The millennials who teach bosses to handle social media
Having the right online presence will be crucial for firms looking to bridge the cultural divide to young
At 39, Daniel Plenge feels positively ancient next to his employees. His entire workforce at Manhattan-based social media agency Plural is made up of Millennials and fresh-faced graduates from Generation Z.
“Our Slack channels are full of ‘Twitter just released this’ or ‘Tik Tok has just changed this’, so you can tell the team is inherently interested in social media,” Plenge says. The online age gap became even clearer when Covid-19 struck and Plenge tried to connect with his team as they worked from home. “They are all so young nobody really makes phone calls,” he says. “When I call them to check in they think something is wrong”.
It may be tiring for those who grew up before the dawn of the internet, but this digital savvy is what makes Plenge tick. The agency offers a social media concierge service with high profile clients like Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian and beauty firm Revlon – helping them connect with millions of young people who speak a different language and have alien cultural reference points.
Plural is seeing a surge in demand now that more businesses are turning to social media to communicate with consumers and investors.
Clients – or “partners”, as Plenge calls them – can pay more than $10,000 (£7,500) a month for the expert advice of one of his 20-something social media gurus, be it crafting the perfect Instagram post or judging if something might be offensive to a brand’s followers.
Drone experts and tone of voice consultants combine to create sharp videos and help founders to appear relevant to their audience. Just don’t ask him to conjure up more followers, likes or retweets.
“We’re not interested in that,” Plenge says. “We’re not a growth farm, we are looking at a strategy to create a tone of voice and a persona using photography, graphic design and content without relying on vanity metrics.”
A report from consultant Brunswick found that nearly half (48pc) of S&P 500 and FTSE 350 chief executives have social media accounts, but only one in four have posted anything in a year.
It suggests that the majority of influential British and American company leaders are lagging behind as their customers, investors and employees spend more time online.
Founders might not want to appear as though they spend more time sharing photos on Facebook than they are delivering value for shareholders, but it is important for them to recognise that a lot of effective leadership is now dealt on social media.
“In this day and age, when somebody thinks of the company, they want to know who founded it, what they’re interested in, what their values are and what they stand for,” says Fletcher Rowe, a 23-year-old content strategist and Linkedin expert at Plural.
“Linkedin is no longer about showing off your portfolio. It is about amplifying voices that need to be heard, even if that just means sharing articles that are relevant to your industry.”
One example that proves silence has become as toxic as an unpopular opinion is the Black Lives Matter movement, where consumers are judging businesses on what they don’t say as much as what they do. Marketing magazine Ad Age has a frequently updated web page dedicated to tracking which brands have spoken out on racial inequality.
“In the world of cancel culture, founders, and everyone in the company, really has to think about what you’re posting, because information is going up fast and moving quick,” Fletcher says.
“Even if you delete something, people can take a picture of their screen”.
Social media comments that seem spontaneous are just as manufactured as a corporate press release. Most corporations will have their own social media managers sat alongside marketing and communications teams, and being a social media strategist is no longer to be sniffed at.
Marina Gunn Martin, 23, Plural’s guru on paid social promotions references NASDAQ stock exchange chief executive Adena Friedman and Walmart boss Doug McMillon as examples of great social media operators. McMillon has an impressive 44,200 followers on Instagram and uses his profile to share videos and photos of him visiting various branches.
His social media support of Black Lives Matter has given him extra clout.
Social media is market moving stuff. The gung-ho approach of Tesla founder Elon Musk has left him facing fines and led his firm to lose $14bn of value in one day in May after tweeting that the stock price was “too high”.
Maybe next time Musk will consider giving Plenge a call before pressing send.
‘In the world of cancel culture, everyone in the company really has to think about what they’re posting because information is moving quickly’
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