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How To Break The Fourth Wall On Social Media

Nathan Allebach
Nathan Allebach Creative Director
The Steak-umm Twitter Guy
Adweek Top 100 Creative

A quick Google search can get you all the latest trends, algorithms, or strategies to reach whatever social media goal you want, right? Self-appointed influencers and other social “experts” know exactly how to make your brand successful, right? Everyone thinks they have the answers on social media. Most of them are probably wrong. But we’re in the wild west, so really anything goes.

Prior to Wendy’s roasting people on Twitter, who was creating memorable, viral moments on social media? Sure, there have always been viral ads. We all anticipate most of them during the Super Bowl or holidays. But those are multimillion-dollar campaigns put out by the biggest corporations in the world. What about you? What can you afford to do on the ground level for your brand right now?

Outside of digital strategies to earn you impressions, engagements, likes, or follows, what is it that your brand should be after on social media? What happens when Facebook or Instagram tank and all those paid followers vanish overnight? This is where creating relationships and lasting memories come in. Advertisers need to go beyond platforms and traditional sell ads and into memorable moments and relationships if they want to survive this constantly evolving landscape.

If brands like Wendy’s or MoonPie are any indicator of how to master the recent social media puzzle, then the success for any brand begins with becoming personable, self-aware, and emotionally invoking. Not every brand can be sassy or funny. But every (good) brand can play on what separates them from their competition and stand out within their corner of the internet by breaking the fourth wall. The fourth wall has traditionally been understood as the imagined wall separating actors from an audience, or in this context, the person behind the brand, from the audience.

It’s 2018. People aren’t socially stupid anymore. They get it. Brands on social media are run by social media managers. People know this, and they pry at them for free goods and services, discounts, and use these platforms to demand an audience with the company. One of the ways to get ahead of this chaos is by proactively being personable. Show humanity. Provide a memorable experience. Be real. This is customer service 101 but something most brands have completely abandoned in the age of social. The last response anyone wants is one that sounds like it came from an automated bot.

Understand internet culture. The memes, language, history. We’re now over a decade into this strange new world. There’s a lot to pick up on. And on top of that, you have to stay self-aware. Perhaps the biggest mistake a brand can make online today is by getting overly defensive of their product or service. This is the “clap-back” era. If you want to turn around an insult thrown at your brand, throw a fun, light insult back at the person, be self-deprecating, or deflect with a fun comment off the subject.

Stop pretending you’re a computer program and if you are actually using a bot, stop that too (unless you’re a multibillion-dollar corporation and opts not to use manpower). Be human and find where your brand fits into internet culture at large whether that’s carving out a niche on Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, wherever. It’s not enough to put out “good content” and highly targeted ads anymore. People want an experience and if you’re not giving them that on the internet then you’re just another ad getting in their way.

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