Marketers aren't in control anymore, and they can't solely focus on promoting and selling in everything they do. The relationship between marketer and audience has changed, and if you've been in it for more than 20 years, you might struggle to adapt.
As Judy Ungar Franks, author and clinical assistant professor in the Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University, says - when you apply old-school media thinking to a new media world...nothing happens!
This is a key reason why marketers struggle to meet goals or get the best results from their content marketing efforts. The content on this blog will consider both parties in the audience and marketer relationship.
What changed in the relationship?
In simplest terms, the catalyst of change in the relationship between marketer and audience is the internet. In it, social media, influencer blogs, customer reviews and instant communication gave the consumer more control in the relationship. Marketers had a lot more power when the relationship was more linear, and they could just make sales pitches to a captive audience through TV, newspaper or radio.
Next thing you know, people could skip commercials and turn to the internet as an entertainment option. So, marketers followed them and tried to communicate with them the same way they would on traditional broadcast media. They found out the results are not the same:
As Dr. Franks points out in her book, Media: From Chaos to Clarity: Five Global Truths That Make Sense of a Messy Media World:
Old school marketing was about four Ps: Product, place, price, promotion
There was certainty in every medium, limited selection and media was products
Now it's about the four Cs of social: Content, connecting, community, curating
Media are strikingly similar (it's all on screen)
Media don't compete (they combine them all for a comprehensive, engaging experience) Consumers are the distributors and accelerants of your content
What Do Consumers Want in a Realtionship?
If the "sell" or "pitch" is the end goal, you can't spend all your time focused on that part of the conversation. However, recognizing the change in the relationship is only half the problem. The second half deals with a crowded room of people trying to build a relationship with the same consumer. If everyone is talking the same way, it's harder to make the case that you're the right one for them.
One of the best ways to optimize communication in a relationship is remembering to put yourself in the other person's shoes. This relationship is no different. You have to think like a marketer and a consumer.
When you're not thinking like a marketer, you and your audience probably have similar attitudes, emotions and reactions to online content:
Whether it's Terminator 2 or the AMC series Humans, people have always had that worry in the back of their mind about "the machines" taking over. My question is - why don't we have the same concern in marketing?
After all, you can do something about it before it can start to damage your business. Before you get visuals of your office computers growing legs and saying, "Must destroy the company - resistance is futile," let me explain what I mean.
We've seen this story before
Whether it's Humans or Westworld, the story always starts the same - we develop robots to make our lives easier, and then everything goes to crap. In the realm of social media or content marketing, we're seeing an overreliance on making things easier through automation and analytics while forgetting to be human.
Unlike the apocalyptical machine stories, I'm not suggesting it's something you shouldn't be doing in the first place. However, like a recent Forbes article pointed out - automation still has to have a human touch. This is especially true on social media, especially since it's called social media.
You'll find plenty of brands of all sizes that are doing nothing but automating the content on their feed. They'll post content all of the time, hoping that it will gain them the benefit of your engagement, and that's where the effort ends. You never see them start a conversation, or start one with wanting all the replies to come from you, but they don't feel they have to add anything more.
This is actually a pet peeve of mine. I've been known to unfollow social media feeds that feature easy automation but not human interaction. It tells me they don't care that much about my involvement in their online presence. On the brand side, lack of a human element can cost you engagements, shares, reputation and advocacy.
Unfortunately, I also see an overreliance on automation and a lack of human effort from many content marketing and social thought leaders. To me, promoting yourself as a thought leader in social media and then never engaging with people on a platform is like an ad agency touting their social media strategy tutelage while showcasing terrible following numbers on their platforms.
Robots make mistakes that hurt you more than them
If you've spent quality time on social media over the last few years, you've probably witnessed or experience an automated response fail. For example, there was the time Dominos apologized for a customer's great pizza. I've also seen automation offer a positive response to a post about a negative experience or situation. In this case, the "machine" isn't intelligent enough to respond, but people definitely know the difference.
Another example of an automation challenge that does more harm than good is utilizing a powerful social listening software that doesn't have the right data incorporated into its processes. For example, if Chevrolet told its social listening engine to track people talking about "Chevrolet," they would overlook the audience that refers to them online as "Chevy" or "bowtie."
View your humanity as an advantage
Bots and automation aren't the only things that provide a critical pros/cons dynamic to your marketing efforts. Humans are also capable of taking data, analytics and code and jumping to the wrong conclusions:
Andrew makes the same point - Could you pitch an idea featuring someone riding a skateboard on an actual highway with one hand guzzling a branded drink and lip-syncing? If your automatic response is no, you may have some good reasons why:
It doesn't directly sell the product (where's the CTA)?
It doesn't fit the brand (but what brand would this fit)?
Then again, you would've never tested it and seen the amazing results. In Ocean's Spray's case- skyrocketing sales and doublimg their stock. Some people think it's nothing more than one of those lucky viral video stories. Mark Schaefer says it's a prime example of the power of creating "human" commercials.
"The video is real, raw, human, and vulnerable. Generally speaking, everything ads are not," he said.
If I was new to the planet and asked you how humans feel about the car buying experience, what would you tell them? I assume you wouldn't describe it the same way you would a Caribbean cruise. However, there are too many people that don't mind infusing the annoyances of car buying to their LinkedIn marketing strategy.
When you walk onto a car lot, you know you're going to have someone approach you and talk to you about buying a car, but why is that so bad? Marcus Sheridan points out:
"Imagine you walk onto a car dealership lot and a salesman comes striding out. Do you expect that salesman to have your best interests at heart, or are you anticipating the whole 'Have I got the perfect car for you' routine?"
In other words, you feel like the conversation is going to be driven (no pun intended) by what benefits them - not you.
How are people getting a similar experience on LinkedIn? You can find plenty of promotion-filled sales lots filled with robotic salespeople communicating through canned and repeatable rhetoric.
There are Lots of Waving Tube Men
Many LinkedIn profiles are full of brands talking about themselves and their perfect things for the audience. Their pages are the equivalent of having a bunch of wacky waving inflatable arm men in a used car lot, and both are about equally as effective in inspiring someone to buy.
You'll notice that when LinkedIn announces their best page announcement winners, it's all about the ways brands are providing value and building trust. For example:
The Staff Follows a Script
Poor Bert Healy. He just wanted his script to sound like a natural conversation, but it's more than evident that Mr. Warbucks is reading a prepared set of sentences. It didn't help matters when Warbucks closed with, "Did I just do a commercial?"
However, Bert had a good excuse. It was the 1930s, radio was big, and he had a captive audience. Yet today, people are willing to follow a similar formula using LinkedIn messages, and it's not as funny as this scene. In fact, it's annoying, lazy, unprofessional and sad.
Like a stereotypical used car salesman, they may greet you in a way that seems like it's an attempt to get to know you, but once you respond, it's all about their benefit.
It starts with a disingenuous connection request
Disingenuous reasons for wanting to connect generally include an interest in "expanding a personal network and wanting to connect with like-minded people." Or the more amusing invitations to connect are the ones where they tell you upfront that they think you're stupid.
For example, they tell you your recent "great blog or post" that "showed up on their feed," drew them to you. Granted, they aren't going to tell you specifically which post it is because this is a cut and paste script that goes to several people. It's the car lot greeting before things go into sales mode. Once you connect, you'll get more cut and paste messages that signal no real interest in connection, conversation, value or trust.
Because it's not about you. If it was, things would sound a lot less scripted and the conversation could be very different. As Marcus said in his blog, your content (or communication) could say:
“Why HubSpot is right for you.”
“Is HubSpot the right fit for you?”
One shows bias, one does not.
Creating value, starting a conversation or building trust means avoiding what Chris Brogan would call treating people like purses and wallets. One of the simplest pieces of advice I've ever gotten about social media marketing is - You have to give to get.
Prove them wrong. It will benefit you both.
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