Why A Lot Of Brand Social Content Sucks


As I sit down to write this post, I wish I could tell you exactly why a lot of brand social content sucks, but that would require some form of concrete evidence, of which I do not have for you.

Instead, I think it’s appropriate to share a few different ways that brands, in my opinion, fail when it comes to social.

These are by no means the only reasons, but they come to mind immediately when I think of the ways brands suck at social.

Terrified of Being Vilified

For every great piece of social content a brand shares, there is a Houston Rockets or Cleveland Cavaliers situation.

When brands see something like this happen, they freeze.

The public revolts. Media outlets drag their name through the mud. Calls go out for people to be fired. There is renewed interest in getting everything approved by legal.

It’s disappointing. But nobody wants to be the next brand to make a mistake on social media, so they play it safe instead of trying to create compelling content that will be consumed by their community.

Slaves to the Hashtag

If there’s a holiday coming up, you can bet your you-know-what a brand is going to jump into that conversation. But rather than creating something useful, they slap together a bland post so that they can be “part of the conversation”; a post that adds absolutely nothing to “the conversation.”

It’s checking the box in every sense of that term.

There is no rule that says you have to participate. If your brand doesn’t have a logical connection to said holiday (See below) it’s okay to ignore it.


Apathy for the Community

This is the one that drives me up a wall. If the brand is not setting out to drive conversation or solve a problem, why do they have a social presence in the first place? To gain as many followers as necessary so they can say they engage with a community of followers?

I hope that’s not the case.

Yeah, it’s great if you have 20,000 individuals following your account. But what’s the benefit if you’re just sharing shitty marketing images with lame hashtags in order to reach your post quota for the week?


In my humble opinion, brands should (and certainly have the capabilities to) go out of their way to create social content that their fans legitimately want to engage with and share with their friends.

Even something as simple as a creative GIF can be noteworthy when it’s done right. With the amount of resources most major brands have at their disposal, they have no excuse to create content that sucks.

If they’re mailing it in, Twitter would be better off without them.

That’s What He Read – February 22, 2013


My wife is a nurse. But outside of the hospital, we call her the vein whisperer because she is great at starting IVs. She’s, like, part of this IV S.W.A.T. team that rushes into the patient’s room, finds the vein, pokes it, and runs out.

In short, she’s really good at that part of her job.

And I think if we can learn one thing from my wife, it’s that you should find one thing in your profession that you are really good at, and stay better at it than everybody else. That way, there will always be a need for your services.

Now that I’ve blown your mind, check out these articles.

Creativity Tips From 5 Very Funny People (Inc.com) – “Cleese concludes, standing on the shoulders of scientists like Donald MacKinnon, that creative people are those who play at work. Play releases the creative spirit because play has no real purpose or end goal. Without a goal, there is no stress, and creativity can run riot.”

The Culture of Long Agency Hours (Digiday) – “Too often at agencies, it’s those staffers who work the longest hours that are deemed the most committed to the cause. The culture is one of bragging rights, in which she who logs the most time in the office is often deemed most important to the organization, despite the fact she might simply be inefficient. The system often rewards quantity over quality. And it trickles down.”

Subject Matter Experts Will Play A Big Part In The Future of Brand Journalism (Holtz Communication) – “It’s important to understand that SMEs-as-brand-journalists is part of the future. Great writers will always have value and companies will always be able to use them. But the idea of hiring writers to write about areas of expertise that are alien to them makes a lot less sense than teaching people who are already experts how to write well.”

18 Ways Your Office Job Is Destroying Your Body (Business Insider) – “Photocopiers are a source of potentially deadly ozone if the filter isn’t periodically changed, and even small amounts can cause chest pain and irritation. Laser printers do too, along with toner particles that can get in your lungs and blood stream, which could lead to lung disease and other ailments.”

Why Checking Facebook Makes Us Feel Bad About Ourselves (Fast Co.Design) – “Furthermore, of all envy a person experiences in their entire lives, users report that Facebook is causing about 20% of it, serving as what researchers call a ‘breeding ground’ for these feelings.”

That’s all for this week.
What did you read?

That’s What He Read – January 11, 2013


A word of advice to regular gym-goers: Do not go to the gym within the first two weeks of the New Year. You will only get angry at the people who are newly committed to shedding some extra pounds.

When I went to the gym on Tuesday night I knew I was in for a fight for a treadmill when I saw cars parked on top of the snow that had been pushed to the back of the parking lot, presumably where it wouldn’t affect the parking.

Silly gym.

I think there should be a wing in the gym reserved for those who think they are going to keep up their New Year’s fitness resolution. That way they can fight over the equipment while the rest of us diligent worker-outers can continue on our merry way.

p.s. I hate running.

Here’s what I read this week.

How Obama Won The Internet (Buzzfeed) – “This was a day of political-campaign and Internet firsts, the sitting president subjecting himself to a free- for-all question-and-answer session with a hardcore community of pot-smoking freedom junkies who hated drones and loved porn and had a keen interest in politics and the future. It was chaotically democratic, and something of a gamble.”

Innovating the Email Inbox – Without Deleting All (ReadWrite.com) – “Cue reports that average email response time lengthened from 2.2 days to 2.5 days. That’s not surprising given that Cue users wrote a staggering 41,368 email words on average in 2012, the equivalent of the 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies.”

Essential Creative Advice From Joss Whedon, Carrie Brownstein And Others (Fast Co.Create) – “The notion that you’ve arrived, I think, is–first of all, it’s probably false–but it’s also a bad place to make any kind of art. To have a sense of yourself as an impostor or an outsider kind of pushes you to not settle for something.”

2013, the year of storytelling (PandoDaily.com) – “This is why I think some of the most exciting startups in social media are the ones that help us make these small, fragmented pieces of content into richer stories. Every social media action we take contributes to what could be an incredible narrative. We’re creating a ton of content, but no one is really taking advantage of it.”

The 12 Rules of Instagram (BobbyHundreds.Tumblr) – “You know that babe you scooped off the Popular Page, the one with the strategic tattoos, great taste in music, and awesome third-person photos of herself alone in hipster hotel rooms or on-location for a modeling gig?  Who do you think is taking all those pix? Her boyfriend.”

That is literally all I have for this week.

What did you read?

That’s What He Read – January 4, 2013


My oldest daughter fell off of a kitchen chair over the holiday break and split her head open.

You haven’t experienced horror as a parent until you feel warm blood on your hand when you expected to find only a bump. As I pulled my hand away from the back of my daughter’s head and confirmed my worst fears, I felt, for the first time as a parent, true terror.

I like to think I’m a pretty steadfast dad, but this left me reeling.

Three staples in the head later, she’s as good as new, but I’m left with the certainty that I can’t be around her all the time for protection. She’s going to have some bumps and bruises along the way. I can only hope they’re minor and that she can bounce back, and that a gash in the back of her head is as bad as it ever gets.

On that note, here’s what I read when I wasn’t applying antibiotic cream to my daughter’s stitches.

“The Tinkerers”: How corporations kill creativity (Salon.com) – “The United States, with its highly disciplined approach to capitalism, invented the modern corporation and the marvelous, sleek objects it produces. Indeed, our processes have become so rationalized and efficient that we can produce new things that are cheaper than the old ones they replace. But as those wondrous corporations become bigger and more efficient, they conspire to take control of many of the outlets of our tinkering, threatening to snuff out the very creativity and brilliance that fueled the growth of those corporations.”

CES 2013: For Storytellers (Huffington Post) – “The age of the nerd is coming to an end. The nerds gave us all the tech. We are now in the age of the storyteller. The people/ companies that best use the tech, to tell stories, will be the most successful.”

8 Renegade Methods of Using Content Marketing to Dominate Your Industry in 2013 (The Sales Lion) – “Make it accessible to the masses. Invite the world in to see how you do what you do. And if you need the ultimate example, just see what McDonalds is doing to take transparency and trust to the next level, which is just another reason why every fast food company will always be second place in that industry.”

Journalism Is Not Narcissism (Gawker.com) – “Most people who decide to base their writing careers on stories about themselves end up like bands that used their entire lifetime’s worth of good material in their first album, and then sputtered uselessly when it came time for the follow-up. Sure, you can extract some thoughtful stories of humiliation from a college class. And sure, you can get some of them published. But that is not a career plan. Writing about yourself can be part of a balanced journalism diet, but it sure ain’t a whole fucking meal.”

Silencing the Smartphone (New York Times) – “So Mr. Chapman adopted what he called a BlackBerry blackout policy. He and his staff of about 20 turn off their BlackBerrys from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weekdays and completely on weekends for all work-related use, with rare exceptions. ‘When I’m well rested, I show up to work ready to go,’ he said.”

That’s what I read this week. What did you read? Did you scroll through all of the articles? If you did, leave a comment and tell me.


Flesh-Munching Zombies Can Fuel Your PR Campaign

It can be incredibly hard for PR pros to be creative.

We all have these grand ideas for the next viral video or unique ways to use new technology to tell our client’s story. But when we sit down to put those ideas in motion, we get bogged down by the minutiae that can plague our industry — time entry, six rounds of approvals, etc. — and our creative juices stop flowing.

It’s frustrating.

For a profession that prides ourselves on being creative, we sure are an extremely process-driven bunch, aren’t we?  So aggravating.

Sometimes it seems like a small miracle that we get to actually implement an idea here and there.

But fear not, fair readers. (All 17 of you.) There is a shining beacon of creativity that should give all of us hope for a better, more creative future.

And it’s the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

*record scratch*

Yep. The CDC.

Last May, they revealed “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.” It was an emergency preparedness guide taken to the next level.

With their tongue firmly planted in their cheek, the guide explained why it’s crucial to be prepared in the event of a zombie apocalyptic scenario, even going so far as to cite the Bible of surviving a zombie attack.

Oh, yeah: They also shared tips on how to prepare for real emergencies, too.

It was a brilliant PR strategy.

Emergency preparedness guides are boring.

Emergency preparedness guides with a pop culture twist are much more entertaining (and readable.)

(I’m not going to lie to you: I wish I’d thought of this.)

What really blew me away was the fact that a government agency would allow this idea to see the light of day. We think of large corporations and government entities as being dry and “by the book.” This was neither, which is probably why it got picked up by mainstream outlets.

To take it to the next level, they even released a graphic novel in October, just in time for NY Comic Con. A neat (and logical) next step in their continuing campaign to prepare people for emergencies.


This initiative proves that you don’t have to be a small, nimble agency to pull off a surprising PR campaign.

If it’s a good idea and fits the overall goals of the initiative, it can be done.

So the next time you find yourself doubting your idea before it has been presented, because you think it will be shot down, take heart.

And think about zombies.