I was going about my routine day in NYC last week when I stumbled upon a blog post by my cousin, Austin. In absolute shock, I read through his incredibly raw, unfiltered account of what it felt like to be about to turn 30 years old (Read here). While I've always connected with Austin on a professional level since we both are in the same industry, I never knew what an amazingly personal, intimate writer he was. His post left me feeling like he had said absolutely everything I would want to say after hittingthree decades on earth. What hit me most about his post, was that he had no qualms pulling back the current and letting the world know what he's not necessarily where "society" would place him at 30 --> He's single, hasn't given our grandparents their first set of great-grandchildren yet (come on, man) and still doesn't entirely know where he wants to live.
See, Austin brought up some great topics that we all just seem a bit uncomfortable bringing up at the cocktail party. I mean, aren't we supposed to be bright, smiling human beings that are perfectly content married with 1.7 children? Who really admits straight-up that they don't have it figured out? And, to go even more in-depth, who is defining this norm that is all "figured out"? To be quite honest, I ended up in an abusive marriage because I was so keen on living up to societal pressures and got married at 25. Surviving that has been one of my greatest triumphsin life, and has led to an incredible year of self-discovery and realizing just how strong I truly am in my faith and walk with God. I also lost a sister when I was 23 years old, two weeks into my very first job out of college in NYC. I received the call on a Sunday night, when I was alone in my apartment, and my friends were all out of town. Having gone through experiences like those in life, marketers have to work a lot harder to get me to connect with them on my personal, social media networks.
Marketers should be cautious not to get too caught up in the norm. I cannot tell you how many meetings I have been in where weddings have popped up as the number one creative idea, quickly followed by appealing to professionals that are just so obsessed with their fancy jobs. Admittedly, it would be nice to put all social media targets into a nice little box and tie it with a nice little bow. Also admittedly, I know for sure that my box has a bit of a different content mix than what the "norm" would put in it. Wedding dresses don't send the euphoric message to me as many marketers out there think they do, and photos of happy siblings don't strike the same cord they once did for me. I want to see empowered women, supporting themselves and inspiring others. I want to see families that have survived tragedy to come out stronger on the other side.
The fact is, I don't care who you are --> Your life cannot be put into a neat little box. Life is messy in the most beautiful way, and the type of messaging that is thriving out there on social media is the messaging that captures the beauty in overcoming, in surviving, in carving your own path.
Stop thinking of stock photo categories as creative ideas, and start doing brainstorms around what people in your own office have encountered in their own lives. Start implementing some social listening around what people are really talking about out there. You'll be surprised to find it's not what your textbooks tell you it is.
As for Austin, my grandparents could care less that he has yet to give them great-grandchildren (although, I wish he would get on it so they would stop pressuring me now ;) J/K). My entire family is happy because Austin is out there living life Austin's way, not society's way, and that is the most important thing to the Sherman/Vosler clan. I strongly believe marketers would also be happier if they started acknowledging that each consumer lives their life THEIR way, and not the stereotypical way, and started connecting on a one-on-one level.
Social media isn't just about following what has been the norm. If it was, than it would not exist today. After all, social media itselftook the brave step out of the "norm" and created one of the most effective medias of the Millennium.
Start understanding where your consumers truly are coming from in life, and connect with those experiences --> not the ones the "norm" feeds you.
- Marji J. Sherman