Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have taken the world, including Kuwait, by storm in the last few years and Snapchat is quickly gaining traction. But while using it is a great experience for users, navigating its murky waters is not so simple especially if you’re a business and want to connect with your customers.
Social media has evolved tremendously and social media managers are becoming more like business development managers, learning to identify needs and then taking the necessary actions to make sure those needs are met. It is all about optimizing your campaigns so that you reach the right demographic. While optimizing is an important aspect of social media, most people especially marketers; seem to forget one crucial piece of the puzzle – content that is interesting, contextual and relevant.
Marketers are responsible for ruining almost all forms of media that ever existed. The newspaper which was created for spreading news became a tool for businesses to sell products and services. Radio, TV, the internet and pretty much everything else suffered the same fate – they all became sales tools.
When social media became popular, we marveled at the prospect of connecting with family in another country or reconnecting with a friend from middle school that we hadn’t seen in over a decade. But there was a marketer sitting somewhere thinking “I can make money off social media by turning it into a sales tool. While there wasn’t anything wrong in thinking that, what marketers including myself forgot, was that there was a danger in overcrowding the marketplace with ads. The result is a catastrophic increase in advertising in a place where people are looking for interesting content.
So what separates a company’s social media initiative from its competitors? What pushes a user to follow one company avidly and neglect another? The answer isn’t showcasing offers or pricing of your products. Trust me; there are very few people who care about that. Most people want to talk about themselves and things that benefit them. For the most part, they want content that they’re interested in.
Today, most brands suffer from what professionals call the “Me” syndrome. These companies spend most of their time to talking about their own products. Instead, they should focus on creating memorable and long lasting relationships with their fan-base; make customers fall in love with their brand.
The content you upload should be designed for a specifically targeted demographic and a “one size fits all” approach hardly ever works here. That’s why Facebook and Instagram give you plenty of programmatic data to use for targeted advertising. The advertising targeting options are amazing but we will look into those another day.
Brands need to ensure that the content they put out there is appealing to their fan-base. It needs to incite curiosity and eventually create the need to share it with others. That’s how they can build lasting relationships with their fans and customers; by using social media as an influence channel NOT a sales channel.
The perfect analogy would be a cocktail party scenario. Cocktail parties are mainly for networking and NOT for selling. Of course, it is customary to make shop talk here but only after you’ve garnered the interest of your subject by sharing funny anecdotes from your last vacation or gave them advice on their next big car purchase. Only after you’re convinced they are on your side, do you start making shop talk. Do it too early and risk the chance of boring them and turning them away.
The first key here is to listen and identify people talking about your brand, product or industry and then join the conversation by throwing in interesting news and statistics. The second is to create conversations by engaging your fans, either by posting content that has the potential to go viral in the positive sense or by creating a contest where your fans can participate and feel engaged. Either way, being successful on social media amounts to spending time on it. It is akin to going to the gym to get in shape. You won’t see the results unless you put in the work. It may mean spending hours online responding to your fans and engaging with them to retain their interest. And if you believe in Karma, they will eventually buy from you – when they are ready.
It may be a long, painstaking process but much like a cocktail party, the fruits of your labor will eventually show and when they do – you could say you’ve cultivated the art of being social in a digital age.
Barry Rodrigues is Head of Marketing & Product Development at Future Communications, and an associate advisor with the International Advisors Group in Kuwait. Barry also provides pro-bono consulting services for small businesses to help them achieve their marketing objectives.
For comments, please email Barry at firstname.lastname@example.org.