Why We Need To Head Back To The Roots Of #SocialMedia
I've been dedicating a lot of my time recently to my pet project, Almost Everything I Wish I'd Said The Last Time I Saw You. I started the project because I hated how many people were reading my main blog (awesome complaint, right??) as it was becoming difficult to write without thinking about what every single person would think about what I had to say. So, I started a second blog that encompassed everything my heart was feeling and told very few people about it. It became a safe haven for me to express my creativity and write about whatever I wanted to with less of a focus on who I was, and more of a focus on what I was writing. In essence, it's a space where I can return to my roots and truly, authentically write.
As Facebook and other networks are condemned for their (lack of) privacy and tighten their tools that they offer brands who are spending millions advertising on their platform, it's critical for social media to also get back to its roots >> authenticity and community. When social media began for brands, you did not succeed unless you had stellar content and you were working to engage and develop a community around your brand. There was no cheating by targeting only the people you wanted, or by reading intense metrics and manipulating your copy to only appeal to a very specific audience so they would click on your link. There was absolutely everyone on social media and your content, which you prayed to God appealed to the right people.
As much as social media needs to evolve with the new digital landscape, it also has to remember where it came from and why it works for brands. It's not because of the fine tuned advertising offers. If you think millions of dollars equals a stellar social media strategy, you do not understand the purpose of social media at all. You are more likely attracting one and done fans rather than building relationships in order to cultivate loyal consumers. Social media networks pulling back on what details they reveal about consumers should not shake a good social media professional. Instead, it should be common sense that incredibly relatable content will rise to the top and help you build a community around your brand.
Here are five 'roots' for you to think about as you revamp your strategy based on the newest social media network changes:
'Social' being the root word for social media emphasizes the importance of community. It was created so people could talk to each other online, not just so they could be talked to. This is such an important thing to remember that is so easily forgotten. Social media is one of the rare places where you actually can build a community with your consumers and have two-way conversations with them. Even Facebook recognizes how far we've gotten away from the community aspect, now requiring advertisers to create more engaging posts that require participation on behalf of the brand AND the consumer.
Such a buzzword, I know. It's been so overused in all of the wrong ways that I almost hate even using it anymore, but it is one powerful word when understood correctly. Guess what? Consumers are more technically savvy than ever and they are starting to see through a lot of the manipulation and sketchy contests brands try to pull off on social media. Brands need to focus on supply true content that truly speaks to who they are and who their consumers are. In the current landscape, consumers will respond way more to honesty and personality than they will to sales talk and gimmicks.
When I started out in social media it was drilled into my head that any piece of content that was published had to add value to the life of the end user. Period. This is still true today, even though many brands have strayed away from this practice. I would argue that it's even more important in today's saturated landscape to be providing valuable content that consumers can gravitate towards. It's common sense, but consumers are more likely to share content that they get some sort of value out of, and we all could use some more shares of our content.
Spending Valuable Time With The Consumer
As social media networks have grown, brands have stepped away from truly looking into their consumers on social media and what they are saying and how they are behaving. They like to lump everyone into one target audience and make assumptions, rather than dig down deep into the people that are responding to their content and figure out who they are and what they are engaging with on social. It is time consuming, especially if you do not have the budget for a fancy tool, but it is amazing what loyalty can be forged when you spend time with your consumer on social media and really understand what world they are living in.
This not only takes us back to the roots of social media, but all the way back to the roots of communication. Think about a bunch of cavemen around a fire, telling their stories. That is how far back this goes and how fundamental it is to effective social media strategies. What story does your brand have to tell? What stories can your consumers share with you? Figure out what they are and create engaging content to tell them to the public. People crave stories, so do not lose the opportunity to connect with important consumers that could become loyal advocates for your brand.
It is great to stay on top of all of the trends and the new digital landscape as it transforms how we think about online communication and social media. However, it is impossible to tap into those trends if we lose sight of where social media was born and what its fundamental purpose is >> building engaged communities.
Now back to writing for my (not so) secret blog... :)
- Marji J. Sherman