The social media marketing landscape is constantly evolving with new networks, widgets, and tools. The way marketers approach social media strategically, however, hasn't changed much.

The problems that social media marketers face have been around a long time.

If you take a step back and look at the entire situation, you'll see that you have all sorts of problems in social media marketing. Organic reach is the proverbial needle in a haystack, paid social media costs go up double digits every quarter, brand trust is low, and vanity social metrics don't show business impact.

Most of all, you need to humanize your social media. Realize that for every piece of content you post, humans are on the other end. When you start talking about customer engagement and relationships, what does that mean and what is the value?

Most of your valuable engagement comes from 2-5% of your social media communities. Identify, foster, and amplify the best of those relationships to build a community that drives social word-of-mouth.

The Issue With Your Social Media Marketing

You've spent years and/or dollars growing your social media community, only to be told recently that you can't reach your audience just by putting content out. If you want to reach them, you have to pay. And the rate you pay keeps going up and up; there's limited real estate on your valued individual feed that advertisers desperately want.

Even if you've decided to pay the skyrocketing rate, your customers still don't trust your ad. They trust it about 25% of the time—almost 4X less than a recommendation from another person in their social circles.

Moreover, no matter what size of organization you're in, you need to understand the effect of your social media efforts. You can't put Facebook Likes in a balance sheet.

You need to get a grip on these problems.

Humanizing Social Media Marketing

Many other steps are a valuable part of your marketing mix. Producing quality content, having an authentic voice, and even using paid media each has a notable role. But it's time to adjust your thinking to humanizing social media marketing. Because the humans—your fans and customers—involved in social media can drive sustainable, measurable effects to every element of your business.

These statistics illustrate the point:

  • People trust brand advocates and referrals 92% of the time compared to ads.
  • People only trust the emails they sign up for 50% of the time.
  • People act on a recommendation 8-10X more than they do on an ad.
  • An empowered advocate's "cannonball effect" sends waves eight layers deep. For example, one advocate can generate 40,000+ social word-of-mouth impressions.
  • Because of the trust that generates action of social brand advocacy, the value of a social word-of-mouth impression is worth 5-250X more than a paid impression. If you do the math, a social brand advocacy community of 25 people can generate the business impact of 25 million paid-media impressions.

When you think of humanizing your social media marketing, the first concepts to consider are engagement, relationship, and trust.

If you asked 100 social media marketers what engagement means, you would get 100 different answers. But think about it in human terms...

What does "being engaged in a conversation" mean? Engagement isn't silently pushing a "like" button; it means being involved in the conversation, such as making mentions, sharing content, and checking in.

When looking for your best potential social brand enthusiasts and advocates, finding people who are engaged in that way is the best start.

Moreover, when you think about relationships in human terms, you quickly realize you can't just broadcast content, call it authentic, and have it create engagement. A relationship is a two-way experience. You have to get to know each other gradually, and you pay attention to the people who pay attention to you.

Think about how many times you tried a new restaurant, switched insurance companies, or booked a hotel just because somebody you trust provided a recommendation that influenced your decision somewhere in your purchase journey.

Now, if you, as a brand, can get the people you're in relationships with to tell their friends about your brand, you grow social word-of-mouth that gets people past the moment of trust.

The Benefits of Focusing on Relationships

When you look at the challenge of organic reach coupled with the lack of brand trust, building trusted becomes a priority.

You still have to create great content that is shareable, but if you can foster relationships with 1-4% of constantly engaged people and amplify their voices, you end up with a significant win.

When you build social word-of-mouth, people downstream do more than just look at content; they join your communities, sign up for your emails, and take advantage of offers shared by advocates.

You don't need to think of targets and campaigns and all things militarized… You take a little time to grow a community of advocates sharing your brand message and how the brand fits into their lives.

The obvious question is what's in it for brand advocates? The answer: it's the insider connection. Brand advocates enjoy being involved in a community of people with similar interests and insights with their favorite brands in a two-way relationship. (Note: There isn't mention of compensation; we're talking real brand advocacy).

Show these advocates content others can't see, ask their opinions about new products and ads, and let them chat with people inside the company they couldn't access otherwise. Making your brand advocates feel special and keeping them engaged goes much farther than reloading the ad campaign shotgun.

* * *

When you spot the problems in your social media marketing, think about it in human terms, and focus on relationships.

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Why You Need to Humanize Your Social Media Marketing

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image of Jeff Ernst

Jeff Ernst is CEO and president at Smync, a social word-of-mouth marketing platform.

LinkedIn: Jeff Ernst