Brands Online: By The Heart Or By The Metrics

“Whoooa, how amazing is this?”
“I want this.”
“These guys are nailing it!”

These reactions are what happens when you’re going through your social media feeds, and something catches your attention.
These reactions are what brands strive for.
Yet, behind the scenes, these might be the result of a 6-figure campaign budget, or the lone efforts of a one-person team.

Can you tell the difference?

When starting a business or taking it online for the first time – because, believe it or not, there are still businesses without existing websites, Facebook pages, or Instagram profiles – I always communicate all the options that are available to and try to figure out which course is the best to take.

So far, I managed to categorize all the clients into two groups.

You can stare, but I won’t care

People in this group know what they want, how they want to do it, and they don’t care what anyone thinks about their work.

This may come off as quite egotistic, but it really isn’t. They just don’t want anyone else telling their story. Most often, they are doing amazing work when it comes to infusing online spirit into their branding.


Because usually the owner or the founder is the one handling the company’s online presence. This person knows everything about the idea, how it breathes and lives. That’s why this person is the most suited to carry out their vision into the online world.

It goes without saying that I’m talking about real agencies and businesses where people aren’t stubborn, but have a clear idea and understanding of beauty and good design.

I used to question such an approach. I remember the time when a small business appeared on the market, and they were getting more and more popular – but their photographs were grainy, out of focus, lacking in colors, taken with a cheap phone. Their copy was plain and unentertaining.

I contacted them and offered my professional services. They declined. To my surprise, they said they have a professional photographer and designer. But they use artwork produced by them only for appearances in magazines and billboards. They prefer their social accounts to stay just the way they are. I found out later that I was talking with the founder.

From time to time, I check up on them. They’re doing great. It’s their style, and you can like it or not. To my surprise, people still do.

This is not an isolated case. There are plenty of such businesses who prefer their own voice to be heard without the hustle and bustle of agencies and marketing strategists. Following these businesses on social media helps me understand how different types of visual content resonate with the audience.

The privilege of doing this – taking care of your social media channels by yourself, as you see fit, usually belongs to three types of people.
First, to the founders of small businesses, who have enough time to handle their online presence by themselves. Second, to those highly driven by the idea of sharing their mission and passion. And third, the artists. Their approach often baffles me, but also helps with my learning curve.

Art first. Source: @wetransfer

What do the numbers say? “Talk KPIs to me!”

Numbers, metrics, analytics, reports.
This is the approach people use most often when it comes to their brands and online presence.

There are teams and teams working together and doing the research, following the trends, creating and interpreting advanced reports, customizing their design, and polishing their tone and voice.

As a marketer, I prefer this approach. You can measure everything and bring informed decisions based on numbers, metrics, patterns, ROI.

Teams at work. Source: @dropbox

I’ve seen two currents here – there are brands willing to change a bit of everything in order to build a more profound relationship with their audience, and there are brands who check up on KPIs and plenty of reports, but aren’t willing to change everything.

For example, they’ll maintain their visual style, but change the topics, or keep the same tone & voice, but play around with the visuals.

If you’re a marketer, these brands might leave that directed, artificial taste in your mouth. This is not necessarily a bad thing; we just like to overanalyze and pay attention to all the details. Or it might give off an impression of trying too hard – like there are entire teams and insane budgets behind each campaign and idea.

Talk about direction. Source: @mailchimp

My personal favorites are the brands which present themselves as if nothing is directed. They are casual, honest, organic, and exude that spontaneous feel while browsing their social media channels.

Marvels of social media

These people are so rare that I’m not sure if I should even put them in a group. But they exist, and their creativity and humility always astonish me.
I would often receive a call from someone who wanted a consultation. They wanted to inquire what social media is about and if there is a way they could improve what they’re doing, since no professional has ever been in charge of it.

During the meeting, I would look at their creative styles, KPIs, and analytics and realize – these guys are doing amazing work!

They don’t need anyone. They were so honest in their approach, and the target audience positively reacted in ways I’ve rarely seen. And they wanted a consultation just because they’ve heard of some experts, methods, techniques, and plenty of shortcuts they never understood, and wondered: “Oh my, what are we missing on?”

I honestly love those meetings. I usually end them with: “Please, don’t let anyone ruin what you’re doing here.”

The right way to do it

“Just do it!” doesn’t apply here.

As a creative human being, I always pick the honest and organic approach. I love when the story is told by the founder, or when their story uniformly resonates throughout the entire content.
However, the marketer in me always advises them not to put the numbers aside and ignore them. It also helps to have a data wizard by your side.

Combining elements of both of these approaches sounds like obvious advice, but it’s what works best in my experience. How about yours?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *