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

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Margi Mur­phy in San Fran­cisco

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’

Ri­hanna is very ac­tive on so­cial me­dia plat­forms in pro­mot­ing her Fenty beauty range

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