Andi Best Freelance Designer

Social Media Links in Analogue Spaces

  • Published 24-09-2023
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Social Media Links in Analogue Spaces
A pamphlet tipped me over the edge recently. It featured the indecipherable expression of a highland cow framed centrally on the cover and the inside was packed with boasts of the authenticity and immensity of the ice cream that could be produced from such creatures at a nearby farm.
Overall the pamphlet was harmless and the cow was blameless for my conniption. What upset me was a very specific blunder in the leaflet's design - redundant social media icons.
There is a fundamental oversight in the world of print too prevalent to ignore and I absolutely cannot allow my silence to enable it further. If your business creates a physical entity in the analogue realm - be it a packaging label, a menu, a direct mailer, a vehicle wrap, etc. - and within its design it opts to advertise the online social media presence of the business, please always include the account handles.

Lining up icons of the social media platforms you hold pages and accounts on without offering further context as to why those icons are there, or by which handles your content can be found on those platforms, is useless.
We can't tap on the papery Facebook square, nothing will happen. We can't slap a palm on the side of your work van as it whizzes by. We can appreciate that you are somewhere on Twitter, but we can't be transported directly to your content. Without explicitly defining what query a user must enter/search for to navigate to your specific pages your users become burdened with guesswork and uncertainty.
How do users know your brand was successful in securing handles that logically and consistently reflect your business name across all your social media accounts? How can users guarantee that what's returned from a search is a genuine account of yours and not a fraudulent impersonator, or another business entirely with a similar name and aesthetic?
Let me illustrate my point with some choice examples (though this is not a witch hunt) I've stumbled across in the wild:
Social Media Links in Analogue Spaces
FreedomLeisure is not doing this correctly.
In the lower corner of this cardboard flyer are the social media icons for platforms Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, with no associated handles or supporting information. This sufficiently educates me that this business has a presence on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter but not how to navigate to such presence. Were I inclined to visit this business on social media I'd have to put in the effort to find it, despite I allegedly "mattering". And it wouldn't be easy - I've done the research. Not all the handles this business has acquired read simply as the brand name - there are unknown suffixes at work and there are regional branches each with their own representation on these platforms, so even an educated guess wouldn't yield the exact results I'm looking for without additional exploration.
Social Media Links in Analogue Spaces
First Bus Glasgow is doing this correctly.
This is a sorry-looking A4 laminated service message likely composed and printed hastily at head office and distrubuted to bus shelters across the city. Such communiqués tend to lack the care and attention that their design-agency devised contemporaries boast, the urgency for clear messaging superseding flair and styling consistency. But as rugged as this message is it cannot be faulted for delivery of its single social media touchpoint. If you have any queries at all about unexpected timetable or route changes there's a clear route to the company's Twitter account to get in touch directly.
Social Media Links in Analogue Spaces
Abolish Cleaning is doing this correctly.
Printed at the base of this plastic packaging is a simple rectangle with rounded corners, grouping the trio of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter social media icons. But unlike the example above the icons are accompanied by the neccesary handle to track down the target accounts within those platforms, the key to search engine discovery, social media discovery and direct URL input. What a stroke of luck that this business secured its brand with a singular uniform handle across multiple networks, making the design convention of this element all the more concise and - apt for the brand - clean.
Social Media Links in Analogue Spaces
GEOX is not doing this correctly.
On the side of this shoebox, GEOX have decided to interpret the analogue social media presence question with a display of every icon that sprang to mind, forsaking quality for quantity. Once again, I've done my homework and very few of the handles on these networks employed by the company are merely their brand name. Suffixes and underscores have made a labyrinth of the brand's discoverability, and failing to outline the handles explicitly in print leaves many of their analogue customers feeling their way around the perimeter walls.
Understandably, with this excessive network representation the absent diligence in the design is likely deliberate so as to not render the layout unwieldy, which is a poor show for functionality especially with this volume for error.
If like me you're wondering whether the helpful QR code leads to a gateway of aggregated social links given its placement alongside the icons, it doesn't. It meerly opens the URL declared all the way in the opposite corner of the layout. Odd design decisions all round.
Social Media Links in Analogue Spaces
University of Chichester is doing this... differently.
Without checking, based on this poster alone, I'd wager that the University of Chichester were unsuccessful in securing a uniform handle across all the social media platforms they've opened accounts on. I'll check now...
I am correct.
Rather than make a Geox or FreedomLeisure of the situation, they've diverted attention from their mismatched handles altogether. Alongside the social media icons on this poster is instead a hashtag, which when searched on the advertised platforms returns not necessarily the accounts the University holds, but the actual content the University creates on them, assuming they include the hashtag in each of their posts. Hold on, I'll check...
They don't.
That's a missed opportunity. Or is it? Searches for that hashtag return, if not the University's own posts, posts from other users who have picked it up. Messages of graduation celebration, conference promotion, student quips and other related messaging all surface against the tag - genuine communication and dialogue about the institution and its culture which is arguably quite valuable for those looking to learn more about the place. It's not faultless but it is a novel solution to bringing users to your social channels without otherwise having to publish a list of variant handles.
The above is far from extensive research but it is conclusive. Human reliance on signposting to navigate the world is a fundamental part of our success as a species, and that should be especially respected when ushering people between the analogue and digital realms. The irony of businesses rendering their brand connection to broad society inaccessible is clearly not lost on me.
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