16th September 2015

4 ways keeping calm and thinking British (sorry!) can help your brand on social

On 13th September 2015, the Prime Minister of this country sent a bold message out on social media:

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As a whole, the people of this country didn’t take too kindly to it.

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And I have a theory as to why. It wasn’t just overblown and potentially libellous – it wasn’t very British.

The poor PM came across like he needed a cup of tea with three sugars and a nice sit down – like an elderly relative who’s in shock from a minor fall.

There aren’t many points of British ‘national pride’ that I really care for, to be honest. Flags and flag-waving make me feel a little bit queasy and I’m fairly indifferent towards the Queen.

And that’s why I love Britishness on social media. It’s the last platform where we can truly express and revel in our national identity.

Heaven forbid – I don’t mean those boneheads over at Britain First.

I mean pages like @VeryBritishProblems, which encapsulate the combination of outward politeness and total inner exasperation which makes this nation great – if not just really sarcastic.

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So here are a few things brands can take from the ‘Britishness’ phenomenon to apply on social media.


Always be polite

Even if a social media user or customer is making you froth with rage internally, always make sure your responses are polite and considered.

Embrace the British tradition of taking your anger and pushing it far, far down into the dark depths of your being:

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Good ways to avoid ‘seeming’ angry through your social posts include not using short sentences, always saying please and thank you and – if your brand personality allows – sometimes a smiley face can work wonders.


Don’t be afraid of the word “sorry”, but be careful how you use it

Saying “sorry” as a British person is pretty much a kneejerk reaction. You say it when you’ve done something wrong, when somebody else has done something wrong, or simply when you don’t know what else to say.

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Brands are often wary of the implications of simply saying ‘Sorry’ to somebody on social media. However, going out of your way to avoid saying the word ‘sorry’ is often completely transparent and only serves to irritate the customer more. It makes it look like your brand is more concerned about accepting responsibility than it is about helping with the issue at hand.

After all, it’s easy enough to say things like ‘Sorry to hear about this’ or ‘Apologies, this shouldn’t have happened’. It makes your brand look more human if you admit sometimes it’s possible for mistakes to happen.

Inject some humour

With the right brand personality, adopting the British way of gently mocking other users on social can do wonders. Adding a bit of humour to your brand makes it seem a little more human, so users will be more willing to engage with you.

It’s important, though, to get the type of humour right. For some brands, having a little bit of ‘banter’ works, while for others puns are gold dust. And, indeed, for many – humour is just the wrong direction to move in.

And, obviously, if somebody has a genuine or serious complaint, humour is usually out of the question. However, if you see a little bit of leeway, it can be a great way to take the tension out of a situation and change perceptions.

Just be aware that it could well blow up in your face.


Pause for a cuppa

All companies get those tricky tweets sometimes, where it’s unclear whether you should respond and how. In those situations, take the most British solution and pause for a cup of tea.

It may feel right to respond right away, however thinking about it can help you craft a more effective and coherent response – and can also stop you from putting your foot right in it.

Make sure to pop onto the user’s page to assess their influence and check their history with your brand, as well as other brands. They could just be a serial complainer – but they could also be an influential journalist or blogger with a genuine issue they want to discuss. In any case, it helps to be armed with all the correct knowledge before you craft a response.


By Helen Gradwell, Consumer Content Executive