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In the rush for more Likes, Comments and Shares on Facebook, it's tempting to dumb down.

But could underestimating your fans backfire, or even damage your brand?


"If you like the Olympics - Like us!" 

We've all seen them. They are blatant, unashamed and pushy. They provide a spurious and pointless reason for you to share the Page with your friends and they make you wonder who has the time to peddle such nonsense.

Do they really work, though, and what effect do they have on your brand?

Since the adoption of Facebook by brands, a panoply of engagment marketing techniques have emerged. Some seemingly stupid ideas, such as Heineken's offer to blow up a balloon for every new fan, have attracted thousands of new fans and been genuinely engaging. But a question remains over less creative tactics.

Nescafe, for example, recently held a polls to ask their fans: "How do you hold your NESCAFÉ mug?" with optional answers (a) left hand (b) right hand (b) both hands, or (d) I use a straw. While Skoda, a brand with a strong pedigree of smart advertising, asks its fans "When was the last time you washed your ŠKODA?". 

Although seemingly mind-numbing to the average person, the Nescafe poll attracted over 1,500 responses and the Skoda question received over 1500 Likes and 150 comments.

As Dom Dwight, who manages the highly successful Facebook Page for Yorskshire Tea, said at Facebook Marketing London in July,  "It's the light-touch posts that really work", citing a single post that simply said: "Time for a proper brew. Who's with me?" which generated hundreds of Likes, Comments and Shares.

It seems that within a loyal fan-base, even the most mundane of requests can trigger an avalanche of word-of-mouth referrals. Perhaps it's how you go about it that matters. It may well be possible to draw a line between light-touch but brand-related posts, which are more acceptable, as opposed to completely unrelated and cynical ploys, like many of the Olympics examples we witnessed during the summer.

Yet the backlash to dumbing down has started. Jon Morter, best known for his amazing Rage Against the X-Factor campaign, recently launched a Facebook Page devoted entirely to the cause of outing condescending and crass Facebook engagement tactics. The page features a Wall of Shame where fans are invited to share examples of blithering and pointless posts they've seen on the network. 

It makes for hilarious, if painful, reading for many brands and makes you wonder how many people are put off Liking (or un-Like) brands as a result of seemingly condescending or cynical ploys to lure them into engaging.

Are these examples of companies simply talking to customers in friendly, every-day terms - after all, there's probably a limited number of truly interesting things you can say about instant coffee or tea-bags - or will consumers gradually get wise to "engagement tactics" and switch off altogether, just as they have with advertising?

Luke Brynley-Jones will be hosting a lively discussion between Dom Dwight (Yorkshire Tea), Jon Morter (Big Other), Sharon Flaherty (Confused.com) and Tom Ollerton (We Are Social) on this topic at Social Media Marketing 2012 (London) on 25th Oct.

Luke Brynley-Jones

Published 2 October, 2012 by Luke Brynley-Jones

Luke Brynley-Jones is Founder at Our Social Times and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

12 more posts from this author

Comments (15)

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Andrew Lloyd Gordon

Andrew Lloyd Gordon, Digital Marketing Expert, Speaker and Trainer at New Terrain Limited

I think what's right for one product or service will be condescending for another. The proper balance needs to be explored, through experimentation, between the brand and its customer base.

There's also a danger that, without understanding this relationship, arrogant judgements from afar about what is or isn't condescending could be made. It's a bit like how you can't understand why a TV programme, book, music record, band etc can be so popular when, 'Why can't everyone (else) see just how bad this is?!'

However, too many trivial posts run the risk of becoming boring. Something that's novel and funny - and works well to begin with - cannot be repeated again and again.

Of course, the real question is, even if an 'engagement strategy' works and people respond to a silly request via Facebook and Twitter, does this actually lead to increased brand awareness, purchase intent, sales and loyalty?

about 4 years ago

Robin Houghton

Robin Houghton, Director at Eggbox Marketing

I have a client who uses these kinds of 'silly' posts on Facebook to build a real sense of community. It started by accident when the MD shared a couple of photos he found funny, and now people can't seem to get enough of it. The conversations flow more readily - not just the social stuff but actual customer enquiries. People want to buy from the company because they have a good feeling about them - these are people who laugh at the same things they do and don't push promotions at them on social networks. When you're an SME selling commoditised products you can't afford to compete on price, so you need to appeal at a more emotional level, by creating community bonds. It can work. It doesn't fit into the standard 'marketing campaign' way of thinking, but it's sustainable and it's how social media works.

about 4 years ago


Nick Stamoulis

I think you need to have a mix of the light touch points and more in-depth questions, but they do need to stay mostly on point. A one off post/photo/video every now and then is fine, but don't let it overwhelm the rest of your messaging.

about 4 years ago


Amy Nicholson, Head of Editorial Client Services at Sticky Content

Not so much a backlash as a gentle satire, this is nonetheless good evidence that as soon as we stop thinking about people and start thinking only of 'engaging with users', we're going to end up with stuff that patronises, bores and infuriates.

Social media content is the same as on any other medium - if it doesn't have a real, solid purpose and value to a defined group of people, you can do more harm than good by publishing it. Have a good content strategy and use it!

about 4 years ago

Amit Kishore

Amit Kishore, Principal Consultant - Digital Marketing Platform at Infosys Technologies Ltd.

I would like to look at some of the examples in the post above from the perspective of how us humans interact with each other on Facebook rather than how brands engage with humans on Facebook.
Some of the seemingly "stupid" posts described above are exactly what we post on our own status updates once in a while and these are what attracts, at times, some serious love from our group of friends. Its because we are social by nature and we can relate to what has been described above as light touch.
And I always say this to whoever wants to listen - if you can't be social, don't be on Facebook, irrespective of whether you are a human being or a brand.

about 4 years ago

Luke Brynley-Jones

Luke Brynley-Jones, Founder at Our Social Times

Thanks for the comments guys. While I do have genuine concerns about the more cynical, "Like us please" type posts, I would agree that light touch updates do provide a kind of community 'glue' that is valuable in itself. It's a topic we'll be discussing at SMM12 London in more depth - so I'll be sure to feed your views into the panel.

about 4 years ago


Sam H

Ironically, the 'Condescending Corporate Brand Page' achieves what many brands are striving to: engagement associated with a shared passion.

To me, what he's posting is just as annoying as many of the brand pages, and I wouldn't dream of 'liking' the page for his anti-condescending condescending tone

The reality is, what that page has achieved is awareness of a cause*, engagement around a shared passion or topic and very shareable content (for the right audience

*sub out 'cause' here and replace with 'brand' and you get, in a nutshell, the Facebook results that many social strategies pursue.

As a note, I work as a creative social strategist and it's often my role to discern the correct tone, voice and subsequent content plan for many brands. Part of that discernment often (but not always) involves avoiding the aforementioned 'silly' posts in an effort to pre-empt a backlash and begin to offer actual value for our audience.

about 4 years ago

toby chishick

toby chishick, UK Account Manager - Social Media Centre at Samsung

It's tricky to get the balance right sometimes but from my experience 'casual posts' (as we call them) are the most successful with our communities but tone is key and you have to be sensible - a lot of brands take casual posts too far, i.e. 'click like if you had a birthday last year and share if you have a birthday this year' - don't insult your audience's intelligence or they will publicly mock you for it.

about 4 years ago


Dave Lowe

I think there's a few things to be aware of here. I treat posting on social networks to some extent like having a conversation with friends - too many jokes annoy them, being too serious bores them, striking a balance keeps the conversation interesting.

It sounds like Jon Morter is a bit of a hypocrite - is he not guilty of the crime he accuses brands of? His 'success' with Rage Against... has led him to trot out the same tactic and try to appeal to the same cynicism in the public.

One thing's for certain in all examples: variety is the key to engagement and keeps humans, not users, entertained.

about 4 years ago



Great insights as why people share information and why it blends. I believe right Social media strategy is also a tool to increase the search engine optimization information.

A very clear and step by step post- as how to initiate the social media strategy in order to keep the points which is required.

about 4 years ago



Great Post- Its like Minimum Viable Product philosophy presented for successful social media marketing strategies.

about 4 years ago



Good Post. Social media strategy is really helpful for building link strategies. Social is really important for all brands in the current market,

about 4 years ago

George Cathcart

George Cathcart, UK Community Manager - Social Media Centre at Threepipe

I guess you have to ask what is the point of running a Facebook page? If you have to get certain marketing messages out but don't have any 'light relief' content pieces then you will just alienate and annoy your audience. There has to be something in it for them and that's where these 'silly' and I guess sometimes border-line condescending posts come in. By the same token, if that is all you do then the same will happen. Like others above have said it's as much about balance as it is about anything else.

about 4 years ago



Some interesting points raised here. I'd certainly agree that variety is the spice of life, and so it should be too in online conversation. Is there a line drawn when it comes to what can be posted? No I don't think so. If brands want to update their fans with posts of zero value then let them, it's not a case of "you are wrong for posting this", it's just a bit of satire as Amy has put it, that's all. It's a result of me and a few friends where all of us happen to work within 'social' that were sending each other these type of posts quite a lot in amusement. It culminated in the CCBP being set up with us all as admins. Once Mashable, FastCo, FT, and others started to blog it the numbers went way higher than any of us expected.

Bear in mind that it wasn't intended just to solely poke at brands and/or their strategies...there are quite a lot of Facebook users out there who seem to love these sort of posts. A drinks company posted a picture of a Banana asking their fans to like the post. About THREE THOUSAND people 'liked' it for reasons we just couldn't fathom.

Perversely a couple of big(ish) brands have got in touch saying they like it, and even one of the brands we re-posted dropped us a message saying 'okay fair enough you actually have a good point there'!

Criticism? Yes there's been that too. I can't speak for the other admins but the only complaints I've had in front of me were both from Online Marketing professionals...

about 4 years ago


cygnis media

Thanks for your thoughts but social media marketing is the new future now.

almost 4 years ago

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