Social media is a great tool for any business, but only when it’s being used properly. There are many brands out there that simply use social media as a way of constantly inundating their audience with a series of generic news updates or links, and quite frankly, they’re doing it wrong. Social media is not a mouthpiece, it’s a party line, and everyone has a voice and a place in the conversation. If you’re not creating thought-provoking and engaging content within your social spheres, your ROI will be virtually non-existent.
The Old Way of Thinking Needs to Change
With traditional advertising brands didn’t have to think about creating a conversation around their collateral. All they had to do was craft a message, print the message, and pay a boatload of money to ensure that you saw it on your screen or in your magazines. This one-sided way of communication has been the norm for decades, so it’s easy to see why so many brands are having trouble keeping up in the social media age.
These companies are trying desperately to hold on to the old model because of the security it afforded them, and I get that, but if you’re going to go all-in with social media, the idea of security should’ve been abandoned long ago. You’re not allowed to dictate what the customer says or feels when it comes to your product or service anymore. Your job is to deliver the message and then field the reactions that come in from it in a meaningful way that benefits both parties.
This is a Pardon, Not a Death Sentence
The idea that social can be evil or somehow destructive to your brand is 100% self-made. When done properly social can transform your brand in ways you’ve never even dreamed of. You’re now able to connect with your audience in a way that you’ve never had before, and you have unprecedented access to their information which should be worth its weight in gold. Think back ten years ago. Did anybody want to be friends with Coca-Cola? Were people willing to share a commercial with hundreds of their closest friends? No, they weren’t. I think this is what makes social media so powerful today. You’re not responsible for creating massively successful ad campaigns. You’re responsible for creating an ad campaign that speaks to just one person, and they automatically make it a success by sharing that message for you at zero cost to you.
This should be liberating for your brand, but I understand that many people have a hard time coming to grips with this reality. Many old-school marketers believe in being a control freak, and they think that social media is a death sentence. It’s not. You just have to understand the conversational nature of what’s happening and figure out a way to incorporate that into your brand’s strategy.
The Humanization of the Internet
If you’re still trying to figure out exactly how to connect to your audience using social media, the easiest thing I can tell you is to approach your messaging with a sense of humanity. People want to know there’s another human on the end of the line when they’re communicating with brands online. One of the most frustrating things that’s ever been invented is the automated voice prompts that most companies have on their phone systems these days. Every single time I get one of those things, I immediately hit zero fervently until I’m sent to an actual human being. When I reach out to a brand on Facebook or Twitter, I’m looking for that same thing. I don’t want a canned response with a link to your contact form. I want some empathy, conversation, and customer service.
Even though airlines are notoriously bad at customer service, they are one of the best (in my opinion) when it comes to social media. Sure they pump out a series of sales tweets now and then, but for the most part their job is fielding messages from pissed off travelers all over the world. One of the things I like about the way airlines handle their social customer service is the fact that they append the initials of the customer service agent to the end of the tweet or Facebook message. At first I didn’t know what the initials meant, but once I figure out it was the initials of the person I was talking to (they actually called me on the phone) I have since started to take comfort in knowing that there’s an actual person trying to help me on the other end of the line. That small detail means more than you think to most people.
This is the type of thing you need to be doing on social media. You need to analyze your audience and figure out what their pain points are with your brand and its messaging, and then find ways to interject some realness into it. There’s already a world of distance between you and them because of the nature of this type of communication, so you need to be doing everything you can to make the experience of digital seem less robotic. Otherwise you’re just repeating the same old story we’ve seen for decades, and that is what makes us change the channel to begin with.
I realize that I approach social media marketing from a much more holistic angle than most do, but that doesn’t mean that I’m wrong. I don’t believe you have to sacrifice your brand or your conversions in order to create a more engaging social presence. In fact, I’d argue that you’ll see more conversions and gain access to more valuable data by doing so. The days of big ad buys and paid focus groups are over. Crowd-sourced information and conversations are the new norm now, and it’s time for you and your business to get on board.