Harrowing Halloween tales of social media ghouls and monsters

By Hannah Coen 

Although social media can bring people together from all over the world to share ideas and stories, it can also bring out our most ghoulish tendencies, which is one of the many reasons why social media platforms are moving toward engagement models instead of vanity metrics (i.e. likes).

In fact, Instagram recently announced it would hide likes. Perish the thought. Before that, Facebook changed its News Feed algorithm to focus on quality interactions and to emphasize Facebook Groups. Even LinkedIn made a few changes this year, such as adding Facebook-style reactions so that you can do more than simply liking a post.

As we see the rate of users on legacy social media platforms decline (Facebook lost 15 million users in the last two years), we see the rise of new players like TikTok, which has 500 million users worldwide and saw its growth in the U.S. quadruple in one year. Users are switching to platforms that celebrate simplicity in life versus contention. So, regardless of the platform or style of content (video, imagery, text), we can expect a few things to remain constant as we watch social media platforms evolve: 1) people want quality content, 2) people want to hear from you, 3) people don’t want regurgitated information and 4) people expect a certain decorum from your brand.

Here are a few simple ways to make sure you’re not making your followers scream with fright and run away.

1) Don’t drain your followers.

Good-old Dracula may like to suck some blood on his night out on the town, but your followers don’t want to feel drained.

In other words, rather than talking AT your followers or spamming them with useless content, give them something useful. Your content marketing efforts should add value. According to Search Engine Journal and the Content Marketing Institute, 90% of the most successful content puts the needs of your followers above what you simply want to tell them.

If you aren’t sure that your content adds value, ask yourself these questions: Is it helpful? Is it educational? Is it meaningful? Is it unique? Is it participatory? Or is it entertaining?

If it’s not one of these things, try again.

2) Don’t ghost your followers.

Although you may want to take the lead character’s approach in the science-fiction novel The Invisible Man by sitting in your smoking cloak with a floating tobacco pipe, judging the world without engaging with it, that’s not how social media works.

Above all else, social media is a customer service channel, whether you like it or not. (Digital Marketing Institute) You don’t have the option (luxury?) to be non-responsive. Last year alone, 67% of customers used social media to contact customer service. According to Statista, 47% of U.S. consumers view brands more favorable that respond to customer service questions or complaints via social media.

Now, here’s the frightening part. Of those reaching out on social media, 80% expect a response within 24 hours.

3) Don’t steal from other monsters.

This seems simple enough – give credit where credit is due.

We colloquially refer to the monster in Mary Shelly’s novel as “Frankenstein.” However, there was no green giant with bolts in his neck. Dr. Frankenstein pieced together his creation, brought it to life, and eventually deserted his creation and own humanity. (So, really, who’s the monster here, Frankenstein? But, I digress).

Entities like Buzzfeed are well-known content curation engines, but in the spooky Halloween town of social media, even influencers can fall from grace by haphazardly sharing things without crediting sources or verifying information. Admittedly, social media has blurred the line of what is appropriate to share and how to best do so. However, ethical curation requires properly crediting the creator.

A quick test: if you didn’t create it or if you had to Google it, don’t post it without proper attribution. Point your followers to the original creator.

4) Don’t forget to dress for the party.

The social media masquerade is crowded, which is why it’s important that you dress as expected for the party. You wouldn’t see a resurrected Boris Karloff playing High Priest Imhotep donned in a lace corset and a feather boa.

Now that I’ve given you that mental image, here’s why presentation is important: whether it’s design elements such as colors or textual elements such as the correct word to create an appropriate tone, your followers should always be able to recognize you. After all, they followed you for a reason.

Although 75% of respondents to a Sprout Social survey see the value of brands showing humor, 88% are annoyed when brands mock fans. What this means is that not everyone can be snarky like the Twitter accounts of Wendy’s, Moon Pie or White Castle.

In short, even for holidays, stay true to your brand. Don’t hide behind a mask and be unrecognizable, and don’t chaotically follow a trend if it doesn’t match your brand and your mission.

Social media can offer a connection and a community. As long as you don’t act like a ghoul, you can find it. I encourage you to bring back the human element for why we all logged in so long ago: help people, engage with each other, create beauty and stay true to you.

I’ll leave you with this ditty from Shelly’s Frankenstein:

“It is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account, we shall be more attached to one another.” ― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Happy Halloween you monsters!

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