The Seductive Horror of the Social Octopus
Jun 13, 2016
Awhile back I came up with this idea to short circuit the whole customer reference process.
We all know how powerful testimonials can be (a TechValidate study found that 94% of B2B marketing and sales professionals rated content from real customers as “very effective” or “extremely effective”) but they’re also some of the hardest content to get—just try to get a customer to talk on camera about a past data breach to promote your new security software.
So you can imagine my frustration when I would see B2B customers saying awesome things about my client in the press, but would never agree to a full-on marketing reference.
That’s when it hit me – I’d just create new content from stuff they’d already said publicly. I’d use pull quotes from articles, clips from YouTube, audio from interviews—I’d just package it all together. Everything I needed was already there.
I mentioned the idea to my ridiculously smart strategy coworker, Steven Keith, and he instantly fired back one of his trademark Steven-isms: “You’re braiding the octopus.”
Braiding the octopus…yeah. So I spent a little time figuring out the legal, ethical and client relationship hazards of this approach and ultimately decided it probably wasn’t worth it. But the octopus didn’t die.
Like all agencies, Centerline is working with clients to figure out their overall social strategies. What channels are their customers already using? What about their influencers? What type content and tone works best on those channels? How do we use those channels together in a coordinated way to get customers engaged and further down the funnel? Ah-ha—there was the octopus again.
In trying to describe the solution on a client call, I remembered Steven’s phrase. What if each channel was a tentacle of a social octopus? Each sticky in its own way. Each working together for the overall brand. It was simple. It was catchy. It was…stupid?
Marketing people are schizophrenic. We both celebrate and loathe marketing speak. Ideation. Pivot. Snackable. These are words I’d rather drink a draino daiquiri than use (for a great list, check out this fun LinkedIn article). Yet I use these words all the time with clients.
One of my favorite pastimes is to come up with eye-roll worthy terms—Solutioneering! Out-o-vate!—and use them around the office to the weary groans of my co-workers. But with the social octopus, I’d found my white whale.
Folks at Centerline weren’t just mildly annoyed when I mentioned the octopus, they were actually pissed—like singing Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping at the beginning of a meeting kind of pissed. What made it worse—for them—was that every time I mentioned braiding the social octopus to a client, it was immediately picked up. Clients love the octopus.
But does that make it right?
If we can quickly demonstrate the value of an integrated, channel appropriate social strategy with cartoon cephalopod, should we refuse to do so for some moral marketing high ground? Is there any real reason not to hitch our wagon to this undersea star?
I think the danger comes when the buzzword overtakes the tough business challenge we’re trying to solve. I hear all the time how clients want more “snackable” content—but why? Is a bite size piece of content always appropriate for a specific audience in a particular phase of the buyer’s journey? Clients might want to buy a social octopus—but that’s because it sounds like an easy answer to a serious customer engagement riddle. I need to offer better solutions than that.
And really…could I really go through life being the social octopus guy?
I mean, I’m not sure who actually coined the term “snackable,” but if there is any justice he or she is being hunted down by the skip-tracing love child of Dog the Bounty Hunter and Jim Rockford to be summarily thrown into a pit of rusty lime-tipped chainsaws. It’s one thing to be the office rube. It’s another to be a full-on marketing industry pariah.
So, die social octopus! A thousand curses on your bulbous, squishy (easy-to-understand) head! I refuse to even Instagram a plate of exceptional calamari. Because marketers can be better than buzzwords—even when it’s easier not to be.