We sat down with the man behind the highly personified social media handle of ride-hailing app, Angkas, and asked about what it takes to disrupt the status quo.
BY GIANINA AZORES AND LAURICE SY
These days, social media is pretty much bursting at the seams with product endorsements, sponsored content, and lots and lots of ads – so much so that people have grown wary and cynical about the content they consume. Promotional content and the brands that utilize them are now largely perceived as nothing but nuisances with a cold corporate agenda.
Most utility brands don’t engage with their customers in the way that Angkas does with theirs. The transportation service has built quite the online following with a distinct brand persona that is known for its acerbic wit and its undeniably youthful spunk.
The brand owes much of its “virality” to this persona, which has allowed them to resonate with their customers in a way that is largely unprecedented. In this age of carefully-curated internet feeds, Angkas serves as a breath of fresh air. The success of their sharp and quick-witted social media presence is mostly thanks to the online population’s growing craving for authenticity.
Because let’s face it: you can’t get any realer than an actual person behind the persona. We got to put a face to the hit millennial Angkas voice as we sat down with Patrick Santos, the company’s social media handler. He shared how he turned work to play by using his own voice and personality to really make Angkas distinct from all the online clamour.
“So, Angkas’ online persona was patterned after myself. It was patterned from the way I talk, the way I react to stuff. It was kinda easy to embody the persona, because it was me,” he revealed.
In its fledgling stages, the company tried their hand at a more traditional approach to social media, much like their peers Uber and Grab. However, the conventional approach just didn’t seem to cut it; there weren’t very many online engagements. The polished and professional tone didn’t allow for much of a connection with the audience. And so they thought: why not try something new?
The first meme that Angkas posted got the same level of engagement as any of their previous boosted posts. Less money, same results – what company could say no to that? It was then that they realized there was no social media rule book prescribing the “right way” to handle social media. Despite its slow start, Angkas eventually found the proper footing that allowed them to connect with their market and keep them hooked.
It seemed easy enough: toss the rulebook out the window, and make jokes on Twitter. After all, funny sells. But, given today’s political climate, making jokes on the internet has become precarious business.
“I was being careful about being reckless. There is a thin line between being offensive and making a strong enough impression,” shared Patrick on the delicate balance it takes to produce a well-crafted meme.
“We all make mistakes. When a post is offensive, take it down and reverse it. If you can defend it, it can stay. The risk of embodying this voice – and of talking on social media, really – is that there are a lot of sensitivities to look out for.”
The thing is, jokes don’t always sit well with everybody and in some cases, there are fires that have to be put out. Much like everything else Patrick’s job entails, managing PR crises the Angkas way is also a balancing act.
In the spirit of authenticity, the company makes sure to uphold a definite level of transparency with their customers online. This can sometimes entail publicizing official statements from the management. How then do they ensure that they treat the matter with the right amount of sensitivity, given their typically playful tone?
“Important na you know how to change gears. Sometimes important na maging serious ka. Not every time is a time to joke.” What they’d post then is a photo of the official statement captioned with their signature millennial persona. It’s the best of both worlds – they get to articulate their position while jesting with the audience. And it gets better; this distinctive voice allows Angkas to bring their brand vision online, disrupting news feeds as easily as Angkas disrupts the transportation status quo. Crafty, isn’t it?
“Why do you need to try to fall in line, like the rest of them, when you can weave through traffic – like you can weave through it just like Angkas does on a daily basis?”
Part of Angkas’ charm is this brazen self-awareness that not a lot of brands are able to achieve authentically. They aren’t afraid of mistakes. They know that brands need not be perfect. If their experience so far has taught them anything, it’s that the key to pulling off their tongue-in-cheek humor is to have perfect comedic timing.
Patrick stressed that his rule of thumb when it comes to social media handling for Angkas is not to jump on every trend, think about what best suits the brand first. Here lies the difference between moment marketing and simply making noise online.
“You have to pick your moments,” he said.
Despite their success online, when asked if these engagements translated to a growth in sales, the short answer was that they weren’t really certain. Social media actually plays a very small role in the overall business strategy of Angkas. Although they’ve accumulated a large following on social media, they are not looking to take advantage of this by producing more branded online content, the way most would think to when faced with viral success.
Their goals have not changed. They still simply aim to make transportation easier for Filipinos by creating a motorcycle-friendly transport system that will also help employ the 14 million motorcycle drivers in the country.
Their intent for their online presence, on the other hand, is one that is much closer to the sentiments of their customers: to engage with them and to build a community.
Patrick put it best when he said: “We’re here to connect with the market, to connect with the people, to interact with them, to be part of them, to stay relevant.”
And with their clever Twitter persona, they did just that. Indeed, no brand has their finger on the online pulse the way that Angkas does.