Pinging from tweet to tweet in my usual magpie-like ‘ooh that looks interesting’ sort of way has brought me to Coca-Cola’s Twitter page, and as all good Twitter pages should, it’s got me thinking.

A snapshot of what’s going on right now includes chatter about the Emmys, a straight ‘buy a promotional pack, enter the code to win’ type message, and lots of shout outs for Coke Studio South Africa.

You don’t have to be a marketing genius to work out what Coke’s up to in its usual highly effective way. But it did prompt a few questions…

Q: Does varying the content signal a sign of confusion as to how loyalty really works, or real understanding?

I may not be the witty storyteller I hear in my head, but I am capable of engaging people in conversation about more than one topic.

I hold different views. I change my mind. Occasionally I hold two opposing views about exactly the same thing at exactly the same time.

Should we expect companies to stick to one topic of conversation? No, no more than we should expect that from ourselves.

And when you do come across someone with one line of conversation, you know how boring that can be.

A variety of engagement strategies isn’t an automatic sign of confusion and mixed messages. On the contrary, it can show you’re working hard to make use of all that data segmentation.

Coca-Cola’s tweets are the perfect example of that. It’s not one note. Instead, it feels natural, despite (or because of) the variety of content.

Q: In your face or subtle?

Within the space of half a dozen tweets Coke dips into the ‘buy now’ bucket, then engages in a chat about the merits of Jon Hamm’s Mad Men Emmy win (at last).

Is one method of engagement more correct than the other? No. What matters is having one voice, not one rigidly held position about a narrowly defined set of subjects.

When companies adopt a single, unified voice it works.

When they don’t, there’s a schizophrenic edge to communications – and if you don’t know which voice is the authentic one, you have to assume none of them are.

Q: Do we really believe companies when they attempt to engage with us?

Consumers aren’t stupid. They know brands aren’t engaging with them for the love of it.

So do they believe it when companies do the virtual equivalent of snuggling up to them on the sofa and sharing the popcorn?

I’d suggest the answer lies in the traditional mechanics of human relationships rather than any clever algorithm.

Whether I engage with your brand at face value, or warily look at its attempts to engage in the same way that kids look at adults when they try to act cool, depends on what’s gone before.

  • Have you suddenly become friendly where previously you’ve kept me at arm’s length?
  • Do you only get in touch when you want something?
  • Are you saying one thing to me, but clearly demonstrating different values elsewhere?
  • Are you engaging? Or are you simply using a thin veneer of sentiment to try and sell me something?
  • Do you say thank you?

The people you really engage with are the people you trust. They’re authentic. They’re constant.

With centuries of programming to help us understand the genuine from the fake, it’s no surprise our antennae are so well attuned to falseness.

So, to misquote Google’s sometime motto, don’t be fake.

Instead, recognise that loyalty takes authenticity, a single voice, and a whole lot of personalised content that keeps people interested.

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