The Rule of Cool (Part 1)

Yesterday, I wrote about how I've been experiencing a bit of burn out on this blog. I've been thinking a lot about it, and I've decided that I'm going to change up the format for a little bit.

I'm going to take a brief hiatus from featuring great examples from the #hesm world and am instead going to write a series of posts about an over-arching philosophy I have come to develop when it comes to social media success.

I hope you don't mind, but it's going to be good for my mental health! Here goes nothing.


The Rule of Cool

For nearly a year now, I’ve been highlighting examples from higher education social media pages that I think are particularly effective.

When sifting through hundreds (thousands?) of posts from colleges and picking which ones I want to highlight, I gravitate towards things that are goofy, funny, creative, surprising, inspiring, challenging, authentic, and organic. But my number one criterion is that ephemeral je nais se quoi - cool.

Remember OK Soda? Judging by its dearth of sales, probably not.

But if we can all agree to look past the fact that OK Soda was a complete flop, it offers an important lesson for us working in higher ed: Sometimes, it’s better to be cool than to be good.

To wit: OK Soda was intentionally marketed at the difficult Generation X and Generation Y markets, and attempted to cash in on the group's existing disillusionment and disaffection with standard advertising campaigns; the concept was that the youth market was already aware that they were being manipulated by mass-media marketing… advertisers were very frank about the fact that they were marketing the drink entirely on the "feeling" rather than the taste. (Source: Wikipedia.)

Why the history lesson? Because our special little snowflake millennials are basically mutant versions of Gen X’ers – replete with the irony and self-obsession but minus the flannel and Doc Martens.

How do we market to a generation that that has not only been marketed to from the cradle, but voluntarily spends a significant amount of time (online, on social media) being constantly marketed to – not only by brands, but by their peers.

Everything around them is advertising, and they are – to borrow my least favorite Twitter bio words – ninjas, gurus, rockstars, and jedis at tuning it out.

Hearkening back to my English major roots (What, you thought I knew something about marketing? Nope!), all this perpetual advertising has led to the classic dilemma that led to postmodernism: Nothing is original.

And so the challenge for social media managers - What do you do when everything’s been done before?

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Part 2, coming tomorrow! Or maybe even later today.

The Rule of Cool (Part 2)

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