Blog post
September 12, 2019

Sustainable Social Media Hype

WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA HYPE?

In today’s digital age, hype is a powerful marketing tool on social media platforms. The social media sphere is often caught up in different waves of hype. Hype takes shape in the form of seemingly unending buzz around a particular new product, event, venue opening and so on.

As with many other marketing tactics, hype leverages on consumer behaviour. It feeds on consumers’ need to remain updated with the latest trends for fear of missing out. Hyped products are essentially portrayed as extremely desirable. This lays a self-imposed, societal pressure on users to be part of the action, resulting into a perpetuating cycle that feeds such hype.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO CREATE SUSTAINABLE HYPE?

Yes. Some definitions of hype attach the time element to it – hype will ultimately die off over time. This is true to a certain extent, but hype can be sustainable if executed strategically.

HOW TO CREATE SUSTAINABLE HYPE?

1. MAKE YOUR MARKETING ACTIVITY PERIODICAL

Marketing campaigns that have proven to be successful can be brought back periodically. For instance, Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day takes place annually in April. This has been a tradition since 1979. Due to repeated editions of this event, Ben & Jerry’s has successfully crafted a mental note in the minds of its consumers. As a result, the Free Cone Day has since become an annual sustainable hype that Ben & Jerry’s fans participate in. What marketers can learn from Ben & Jerry’s is to leverage on successful marketing campaigns, making it a periodic event that consumers can look forward to.  

2. HOLISTIC PORTRAYAL

Hype does not necessarily have to be of a particular campaign. Instead, hype can be tied to a brand name. If consumers conclude that the hype created by a certain brand is not substantial, they will tend to switch off when it comes to future hype generated from that brand. This stems from the lack of trust in a brand’s marketing tactics and reduces the desired impact of marketing activities.

Hence, it is essential for brands to paint a holistic portrayal of the product or event that they are advertising. This might seem like an arduous task as marketers tend to showcase the best aspects of the subject in hand. That might seem strategic. However, if the audience are often left feeling disappointed due to the inflated expectations, they might grow to be skeptical of future marketing hype. Hence, brands have to find the balance between unrealistic portrayals and enticing marketing.

3. THE USE OF TRIGGERS

Triggers are cues that lead to certain behavior, which in turn reward the behavior. This is called the habit loop (Triggers -> Behavior -> Reward).  Triggers can be internal or external. Internal triggers lie inside the consumers’ minds and emotions. For instance, people often find themselves opening the Instagram application when they are bored. Boredom is the internal trigger that cues them to scroll through Instagram. On the other hand, external triggers are cues in the environment. It can come in different forms, such as paid advertisements and mobile notifications.

Marketers often take advantage of this habit loop by positioning its product or service in the loop. Some restaurants have special promotions on a specific day of the week. If Restaurant A has special promotions on every Wednesday that will be announced on their Facebook page, fans of the restaurant will tend to check out the Facebook page on Wednesdays. The day (Wednesday) is the trigger which leads to the behavior of checking out the restaurant’s Facebook page. In turn, consumers will be rewarded with the knowledge of the promotion and ultimately the actual promotion itself if they decide to dine at the restaurant.

Hence, triggers help to generate hype around long-running promotions to sustain it (though the volume of hype might not be phenomenal).

TO USE HYPE AS A MARKETING TOOL, BRANDS MUST BE ABLE TO LIVE UP TO THE HEIGHTENED EXPECTATIONS

Hype is clearly a useful tool in brand marketing – but caution must be taken when generating hype as it can play out as a double-edged sword. With all the buzz and attention, can the product live up to heightened expectations? The consumer’s experience must specifically be taken into account as that would set the tone for other prospective consumers, image of the brand, and the relationship the brand has with its customers.

All in all, the consumer’s experiences must have a positive output in order to reap benefits from social media hype. Should reality fall short from expectations, brand image may suffer and overwhelming hype may backfire upon the product and the brand itself.

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