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August, 2016
Engaging the modern social media user in a different way

By Elzette Buitendag – Head of Social Media. Do people want to be part of your brand story or do they want to be their own brand?

Imagine yourself walking down the street, taking in your surroundings, and suddenly out of nowhere  a man in a hamburger suit jumps in front of you. This is not someone with a face, but rather an overgrown sanwiched meat and it’s asking you to Tweet your #FriYay face. All this, while you have an urban rooftop farm in your community – an incentive on your doorstep that’s actually making a difference.

The beauty about digital communications is that, although you have a mass of people gathered at one place – like, let’s say, Facebook – it is not a place for mass marketing. Brands tend to treat it like a digital billboard platform and craft messages for a group of people, instead of an individual, and as such tends to be invasive and disruptive.

You’ll see a bunch of watered-down brand messages that are positioned towards the masses, and which never really receives valuable interactions from their targeted audience. Although reach and awareness is a brand objective of many on social media, it could be damaging your brand equity if not done in the right way.

“We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.” Craig Davis

Brands should try and engage a person – and a group will follow

You are probably nodding your head in agreement, thinking of your latest campaign and asking your consumer to choose the next flavour, to customise the logo or decide on the ending of a film. Surely you are involving individuals in your brand story? Sure, but it has become far more complex than this, and we are facing a new kind of digital consumer: one that does not want to be part of YOUR brand story, but rather wants to be a brand story themselves.

Let’s refocus our strategic thinking and consider how we can resonate with an individual. You are far more prone to interact with a message if it relates to who you are or where you are in life, and if it addresses your present situation, a particular desire, or a problem you are facing. You are also more prone to filter content according to personal association.

For instance, you will far rather trust your friend’s recommendation on a product or brand, than hearing it from the brand itself. Having someone’s friend, family member or colleague deliver your brand message changes the context of the message in a positive way. The investment it takes to create social media ambassadors, instead of people engaging randomly, is definitely worth your marketing efforts. And brands should focus on data and insights to better understand ways to deliver social-worthy content.

One of the hottest marketing trends in 2016 is to speak customer. Statistics show that 67% of US sales are now influenced by word of mouth. This all comes down to the Zero Moment of Truth, where someone’s public review, recommendation or interest becomes your biggest selling tool. The moment your customer becomes the brand channel, you will deliver a bigger punch.

How do we refocus our social media strategy?

Every person on social media is on a journey (like that person walking down the street) and your offering, message or content could be a hook to help them get to their destination. This is where digital user maps and brand personas will assist you. If you know the context of your brand avatar, which problems they face – you will be able to create moments of delight and “aha-you-totally-get-me” moments.

In essence you are looking for gaps, needs, desires, context and influences. What they expect and what motivates them, what resonates and what delights.

If engagement metrics are the primary way you are evaluating your social media effectiveness, then I want to encourage you to relook your social media strategy.

However, if you disregard engagement numbers completely, you may be missing out on valuable strategic insights.

How can you empower your customer to BECOME the brand story or channel? That’s the question we need to ask ourselves…