries – with a new brand strategy.

By putting a name to it and declaring themselves “the original social media,” Miller Lite successfully tapped into a time when your number of followers didn’t matter and having 50 likes versus thousands, was fine. A time when the quality of the photos you posted to social and what filter you used wasn’t the topic of conversations – it was the authentic relationships that mattered. Social media was where you nurtured friendships and shared, not fostered odd digital addictions and tried to be something that you’re not, nor developed self-doubt and lifestyle envy.

While this is certainly a profound and important message to deliver to individual consumers, brand managers and their respective social media managers may want to take a pause and reflect on what this means to their brand positioning on social. Your brand identity and tone of voice should not lean too heavily on social media to define it. Social media is a means to promote and extend your brand’s personality that you’ve created, not help find it.

That was the heart of the Miller campaign. It was about revamping, refocusing and reframing how it wanted consumers to see the brand.

It was much more than just a gimmicky, one-and-done campaign that grabbed some headlines. The message was more transcendent than that – it was about getting back to basics. It underscored the power of authentic, genuine, trustworthy relationships and friendships, and emphasised discovering ways for consumers to fall back in love with the brand, like they were before social media even existed.

A quote from Anup Shah, VP of the Miller family of brands, not only sums that up quite nicely but also makes interesting social commentary, “we know that today’s generation of new drinkers will spend more than five years of their lifetime on social media, and yet are only meeting up with their close friends less than a few times a month. By reintroducing Miller Time, we want to remind them that while social media is great, it’s no replacement for hanging out in-person.”

There’s a lesson there.

I’m, of course, not advocating going totally dark on social, because social media is still a critical marketing avenue that builds community and drives conversion. However, I implore you to take a step back and ask how does your brand stand out in a saturated world of digital addiction? Can you find a way to introduce company news or new products that doesn’t always center around social media? And, will, you be part of the problem, or the solution?

I’m also not suggesting that you try and replicate Miller’s campaign effort. They had the insight and fortitude to drive an entirely new direction. It was also very successful for the brand; after one week, the brand gained 5,000 followers and generated more than 620 million PR impressions

However, I would encourage you to consider that in a lot of ways, the scale, scope, and intensity of our digital lives is not necessarily healthy for brands, or for consumers. We know that social media will likely be a forever phenomenon that is ever evolving. So, how will you get consumers to forge real connections online with your brand?

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