Note: Social Media Doesn’t Work Like It Used To

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It’s 2016, and most consumer-focused brands realize by now that if they don’t invest some of their resources into building their brand on social media, they’re dead in the water. Even the most retail-driven brands are putting some effort into social media to further boost their brand value, and stay relevant.

But even though it’s well known social media can bring valuable ROI, many brands are still taking the wrong approach. They are trying to tell their audience what they want, rather than asking them what they need. They are yelling from the rooftops, instead of having conversations in a coffee shop.

What companies need to realize is that today, social media isn't about the transaction, it's about the conversation. Click To Tweet

There are many different ways to make social “work” for your brand. But there’s one commonality that lies underneath successful social media campaigns, and that is conversation. If your brand is using social media to create a two way dialogue, then you’ve already set the stage for success.

The Wrong Direction

The problem the many brands are having is that they think social media is just another advertising platform. They think it’s another place to tell people about their product or their service. So in an effort to maximize the attention of the platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, they push out content the talks exclusively about their product or service. And while this might work for a few established brands, or brands that have a hot products, the success that they’re having is only a fraction of what they could get if they told more stories.

For example, a brand might have 10,000 Instagram followers and post beautiful photos that feature their product in different environments. It looks great, but it doesn’t really tell a story. Fashion brands are notorious for this. They simply just post pictures of their products on good looking models and go right for the jugular by trying to visually “wow” you. This might get some likes, but is it really connecting with your audience any differently than the thousands of other clothing companies out there?

What the smartest fashion brands are doing is to have a healthy mix of user generated content from loyal fans that love their clothes (think Chubbies Instagram) and a dash of equity content that builds trust and entertains their target audience (Chubbies blog, Friday at Five).

Social media is about connections and feelings, not your product. Click To Tweet

If you want to sell something on social media, you better get pretty damn good at telling stories about your target audience and entertaining them.

We’ve Come A Long Way

In the late 90s and early 2000’s marketing got very transactional. Everyone was trying to buy banner ads and trying to manipulate SEO to get as many clicks as possible. Pop up ads were meant to be distracting and even annoying, such that you would just click on it to get it out-of-the-way. The Internet was still new and these tactics worked. But we are seeing consumer behavior going back to more of a gut-feeling-reaction. People can sniff out fake or unauthentic brands so easily because we’ve been hit with internet ads so much over the past 10-15 years.

We are living in an age when people can get what they want, when they want it, in whatever format that they want it in. Everything is on demand. So if you think you’re just going to push products out on social media and generate tons of revenue, your flat out wrong. You might be able to advertise coupons and sales, but that’s not scalable and won’t last for long.

In order to have long term success on all the current social media platforms–and whatever new platforms will come over the next couple of years–you have to dig deep, tell stories and be authentic. It’s your only chance at survival in the battle for the most competitive prize in the world: consumer attention.

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John Timmerman
About the author

John Timmerman

John Timmerman is the founder of Good Monster, a digital agency in Syracuse, NY. He is a former strength & conditioning coach and personal trainer who has trained NFL, MLB, NHL, PGA, UFC athletes, executives and everyone else for 10 years. When he's not burning the house down trying to cook up healthy ways to eat bacon, he's traveling and enjoying life to the fullest!