by Drew Kobb
You may wonder what your startup company can learn about social media from the massive, multinational corporate conglomeration – and might I add, the fictional – Goliath National Bank. In case you’re not familiar with GNB, you should know that it’s the mysterious corporation that Barney Stinson works for on the show How I Met Your Mother.
Now, the answer to that opening question is that your startup company can learn a number of things, actually. Some of them show you what you should do or need to do; others, what you should not do.
Since we’re all busy, let’s jump right in:
What Not to Do
At least 90% of communication with Goliath National Bank involves lawyers. It’s the reason that most of the named characters we see at Goliath are, in fact, lawyers. Most of what we see of Goliathislitigation, or talk of litigation, and Barney spends most of any given workday shredding documents so as not to implicate Goliath in any unseemly activities.
The only time we see Goliath branch out to the community is when they’re trying to calm the firestorm around their new GNB headquarters construction project. Barney attempts to corral Marshall into delivering the line, “I care about making dreams come true,” but that’s just the sort of formal and formulaic, stale and naïvely idealistic marketing campaign that no one buys anymore (if they ever did).
Instead, you should take tips from Oreo. Go look at their Twitter feed and #RulesoftheDunk and try telling me they’re formal. I’ll wait.
You’ve got to be more like Oreo. Drop the faceless corporate act and talk like the people your company comprises. Formalities keep people at arm’s length. Remember: it’s social media.
Ignore Outrage and Criticism
The other huge mistake that Goliath National Bank makes, and to which I’ve already alluded, is that they ignore outrage and criticism. Instead of addressing the concerns and critiques of those protesting the new GNB headquarters, Goliath settles for the indirection of a commercial full of meaningless platitudes. And do you know what that did? It only hardened the resolves of Zoey and the other protesters (minus Ted’s students, anyway).
Instead, take a tip from CEO Rick Schaden and Smashburger. The odds are good that no one’s going to claim Smashburger is hilarious, but they’re informal, sponsor plenty of contests, and most importantly, they respond to criticism swiftly and respectfully. Their Twitter feed – like any similar national business – contains customer tweets describing bad customer experiences; however, instead of ignoring them, they jump right in – addressing the customer directly – and offer to rectify the situation
The last thing you want is for a post to misrepresent your company, or worse, to self-sabotage your social media endeavors. Ted makes the mistake of badmouthing GNB, and Zoey records the whole rant. Luckily for Ted, Zoey opts to keep her evidence to herself, but it’s (obviously) best to avoid any situations like that in the first place.
One of the most widely known examples of a counterproductive tweet comes from the Red Cross. One employee made the mistake of tweeting something clearly meant for his personal account on the Red Cross’s official account: “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd.”
In addition to not sending out personal tweets to your company’s Twitter (or other social media platform), you have to be aware of what your audience’s beliefs and personalities. If you’re in the business of building custom wooden furniture, and your customer base is mostly older individuals, it’s more than likely not a great idea to post a photo of keg stand – even if you can highlight the fact that your custom cabinet’s in the background. It’s a great idea to try and branch out to other potential customer bases, but you need to ease your way in.
By the way, if you do post something people reject, admit your mistake and follow in Red Cross’s footsteps: “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.” They knew about the faux pas, they admitted it, and then they spun it into a half-joke, half-PSA against drunk driving. Perfect execution.
What to Do
It seems like everywhere the How I Met Your Mother gang turn, there’s a Goliath National Bank branch or ATM. In the episode “The Best Burger in New York,” it’s revealed that the GNB has over 4000 ATMs. Since we’re talking about social media though, let’s look at GNB’s online presence: they have a Facebook, a Twitter, and a website (this last is under construction). Heck, they even have an Instagram account. For a fictional company, they’re doing rather well in the online saturation department.
You need at least as many online fronts as Goliath National Bank. Period. In addition to your company website, you need a blog, a Facebook, and a Twitter. These are the online presences most likely to lead to company exposure and overall customer conversions. By the way, simply having a presence isn’t enough: you need to be consistently active. Blog weekly, post news and shareable images to Facebook once or twice a week, and tweet anywhere between 2-5 times a day.
Show Your Personality and Personal Brand of Hilarity
I’ve put this under “What to Do,” but How I Met Your Mother’s portrayal of GNB lends itself to either category. On the one hand, the in-show corporate façade is stiff, even stagnating, but on the other hand, CBS’s portrayal of How I Met Your Mother is delightful. Perhaps the coup de grace is the Employee Transition Room, or ETR as it’s often referred to. Nothing quite encapsulates “parody-corporation” like a set of identical rooms on each floor set aside solely for firing employees. The GNB commercial describing how much GNB hopes to fulfill the dreams of its patrons tells us all we need to know about GNB’s personality. Granted, it’d never fly in the real world, at least not un-ironically, but I think we can all imagine that sort of ridiculousness.
And in real-life, it’s not only the fun brands – like the aforementioned Oreo – that get in on the hilarity. Take Intel. Intel isn’t exactly what I picture when I picture big brand being funny. (I’m far more likely to picture a tech company like Google for that sort of thing.) In addition to the usual pro-brand articles, Intel posts fun facts, celebratory pictures, and HTML jokes (“Fill in the blank = <strong> like an ox”).
Show your personality and have fun. Post pictures of company parties. Toss out fun facts related to your industry. Tell jokes about the business. Don’t be afraid to create your own hashtag. They’re not just for those big brands. Get creative. If you’re an exterminator, don’t be afraid to get the #SignsYouNeedAnExterminator tag going. Start with a picture of a Xenomorph from the Alien franchise. There are plenty of evil aliens in film, so you can put up similar images for weeks to come. Post other, more standard fare, but also include funny material that’s shareable. As soon as it seems to be taking off, don’t be afraid to post a picture of your younger (but fully grown) brother too – followed by a funny retraction.
There you have it: 5 social media lessons courtesy of Goliath National Bank. Get out there and take them to heart.
Drew Kobb, in addition to studying civil law, loves long distance running and considers himself a health and fitness enthusiast. His interests range all over the medical field, and Drew highlights that range on his blog, Dr. Ouch.