Why breaking the rules can lead to social success

Posted on July 4th, by Tom in Blog, Social Media. Comments Off


When I was at CHOICE we spent a lot of time researching ‘best practices’ for digital media and thinking about how we can create positive change by engaging more effectively with our community on social media. Like you, we would clearly define target demographics for each campaign and investigation, map user journeys, test our messaging and tailor-make content for each digital platform. Sometimes though, our most effective campaigns would throw all those ‘best practices’ out the window. We’ve found that breaking the rules can separate you from the crowd and lead to success.

Here are three examples of how we broke social media conventions and why it was successful:

  1. Putting valuable information ahead of Facebook’s advertising restrictions

When we broke the findings of our Takata airbag investigation, our aim was to get details of the car makes and models with potentially lethal airbags to as many people as possible. To be able to boost a Facebook post, the design must be limited to Facebook’s 20% text advertising restriction. We broke this rule, putting valuable detailed information people needed to see ahead of Facebook’s requirement. Although we couldn’t pay Facebook to boost the information, the post featuring the a list of makes and models of affected vehicles is the most successful post in terms of audience reach and engagement we have created:


  1. Creating a long-form video that effectively conveys community frustration

Let’s face it, aside from the odd lawyer, no one reads the full terms and conditions of a product or service before they sign up online. So to illustrate the problem of complex terms and conditions, we filmed an actor attempting to read Amazon Kindle’s fine print. For the record, it took more than nine hours and although some practitioners claim social videos should be less than 12 seconds, we created a video series with clips ranging from 1 minute 18 seconds to a series of nine, one-hour features.

Our focus on the frustration the actor felt when having to read the technical T&Cs for hours resonated with our audience. The video was widely shared and watched by thousands of people. It also went on to feature in an international exhibition. Here’s the first hour-long episode. And for those who can’t sit through the pain, here’s the summary.


  1. Being spontaneous and flexible enough to link your agenda to the social news cycle

As a rule, it pays to plan your approach to social engagement, but being ready to jump on the back of emerging social news cycles can really pay off. Although not without risk, being spontaneous and flexible allows us to leverage our campaigns on the back of developing news stories. In the case of the frozen berries fiasco, this ultimately helped create changes to Australia’s country of origin laws as more and more people shared our post in a bid to find out where their food was coming from:


In Summary

It’s never been easier to test ideas that contradict conventional wisdom. If you have a concept that doesn’t meet Facebook’s advertising guidelines, a video that would be considered too long to watch in a social feed, or you can see an opportunity to jump on an emerging news story – don’t hesitate.

Which campaigns have you seen or been part of that successfully break the mould? Are you seeing particular types of posts cut-through? I’d love to hear your stories from the trenches.

  1. This article was published first on Linkedin. If you’re interested in Linkedin’s best practices when creating articles, here are four tips:
  • Create a headline with a number and that asks ‘how?’ and ‘why?’
  • Choose a bold lead image
  • Write between 500 and 900 words
  • Ask a question at the end to help drive engagement.

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