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Social media is quite the beast.

From corporate boardrooms to home-based hobbyists, the idea of “social media marketing” can cast fear into the hearts of even the most courageous marketers.

There are many misconceptions surrounding social media — especially as it relates to marketing or promoting your business.

There is an incredible amount of noise happening because the barriers of entry for social marketing is nearly nil. All brands — regardless of size, marketing budget, or clout — can promulgate their message in the social realm.

This simplicity, however, leads to confusion and disappointment.

Marketing for Humans

Today’s marketers must understand that social media is not built for brands. Rather, social media is about relationships.

Human-to-human relationships.

As humans, we have always been a relationship-based species. From early trade routes to family traditions spanning generations, they all focus on building more authentic relationships with others.

Modern social media is a convenient platform to accelerate our predisposition to connect with others.

So what is the problem?

Marketers.

Seriously, marketers ruin everything.

In the last handful of years, brands have entered the online relationship wrestling ring and applied yesterday’s marketing tactics (which are not relationship based) to today’s connection model.

The results are far from wonderful.

So, as marketers, how do we honor the desire of humans to form meaningful connections while growing our business online?

Challenges of Social Media Marketing

When talking to business owners, they relate their own challenges using social media as a marketing tool. The frustrations generally revolve around social media management, ineffectiveness of social marketing, feeling overwhelmed with the time commitment, and the constant changes within the industry.

These all are symptoms of an underlying issue: a lack of strategy.

It stands to reason, if you don’t know where you are going, you will never know when you’ve arrived.

The same goes for using social media for your business. If you do not have a clear, articulable goal, you will get burned out and potentially alienate your audience because of a disconnected message.

Understanding How to Use Social Media

As brands, we have to approach our entire marketing strategy with our customer’s interest as the foundation. Everything we do must ease the frustration and pain point of our end user.

When a prospective client approaches a brand, they do so with preconceived expectations of how the brand will handle the interaction.

Brand ambassadors must respect this transactional expectation and listen first. By carelessly injecting branded marketing content, brands risk breaking the expectation of the customer.

Does your social media strategy answer the following:

  • What is my ideal customer struggling with right now?
  • How can I solve the problem their facing?

We must get back to a human-to-human approach in our marketing.

Solutions for Effective Social Media Marketing

So how do we set ourselves up for social media marketing success?

1. Have a Plan

Take the time early to map out a social media strategy. Some questions your social media strategy should answer are:

  • Who do you want to reach?
  • What do you want out of your efforts?
  • What is success?
  • What is failure?
  • How will you measure each?
  • Who on your team is responsible?
  • How much control do they have?
  • How is scheduling handled?
  • How will potential emergencies be handled?

2. Be Human First

As I already said, marketers ruin everything. So when marketing on social media, we must take our marketing hat off and put our relationship hat on.

Whether you are answering tweets on your customer support line, publishing white papers for the sales department, or creating a holiday campaign — remember the target audience: your human customers.

3. Put a Face to the Name

Again, every social media campaign should be driven by your human customers. Develop an ideal persona — a fictional representation of your perfect customer. Put a face to them, name them, write a biography of their challenges and frustrations, and “get to know them”.

With a persona in mind, your entire marketing department can get behind helping them solve their problems and speak their language. You will be amazed at how your choice of words, graphics, offers, and responses will change when you are mentally associating your efforts with a real person.

4. Beyond An Line Expense

Besides marketing and sales, social media has become a natural platform for customer service teams. Customer service teams are traditionally viewed as an expense item on the balance sheet.

Forward thinking brands are already seeing the benefits of sales and marketing alignment. I propose going one step further and aligning the customer service department with the sales and marketing departments.

It is not just about customer service, on social media, it is about solving the customer’s problem.

Happy customers lead to raving fans.

Conclusion & Next Steps

Social media marketing is not a magic pill — our marketing woes will not disappear over night when you start using social to make connections. But the connections you do make with your audience will be much deeper and relevant.

I encourage you to explore social media for building relationships with your current and prospective customers. Remember, focus on solving their problems and the sales will follow.

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