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How to smash real-time reactive content

Monzo's Social Media Manager, Richard Cook, breaks down what it takes to create their game-changing content.

Richard Cook
27th August 2021

Richard is the Social Media Manager of online bank, Monzo. Follow him on Twitter for more incredible tips and tricks!

I’ve written before about the importance of reach in social marketing. Great content is content that goes far. And a surefire social media strategy for doing that is to piggyback off something that’s already being talked about.

This has been a thing forever, of course. Social has always been about what’s happening now, but since Oreo’s famous ‘dunk in the dark’ tweet, brands have realised the payoff of doing things live.

Screenshot 2021-08-27 at 14.06.36

That was eight years ago, but it’s a tactic that’s still as strong as ever. Think about Weetabix or Specsavers. What marketing from them do you recall best from the last twelve months? It probably wasn’t a TV ad or some billboard campaign. I’ll wager it was one of their reactive posts.

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So, how can you pull this off yourself? Let me spill the, um, beans.

Before we start, you’re probably asking yourself two questions

  1. Is reactive actually better than planned content?
  2. Even if it is, does that make it valuable?

And these are fair questions! There’s no point in doing any marketing activity if you don’t have any idea why you’re doing it. And while all organic activity as a whole is difficult to measure, you can prove that reactive content does better. And I think you can tell a compelling story about why it matters.

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This graph shows the impressions of some Monzo tweets over six months. The average is about 30k or so per tweet. But you’ll notice two big spikes. And these aren’t big company announcements or product launches. No, one is about a washing machine, and one involves a hole punch.

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This happens quite a bit — folks somehow end up putting their Monzo card in a washing machine. So we did a cheeky quote-RT and watched how it did. And, of course, it did really well. Much better than any of the planned content that week. Which is kind of depressing in a way.

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And this example was off the back of Apple announcing the launch of their iPhone 11 Pro max. Social was buzzing following the launch, focussing on the silly-looking camera layout on the back. So I grabbed a Monzo card and a hole punch and tweeted it out. Total production time: 15 mins or so. The hardest part was actually finding a hole punch.

Now, both these examples seem trivial. As content marketers, we’re meant to think about our core content pillars and messaging. And what does ruining a Monzo card help to communicate about the brand? Well, I’d argue more than you think.

First, it shows that you’re on the pulse. You’re aware of what’s happening in the world, and you have something to say about it. Products don’t exist in a vacuum, and especially on social it’s just weird if you’re not acknowledging the daily elephant in the room. So it’s a way of showing relevancy too, which often gets overlooked in channels with a longer lead time like email.

It’s also a brand play against your competitors. The legacy banks would never hole punch a card, so it says something about us that we did. And we did it quickly, which says something about our speed. There’s a subconscious message there that Monzo is an innovator and moves at speed.

(Which may all be just post-rationalisation for me wanting to be funny on social, but let’s gloss over that).

Step 1: Finding the opportunities

First up, you need to be watching social media. That sounds obvious, but you can’t be reactive if you don’t know what’s going on. The simplest way to do that is just to be on social media platforms.

One ritual I’ve found helpful in the past is having a daily stand-up just to see what’s trending. Maybe at 9.30 you go around and ask if anyone’s seen a trend or talking point. If there’s nothing, or you decide the trends are out-of-scope for your brand, that’s fine.

But then, social moves quicker than this. Trends can come and go in just a few hours, and being a day late is often worse than not getting involved at all.

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As my highly scientific graph shows, the best time to jump on a trend is as soon as it happens. Then there are dramatic diminishing returns which basically end up being of negative value after a certain point. Doing a Jackie Weaver meme a week late would just make you look slow.

So once a day might be too slow. And even if you have some fancy social listening tools, you still might miss things if you’re not spotting stuff in real-time. For me, there’s no substitute to simply having Tweetdeck open on a second monitor and checking it every now and again.

That’s a lot for one person, of course. So you should cultivate a shared understanding with your team about why reactive matters and the kind of thing you get involved with. At Monzo, we have a public #social-engagement channel for just this. Anyone across the company can share a trend they’ve noticed, and together we’ll brainstorm something to do with it. Some of our best ideas have come from outside the team.

Step 2: Find your angle

Once you’ve spotted a trend, you need to decide how to respond. The key consideration is how to do this without simply crowbarring yourself in. Some things just won’t apply to you, and that’s fine. But sometimes there’s more of a way in, and that’s fine.

Specsavers, for instance, have managed to define their relevant space as pretty much ‘anything you could look at’. So they can be talking about more than just glasses. Likewise, Monzo is more than a card. We can basically join anything that involves money — which is a lot!

And it might involve an unexpected angle too. Here’s something we did in response to a WhatsApp outage back in March.

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It’s a bit unorthodox, using Monzo as a messaging platform, but that’s the point. We’re not actually suggesting anyone does this, but it shows that we’ve got a sense of humour. Your bank would never.

Step 3: Make the content, fast

If you’re set up properly, the hard part should be over. Now it’s just a case of actually making the thing.

You can do yourself a favour by having templates ready that you can easily change up as you need them. At Monzo, that’s things like assets for Pots that we can easily change the name/image on. Or simply just a Twitter-sized Photoshop file with our brand color pallete ready. That’s all we used for the WhatsApp example above. And the UI just came from a screenshot on my phone.

You should also lean on any expertize you’ve got handy. Like when this Dettol tube ad was doing the rounds on Twitter:

1 0R EQffW6BYC349tqvpkJw

I wanted us to respond, and the obvious hook was to do something from our Monzo Business account about how working from home is ok, actually. So I gave my best go at it.

1 L15WmUzMFgiYUwgmWjQbCA

Then I pinged Max, from our Writing team, to give it some polish. And it’s been one of our most successful tweets on that channel.

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This all might sound like a lot if you’re just a one-person team. But there are free tools out there like Canva that can really help you out. And remember: the idea is more important than the execution. A sloppy image is forgivable if it’s funny enough. And people have a lot of time for something done quickly.

Step 4: Getting it out there

You’ve got your response ready, and you’re feeling good to go. But depending on your overall risk appetite for social, you might have another step to go first.

Getting a second opinion is always a good idea before you pull the trigger on posting. A joke you’re convinced is brilliant might not actually make sense to someone else. Perhaps you’ve taken a bit too much of a liberty with the brand. Or you might just have overlooked a typo. For all these reasons and more, it’s good to have someone else review the content.

And sometimes, that means not doing the post at all. That’s happened a few times for me. And it sucks when you have to drop something you’re excited about. But sometimes, it’s the right call. And you can always just post it on your personal account instead (guilty!).

Step 5: …that’s it?

Congratulations! You have just successfully produced some killer real-time reactive content. Your followers love it, and you’re repeatedly told that you’ve “won the internet”.

Or maybe it doesn’t go very well. That’s fine too; they can’t all be winners. If you feel bad about it, just delete the post. People care less than you think.

Ready to give it a go? Download our free key dates calendar for 2021 so you know what's coming up and when, and don't forget to watch the replay of Richard's workshop with us on finding your creative hook.

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