One of the best things about social media is that people are becoming more real, revealing more about themselves. People are showing more courage in putting themselves out there – sure, some guy you went to school with might judge you for sharing your feelings, but there are others with whom your opinions will resonate, and those are the people you really want to connect with. Social media facilitates better connections with likeminded folk, leading to the creation of online communities that foster encouragement, creativity and genuine relationships. It’s really great to see, really heartening to see people who might have felt out of place in the world finding others who feel the same way.
I was reminded of this when Bryan Kramer did a presentation recently where he summed this up perfectly from a business perspective:
It’s a simple, inspiring summary that’s been rightfully praised by many in the industry. It underlines that community spirit, that tangible sense of belonging that people are finding in the social media landscape. Inspiring is the best word for it, and I applaud Bryan for his clarity.
What does this mean for business?
Bryan’s statement really captures the mood around social media and how it should be used by brands. There’s a clear shift away from advertising and selling and a move towards creating genuine connections with people. The emphasis on content is largely due to it being a way to create human connections, an opportunity to present who you are as a company, as opposed to what you do. It’s an exciting time to be involved as the opportunities for creating real, meaningful relationships are there, waiting, and the audience is looking for engagement. You just have to reach out to them, understand them, and, ideally, contribute to their world. The opportunity to take up a place of trust and service has never been better, it’s now up to businesses to take it.
So how do you do it?
Listening. This is emphasised by every social media expert in every post and every publication. You need to learn what your customers want, listen to what they’re after, then be responsive to their needs. You’ve got access to more consumer data than ever before, and most of it is happening in day to day discussions, right now, conversations that you can tap into and take notes from. You need to listen, but more than that, you need to hear what’s being said and absorb that information into your processes.
Brands need to be more human
Be real, be genuine. Be adventurous with your messaging. You know your target audience – ideally, you are amongst them yourself – so if you’re taking a risk and putting yourself out there, think about what would resonate with you. What would you respond to as a target consumer? You have the data, the platforms, the means – you can find likeminded, or better ‘like-wanted’, folk that will connect with your brand identity. You just have to establish what that identity is.
Be about people
What’s the thing that people always say when they leave a company? ‘The best thing about working here was the people’. Social media gives you a chance to make all businesses about the people. Obviously, your product still needs to be great, but that inner-company camaraderie can be spread further, creating a more collaborative relationship between your business and your clients. People want to be part of a community, to feel like they belong. Social media gives you the chance to show that they belong with you.
It’s not about consumers, it’s not about clients. It’s about people. Listening, engaging, creating real connections. H2H.
They’re out there now, talking to each other, establishing likeminded communities. All you have to do is go meet them.
Andrew Hutchinson is a freelance writer, award-winning author and media and communications professional. There was a time when he was unconvinced of the importance of social media. He was wrong. www.andrewhutchinson.com.au