“Have you heard about the egg?” my colleague asked the second I stepped into the office the other morning. My first thought: she was trying to crack (sorry) a joke, so naturally, I paused for the punchline.

But I quickly learned this wasn’t a joke – despite a part of me wanting it to be.

No, this was the story of a stock image of an egg racking up more Instagram likes than the top ‘liked’ picture of the more-famous-than-famous Kylie Jenner. Right now, the egg is on 46,905,775 likes, while the Insta queen’s pic sits at a meagre 18,611,001.

Do I think this fleeting fad is a slightly pitiful reflection of our society? A little, yes. But did I feel compelled to cast a glance at this more-famous-than-a-Jenner egg in all its mundane, oval glory? Absolutely. Though I resisted jumping on the bandwagon.

The morning’s events caused me to feel an unexpected pang of guilt when, come lunch, I sat at my desk unpeeling my hard-boiled egg (you could have gone so far, little egg). But when taste took over the guilt, my thoughts turned to what brands can take from this eggsample of what The Guardian calls ‘hierarchical disruption.’

The one-trick egg – quick wins vs cultivating meaningful content

The egg – or rather, its creator (as in, the person who created the account, not the hen) – has achieved what they set out to achieve. And then some, I reckon – seeing as you can now buy ‘Egg Gang’ merch.

Despite my hang-ups, the format works for what it is, but it’s unlikely to float with your audience. Quick-wins rarely translate to long-term gains for brands wanting to rule on Insta. Far better is to build and nurture your audience through regular content that’s consistently on-brand, inspiring and – depending on the nature of your business – educational. That might involve a mix of original content and regrams from customers or influencers who hold sway over the people you’re trying to reach.

The bandwagon blues

With the one-image egg account garnering 7.3m followers and counting, it’s become a monumental marketing vehicle. Brands will be chomping at the bit to advertise with it, meanwhile, the creator (who’s probably this second planning how to spend his/her thousands) could sell the account or switch to another form of content when the egg turns rotten.

I’m no Mystic Meg, but you can bet your bottom dollar the second post on the account will be an ad. I also bet you an ad will not attract the same kind of levels of engagement as the egg, and that thousands of followers will abruptly disembark the bandwagon.

My point is that sharing a post simply for a viral-like response will skew engagement stats and mean you could end up amassing heaps of unengaged followers. It’s the age-old quality vs quantity debate I catch myself banging on about time and time again. Social media success is more about building a base of highly-engaged followers and achieving a consistent engagement rate across your content. The engagement sweet spot, in my opinion, being around 5-12%.

My piece of advice to anyone banking everything on a picture to go viral à la egg? Don’t count your chickens.

Leaving a bad taste in the mouth

The egg had no other initial motive other than to get more likes than Kylie Jenner. But your brand will have numerous reasons backing the content you share: to gain more positive brand or product exposure, increase reach, and build trust and loyalty among your customers. And these can only really be achieved through genuine, authentic, inspiring content.

Also, content that’s shared in the hope it’ll go viral often verges on the spammy and/or meaningless. If it’s totally off-brand, you risk your valuable followers pulling the plug on you. They lose their trust and respect in you, and you lose their loyalty. It would be the same if an influencer shared nothing but sponsored posts. We question: where’s the authenticity?

I feel like the egg is an attempt to mock the system. To challenge the highly-stylised, near-perfect images we see on our Instagram feeds day in, day out. But I can’t help but feel that it’s ended up becoming a part of the very system it’s trying to poke fun at.

Sure, the egg had us all talking (and writing), but it’s a flash in the omelette pan. Come next month, my colleague will be asking if I’ve heard the next big thing to blow up on Insta (I’ll be better prepared next time not to wait for a punchline). You don’t want your brand, or content, to be seen as a flash in the pan, so knuckle down on creating compelling content that resonates with your audience and stands the test of time.

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Ben Hollom

January 18, 2019