Is Your Brand Strapped for Social “Cash”?

Believe it or not, a successful bank robber might have more in common with your company’s social media strategy than you think. Both are fabled to result in fast gains that will set you apart from your competitors – but without a long term plan, you’re probably not walking away with much.

Significance, the magazine published by The Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association published a study after leading economists gained rare access to data provided by the British Bankers’ Association. With this unique opportunity, the scientists investigated an oft-unexplored economic phenomenon: The robbery of English banks. Their findings revealed some very interesting discoveries; chief among them was the mediocre gains achieved by successful bank robbers.

According to the study, the average take in a British heist per person, per robbery was only £12,706.60, or the equivalent to six months average wage in the UK.

Taking several factors into consideration – the number of robbers, the presence of weaponry in the crime, the total amount lost by the bank – the study was conclusive in its findings: Robbing banks in England is a pretty poor career move.

These findings fly in the face of the smash and grab, get-rich-quick perception that has long been attached to bank heists. Perhaps it’s the cultural allure of crime; that unfamiliar, exotic, larger than life feeling that convince us the gains are worth the risk. Perhaps it’s the romanticizing of Dillinger or Hollywood’s Clive Owen. Either way, criminals are working very hard for very little.

So why should you care? Because your company might be doing the exact same thing.

Take a look around the marketplace and observe how many companies are using Facebook and Twitter like a one-stop-shop for instant relevance. For each new promotion and each new hit product, businesses run to these sites like they’ll be received as the second coming. They seem to forget that two months earlier they tried the same thing with a slower version of a similar product. Companies are failing to realize that these media channels are not static entities waiting for the next campaign. It’s equivalent to attempting to rob a bank for the fifth time.

Too often, the following scenario arises: Company X wants to draw attention to its latest product or service. In addition to their loyal customers, they want to create new buzz and capture the attention of that coveted 18 to 35 year old demographic. So, instead of spending time and crafting a social strategy, Company X chooses to “rob the banks” of Twitter or Facebook and get some quick attention. Two months later, the numbers are in, showing the campaign was “successful.” Lots of likes. Lots of retweets. Lots of friends. But in the end, those social nods mean nothing in terms of real dollars. The smash and grab approach doesn’t do much in the long run, much like our bank robber friends in the UK have found.

In many ways, the most popular social media sites are a lot like banks. If you make consistent deposits and few withdrawals, your balance grows. If your goal is to eventually make a huge withdrawal, you can’t smash and grab your way to the teller. Your organization must precipitously contribute quality content that convinces your audience that you’re worth their time. And while many businesses have seen success in social media promotion, it’s worth asking if your perceived gain looks less like the millions you imagined, and more like £12,706.60.

The economists who conducted the study concluded that successful English bank robbers get quick, but fairly mediocre wins. Likewise, the quick exposure on social media sites winds up being a fairly lukewarm approach if not complemented with a long term plan for good, quality content to share and promote. A great example is Sephora’s beauty talk program. In partnership with makeup artists and manufacturers, Sephora offer’s its audience beauty advice by leveraging YouTube for video tutorials and real-time advice and engages directly with their consumers via message boards and comments sections. They offer quality content that is frequent, appealing and valuable to its consumers. Another great example is Burberry’s use of Instagram. The 155-year-old fashion brand uses Instagram to not only promote new products, but also to give their fans an eye into some of the biggest fashion events happening around the world. These brands aren’t jamming a promotion in your face to get their latest jump in revenue; they’re putting in the time and work to create content that is engaging and valuable.

The solution for companies is to get a job. Put down the gun, and pick up an application. Certainly, organizations must continue to promote and share their latest campaigns, but in the interim they also need to keep providing quality content to audiences. Don’t run into the same bank screaming for cash every eight weeks. Instead, get a job and calmly make significant deposits each payday.

If brands make it a priority to dedicate the time, energy and manpower to quality content, then they’ll find that success on social media is well worth the work.

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