The importance of brands in the social media sphere

On the Brand Storytelling podcast this week, we are joined by Gavin Heaton from Disruptor’s Handbook. Gavin shared his experiences on working with various brands throughout his career and how social media is playing a pivotal role in the current business landscape. 

Gavin also has roles with the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum and as his work as a board member with The Awesome Foundation

Download and listen to the full show and read below for a preview of Gavin’s insights. 

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Rakhal Ebeli: Do you think, given that we so often divert to understanding our audience personas that we then try and stand for something that marries into those audience personas and is a safe bet?

Gavin Heaton: That’s one way of doing it. Certainly, that might be the fake it till you make it part of persona building. In terms of actually developing an authentic voice and an authentic position, because what you find is that your customer service teams, your employees, they’re all customer-facing, eventually. If they’re not living the brand, if they’re not living the values of your brand, then they’re doing you a disservice in the marketplace. You need to make sure there is that alignment, because then it becomes authentic rather than something that you’re making up.

Rakhal: You spoke about GetUp, and obviously, with the federal election last weekend, and there’s so much activity around what GetUp are doing, tell our audience a little bit about that particular organisation, and what you love about what they’re doing with their own, I guess, what they stand for and how they communicate through their social channels.

Gavin: I guess what is interesting, from a storytelling point of you, to see how this plays out. I think brands can learn a lot from activist organisations. The activist organisations are looking for outcomes. They’re not looking for brand building, necessarily. They’re not looking for communications, ticks in the box. They’re not looking for a larger Facebook audience. They’re looking for outcomes that change something that is tangible, that changes someone’s decision, changes the way you think about the world, it changes the way you act in the world, and so on. I think there’s plenty of things we can learn, certainly, not just from places like GetUp, but organizations and even platforms that take a social activist view.

Rakhal: Yeah, it’s a fascinating time, when we’re starting to see brands stretch their legs, when it comes to having a voice, and even an opinion. So much of what brand storytelling is about these days is drawing back the curtains and actually giving some insights into who the people are behind the brand, what they stand for, what they do, what their position is on issues that are currently in political conversations. How much of that do you think brands need to pepper into their communications, and how would they then choose the right channels for communicating with the desired audiences?

Gavin: It all comes back to audience, again. I think the interesting thing about a political campaign, and to be honest, it’s been fascinating to see, over the last 8 years or so, how the digital strategies of the politicians and parties have changed. Back probably about 2 election cycles, there was no interest in this sort of activity. I’m the president of a youth organization called Vibewire, and they run an election wire campaign every single election where they cover the election from a youth perspective. In the first time we did it, no one took them seriously at all, and now it’s everywhere.

It’s kind of interesting to see how those shifts and changes are taking place, and we’re seeing politics leading the way in terms of how to do brand storytelling, how to do positioning, how to really engage your audiences, because you know what, your audiences are going to vote you in or out. The brands can learn from this. Looking and understanding almost like a politician, what’s your polling look like today? Is someone going to buy your stuff? That’s kind of the angle we need to be looking at, from a branding point of view.

The activist organisations are looking for outcomes. They’re not looking for brand building – Gavin Heaton

Then, understanding where they are. Are they on Facebook? Are they on Twitter? Is it a useful channel for them, and what are the characteristics of that channel? It’s pointless redirecting someone from a Twitter channel, for example, over to a website, if really what they want is an answer in 140 characters, not another link. It’s understanding the motivations and needs of your customers, understanding the channels and the way that they operate, and also understanding some of the nuances of what that means.


Opening music sourced from Australian TV commercials from 1993

Sensis Statistics

5 Key takeaways: 

1.  Activist organisations are having their voices heard through creative content. 

2. Be authentic in your storytelling – never lead your audience astray.

3. If your audience falls asleep when you start listing features and benefits, it’s time to spice up your storytelling. 

4. Political storytelling has been a key theme during the election cycle. How you engage your voters has never been more crucial. 

5. It’s all about testing and learning. How much time is your brand setting aside for strategy?

Connect with Gavin Heaton on social media and visit his website: 

Twitter: @servantofchaos