A funny, seemingly backwards thing is happening: Our increasingly connected and technology-filled world is causing consumers to crave the basics of human interaction. As a result marketers are getting personal, relying on empathy rather than logos. This trend will continue well beyond 2012, so if you're thinking about how to be successful going forward, read on. 

Being Social vs. Going Social

Recognizing the difference between going social and being social is absolutely critical for business success. For instance, while it’s perfectly acceptable to bombard your friends with messages and status updates, aligning your marketing strategy with that behavior won’t get you anywhere nice.

Here’s why: Old school methods of advertising -- coupons, radio station commercials. etc. -- are fundamentally different from what customers respond to today. Like a presidential campaign, they rely on the effectiveness of blasting one single message to the masses, but what the masses are increasingly demanding is the exact opposite: personalization and palpable sincerity.

Marketers have tried mixing these techniques, but it’s a square peg in a round hole. The only thing blasting the same message over and over again on platforms like Twitter has succeeded in doing is giving social media for business a bad name.  

The New Mission: Forget the Sale

Artist and photojournalist Dan Eldon is credited with saying “the journey is the destination”, which is a good way to think about social media marketing today. The destination is pretty much the same for everyone across the board: The land of loyal customers. So forget about that part. Instead, focus your energy on the yellow brick road. 

Smart brands are making the journey personal. Rather than the same old messages and interruptions, they’re solving problems and building trust with intimate and attentive environments. It’s this switch from didactic to facilitative dialog that’s key in building these relationships.

In other words, when social media marketing is used openly and honestly rather than like a strategy for a sale, people respond very well. There are a few companies that really get this, including Zappos, which re-directed its marketing budget towards exceptional customer service and company culture very early on. 

One outlet in particular is their Inside Zappos blog, which gives consumers an intimate glimpse into the lives of the employees. No selling, no pitches; just good ol' fashioned storytelling. Bam! Suddenly it's about so much more than shoes.

Experience Management is Key

Social Media platforms have changed the consumer mentality completely. They're trying to get your attention now, and they deserve it. After all, there's no "me" in "social", so don't make business about you-- make it about them and their experience.

If you're wondering where to start, EML Wildfire put together a nifty infographic that highlights 5 basic questions every business should be answering before taking the plunge into social media:

  1. What is your objective?
  2. How will you build a community?
  3. What are you going to say?
  4. Who's going to manage it? 
  5. How will you measure success?

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Got any smart additions? Drop them in the comments section below. Let's help each other out.