‘All it takes is a few great tweets’ – The Great Social Misconception

By Lucy Callaghan – Social Media Director at Propaganda

“All it takes is a few great tweets”

This is a comment I hear regularly on the likes of LinkedIn and in marketing circles. See also, “social media built my brand” and “without Instagram, we wouldn’t be here”. All have the same sentiment, that social media is the one stop shop to creating a brand online. Get the social right, and everything else will follow.

I’m here to tell you it’s a trap. Sure, social media can help your brand, but it’s not the ONLY route to success, and it absolutely can’t be seen as an alternative to traditional marketing methods.

Brand 101 starts with.. a brand! And by brand, I mean an image, tone and product that will be recognised by consumers in a range of settings, be it supermarket shelf, TV advert or yes, an Instagram post. This together creates the brand concept. The brand then needs to act purposefully, give consumers something that they actually need, and have a product that actually works. Got all those things? You still won’t become a millionaire through social media. Nobody has heard of you yet*.

Once you have your brand concept, you need to tell people about it, in a consistent way. People forget things. Especially marketing material. So you have to repeat it. Over, and over again. In lots of different ways. Forever. Heinz means beans. Beans means Heinz. This line in various formats has bean (sorry) around since before Mark Zuckerberg was even born. It’s used in and out of Heinz’s advertising for the last 50 years, and with it has come consistent brand creative, all perpetuating the concept – “we are the market leader for beans.” See also “it has to be Heinz”.

When Heinz had their viral moment with Weetabix last year, it wasn’t successful because it was right place, right time, just some teenage social media exec in a dark room somewhere at Weetabix or Heinz HQ**. It was successful because they’ve had a whole half a century of brand consistency and loyalty under their big, beany belts. Beans means Heinz. Heinz means beans. The social media professional running the account thought of Heinz. You looked at a pile of beans perched inexplicably atop some Weetabix, and it made sense for it to be Heinz. Mission accomplished. The most powerful brand recognition survey you could ask for.

I’ll stop crapping on social media now, as it’s actually my job to do it, and it does have its place at the brand table. So here’s the point in the blog post where I start to big it up. Why do I tell my clients they need to be on social media? Well, creating a relationship with your customer is usually first reason. Influencing conversions, that’s another. Potential access to 2.3 billion people usually convinces the media buying sort. Social media can work throughout the customer funnel, from driving awareness through to taking action. But it can’t build a brand alone.

Brand building instead is achieved through consistency, purpose and delivering a reliable product that consumers will buy. That activity should be delivered across multiple channels, not just social, in order to hit your potential audience repeatedly in different settings, at different times and in different need states.

“But Glossier/Gymshark/[insert millennial start up here] did it!”

Did they? Or did they just tell you they did? Glossier actually launched after 4 years of market research from it’s founder, Emily Weiss, while she was interning at – wait for it – VOGUE, the largest circulating fashion magazine in the world.

Glossier’s organic social media feed alone did not lead them to become multimillion pound turnover business. Concentration on a lean D2C, digital-only offering with low overheads, 4 carefully researched (and healthy margined) launch products and savvy investment did.

Social supported the brand execution just like any other channel, and their affiliate marketing scheme literally paid users to promote the product. In short, investments were made here. Cash was parted with. It wasn’t ‘a few tweets’, it was 4 years of hard graft, business acumen and smart marketing which involved a social channel or two.

But, none of this would have worked if the social executions didn’t replicate the Glossier brand values, have the right ‘look’ (even if that look was diverse) and meet the brand’s brief.

Propaganda believe in brand first, social second. All it takes is some careful insight and discovery, brand positioning, brand concept, purposeful activity, quality product that solves a problem, AND THEN few great tweets.


*Unless you have your viral moment, which in itself isn’t a marketing strategy. It doesn’t happen to everyone, isn’t predictable, and is at the complete and utter behest of the social media platform itself. If you’ve experienced one though, congrats!

**A lesser known fact is that Weetabix tried this approach with several other FMCG brands before finding viral success with the beans combo.