The Shibumi 7 of Social Media Marketing

Many a social media campaign we see today is either riding on the hype and traffic created by the term “social media” itself, or are in the mode of “testing the waters”.

The reason for this trend has much to do with the limited number of experts in many developing markets of the world. Experts, Specialists and best practices available in some pockets of the emerging economies – India, China, West Africa, etc. – are at best limited compared to the higher needs and demands of these markets. Additionally the social media jargons in circulation sound exciting, but are unable to help meet the simplest of social media requirements of many of the companies operating in these markets.

Social Media strategy for any campaign need not be complicated in design or delivery. Like many other highly successful offline campaigns of the past, online campaigns in general and social media campaigns in particular, could be thought of being designed and driven by the simple principles of Shibumi.

In his book “The Shibumi Strategy”, Matthew May talks about 7 of these concepts, which are a cohesive set of principles to guiding one’s pursuit of excellence, elegant performance and effortless effectiveness in any front. I feel the same concepts could be effectively applied in social media marketing too.

The 7 principles / concepts are: Shizen, Koko, Kanso, Datsuzoku, Yugen, Fukinsei and Hansei. Let’s see how these principles are universal in application in Social Media Marketing (SMM) too.

SHIZEN is the Japanese word that’s closer in meaning to “naturalness”. The idea captured by shizen for life and business is that before taking any action, one needs to look for naturally occurring patterns and rhythms, so that one’s ideas are constructed in a way to fit within these patterns.

In terms of SMM, this translates to “listening” – listen to your prospective target audience, customers and stakeholders; observe the patterns of their aspirations and needs; develop your conclusions and targets based on these needs, and design your framework for the campaign.

KOKO is the Japanese term for “austerity”. Koko suggests that one should refrain from adding what is absolutely not necessary in the first place, while imparting a sense of focus and clarity. Koko emphasizes restraint, exclusion and omission.

In social media marketing – or for that matter, in business – koko translates to setting a clear and focused “primary objective”, which is free from any kind of unnecessary distractions. Many social media campaigns tend to fail, since the marketers fail to encapsulate the core goals of the campaign properly.

KANSO is the Japanese word for “simplicity”. Kanso emphasizes elimination of anything that doesn’t matter, to make enough rooms for anything that does.

In SMM, we often need to follow the “keep it simple, stupid!” cliché to its core! To do this, Kanso principles inspire us to have the understanding to create fresher, cleaner and neater frameworks for social media marketing strategies. A simple, no-frills social media campaign usually brings in unexpected customer responses and viral benefits.

DATSUZOKU means and emphasizes “break-from-routine” or habit, which gives a feeling of unexpected amazement or pleasant surprise.

The social media landscape being extremely crowded, datsuzoku highlights the need for transcending the ordinary and conventional, to develop a tactic or a plan that makes the target groups react in an unexpectedly positive / pleasing way. Needless to say, this requires a the shizen insights of the target groups in conjunction with the seijaku of creativity – essentials for create something fresh and original.

Yugen

YUGEN means “subtlety” in Japanese, which highlights the need to limit information, so that there’s something left for vivid imagination. The principle suggests that when some things are left open for interpretation, the participant observer makes that extra effort to get involved easily by injecting his imagination into it.

Social media being an extremely changing landscape, the chances of getting a target group involved is increasingly becoming more difficult. Therefore applying Yugen principles, if there’s something left for the imagination of the target group – which is subtle & simple yet challenges their minds – it would definitely succeed in wooing their respect and attention in the long run. Examples: quizzes, polls, comments, shares, etc.

FUKINSEI is the Japanese word highlighting “imperfection” or “asymmentry”. Fukensei “conveys the symmetrical harmony and beauty of nature through clearly asymmetrical and incomplete renderings”.

In terms of SMM, Fukinsei recommends that strategies must be built around some amount of imperfections. This will leave the door open for the target groups to get involved in the marketing effort, to supply the missing symmetry and participate in the act of creation. In social media jargon, it’s known as “co-creation” – which has been proved to be extremely successful for many flourishing brands.

HANSEI means “reflection”, which is recommended after every action regularly regardless of the outcome of the action. Hansei is an active discipline performed to better understand the underlying process that led to a specific result.

In SMM as well as in business, the importance of “gap analysis” is an important part of the process. It generates constant “feedback” and insights, which helps in refining the strategy. Hansei in social media strategy is even more important since the “reflection” process is real-time and performed more frequently, as social media itself is “real-time”.

Thus we see that instead of getting lost in the complex process of understanding and then applying social media marketing strategies, all one needs to do is to apply the 7 Shibumi principles actively.

Leave your observations and experiences in applying these principles in your SMM strategies.

About shantanu.sengupta
I'm a strategic marcom professional, who likes to challenge existing norms and processes, in search of innovative ways to solve marketing problems. I believe that since no two marketing problems are the same, there's no reason why the solutions should be searched from the historical case studies! Instead of adhering to a jargonised approach of marketing, I firmly believe, adopt and practice the purer principles that power Design Thinking!

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