Putting the Social Back in Social Marketing

Article ImageIf there is one think failing social media marketing, it is a lack of social. I'll explain what I mean by this in a minute, but let's first examine the reality of today's business operations.

More and more companies are moving to automated processing and communication to squeeze out operational costs and add a few more margin percentage points. When you call a service provider today to get a problem resolved, do you actually get a human being answering the call? Or, conversely, do you get an automated system that takes you through four levels of questions that get you nowhere and then leave you waiting 15 minutes or longer to get connected to an actual person to help you?

The challenge is that so many companies want to leverage the opportunities and power of social media, but at the same time, they are look-ing to reduce costs. Yes, this makes sense. But is this sensibility focused on an overwhelming drive for short-term, quarter-to-quarter results to the detriment of long-term success?
To answer this question, take a step away from your company and brand agenda, and ask yourself two questions:

What is my target audience looking for in the way of user experience such that the user experience produces brand preference, brand loyalty, and brand advocacy?

Is it worth investing in activities that produce brand lovers, or is it sufficient to solely focus on month-to-month sales?

What I am really suggesting is that a focus on bottom line cost-reduction is hampering long-term, top-line revenue. Plainly stated, social mar-keting cannot be automated. Social marketing cannot be brand broadcasting. It takes real human beings to build strong brand relationships through connection, engagement, and inspiration. In a recent article I wrote on SocialSteve's Blog, I talk about changing social media marketing as a practice to relationship marketing. The rationalization for this is that brands need to emphasize relationship building as opposed to product push and brand-broadcasting communication. Strong brand reputation and relationships yield enduring long-term success.

I would venture to say that the most widely used digital social technology is text messaging. It's not fancy, but it's the most widely used. Now if your audience's most prominent social platform is text messaging, why don't you set up text messaging for engagement? How many compa-nies do you know list a number where their customers can text a message, question, or complaint and get a prompt reply? If text is the most widely used form of digital communication, why aren't brands opening this up as a communication channel for their audience? It is pretty simple to do. It defines a company that is truly open to really being social with their audience.

From an implementation perspective, what does it really mean to put the social back into social marketing? Do not assume your audience will come to you. Go where they are having conversations. Listen. Understand their perspectives, concerns, interests, and values. As you build a connection through socialization, invite them to visit your digital assets and social channels. Make sure you're providing them information they value. Open up your social channels to conversations. Ask questions. Respond to comments. Thank users for their input.

It is also worth noting that social marketing does not just include conversations between brands and their followers. Wouldn't it be great if people were having social conversations about your brand in a positive light without you, the brand, even being involved? What are you doing to encourage this? If you continuously produce a great user experience-in store, online, and at every consumer touchpoint-there is a good chance you can motivate this desired behavior.

Yes, it is difficult to scale social. I am not suggesting that you need to engage with each of your potential and existing customers. Truth be told, not every one of them wants to engage with you. You may have to make difficult decisions about which users to respond to as not all so-cial users are equal. You need to determine who your power users are. Power users are those individuals who either 1) have a strong following and influence or 2) are strong conversationalists on your social channels. Give these people special attention and considerations.
Are you ready to show your audience you care and value them through social action and commitment?