Ghosts in the social media machine: Are brands lost in the platform world?

By Ed Brittain: Head of Digital at Pitch Marketing Group 

Let’s start this digital marketing piece in 1949 with Ryle’s Concept of Mind. A criticism of Descartes classical theory of mind (I promise, it is relevant).

The criticism, based on the fact, that within the existing classical theory, ‘mind’ and ‘body’ were taken as part of the same logical category, defined as aspects of the same, two machines working in competition or harmony.

Ryle stated, they should be understood as distinct items, and can’t be defined with the same language and approach. The mind therefore being a ‘ghost in the machine’.

 Let’s take that premise and relate it to the world of brands and digital marketing. Are brands, ghosts in the social media machine?

The answer to this will change your approach to digital marketing.

Stepping back, the current social media context…

Content people want to see. That’s the aim of the digital marketing game, building relationships with consumers. It’s why social networks now refer to themselves as entertainment platforms and the language of social has evolved from pages and profiles to feeds and hashtags.

It’s no secret, and I’m not the first person to say that social has changed A LOT, since it first popped up with ‘Me at the zoo’, ‘just setting up my twitter’ or a photo of a dog and a foot. {1}

The slight snake-oil days of viral reach, ‘social natives’ and promising to understand the secret sauce of the all-powerful algorithm, have also, on the whole, matured to become a multi-billion-dollar global powerhouse industry, disrupting traditional marketing and now, an essential part of businesses, big and small.

But, as the landscape of digital marketing has somewhat stabilised and learned to live at the speed of social, the process has become integrated, the insights digitally universal and behaviours similarly blanketed across digital touch points. In my opinion this has led to the very worst of brand social, ‘Cross platform always on’. We see recognition of calendar days, attempts at brand banter and culture jacking stunts that rarely work, and for every beans‘n’bix {2} moment that does take off, it leaves a litter of failed newsfeed junk in its wake. Not exactly a reliable social strategy for digital brand building.

 We’re all integrated, but really…

Behind the scenes, we’ve also seen the specialism silo walls, turn to glass. As an industry we recognise that different disciplines exist, but rarely take the opportunity to learn, connect and benefit. These distinctions sit across content, creative, performance, insights, strategy, influencer, and a slew of specialisms more. Each understanding a corner of digital and saying ‘integrated’ in the hope that it eventually becomes true.

 But when was the last time that you experienced a CRM comms, OOH placement, VOD, across social platforms and traditional media placement, with influencers all aligned to a hero concept, but unique and making the most of the platform it appears on? Yet, from research (below), we know additional platforms for a campaign drive incremental return on ROI.

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It’s a challenging landscape for brands looking to thrive in the digital world. The pressure to be always on counts as building brand. As well as the pressure to be maximising the opportunities of disconnected specialisms, and maximising on the ‘big data’ promise that was so heavily bought into.

 At Pitch, we’ve created a new team to help navigate this challenge, push new ways of working, acting platform first and capitalising on digital behaviours. Pitch Platforms is a team that operates in the middle ground, digital chameleons that can understand your goals, your challenges, and path a strategic solution to match both business and audience needs.

 The starting point is to help diagnose what’s broken, Pitch Platforms have developed a unique analysis approach that allows us to get into the platform landscape, outline characteristics of success, and challenges. Refining the goal of social and building a digital strategy that delivers true cultural impact.

Digital Ghost Hunting – Diagnostics

Let’s look at a competitive sector of social: automotive.

The Pitch Platforms Digital Health Check helps identify the correct, and best area of focus to develop your digital brand. From refining the amount of content produced, focusing on content engagement or a focus on channel growth. We can determine what the best course of action is, and plot competitive threats and weaknesses. 

(This has been done from the outside looking in, plug us into your owned social data and we can help to map content types, formats, hashtags and influencers on a similar scale.)

We’ve got some small brands nailing it! Passionate fandoms around the badge and supporting the small amount of content that does go out. For Lotus and Morgan, the aim is to maintain this quality, and grow their channel, a response to brief focused on growth, not content.

 Looking at one of the key offenders, the hard to ignore bubble of McLaren.

The size being the amount of content going out on their Instagram dwarves that of the other brands. An incredible investment in the creation of content, yet the ER% doesn’t reward this, and comparable to the other brands of similar scale, we aren’t seeing a direction shift.

 The challenge for McLaren therefore is content efficiency. A refinement on production and channel approach.

A similar comment could be made for our lowest engaged channel, Harley Davidson. This iconic brand needs to increase their content performance, they’ve got a chance to galvanise their newsfeeds and refine, without needing to cut back. Potential optimisation vs overhaul.

 A worthwhile note, being Telsa. Nestled at the same scale as automotive luxury brands of Bentley and Aston Martin. Tesla sees a stronger engagement rate, putting them top right quadrant. This coveted space, is reflected in the wide spread adoption, cult like following and compounded by the ‘Elon’ factor, which brings its own unique form of engagement.

 Overall, a diagnostic tool like this, allows us to identify challenges and opportunities for social channels, digital platforms, and streamline the ways of working. This isn’t working out who to copy, but every good strategy needs an identified problem to solve. This is us helping guide your response.



It was never going to be straight forwards, as most philosophy, but the success and usage of social media is what will define you as a Ghost or Brand.

 Being present but not connecting, that, is creating ghost brands on social media. Whereby content creation is either recycled, blanket posted and treating platforms as a bulletin board.

Successful brand building comes from a true harmony, treating digital as a genuine extension of the brand, a tailored engagement strategy that utilises social as empowering as the social feed itself. Social should be an extension of your brand, an active ‘body’ for your brand to express itself.

 So thinking about your digital content, are you a ghost?

We’re here to help make you less transparent, here to reach bigger audiences.

Who you gonna call?



Me at the Zoo:

First Tweet:

First Instagram:

Further Reading