As marketers, we want people to buy our products. We want them to love our brand, to choose us over our competitors, and to remain loyal to us forever. We’re passionate about our brands and our products, and we expect others to feel the same way. So we put our beautiful advertising campaign on our website, we talk about all the amazing features, we extoll the product’s virtues on social media. We want to do more posts, more ads, more, more, more!
Take off your marketer hat for a moment and think about how you interact with brands as a consumer. What do you search for? What do you enjoy reading? Which types of posts to do you engage with, if any, on Facebook and Twitter? Why would you care about a particular message? Why would you comment on it, or share it with your friends?
Remembering that we’re consumers as well as marketers, that we’re real human beings who are also buying and using products that are being marketed by other people, can be a helpful sense check when we’re creating our marketing campaigns.
Take Facebook, for example. Paul Adams, who was working in their product development team at the time, did a lot of research on social behaviour and has talked about the human aspect of interactions in social media, including an insightful talk on “what people share and why”.
So what are people doing on Facebook? How are we engaging with our friends and families? Adams explains that liking, commenting, and sharing are just tools that essentially represent the same thing: talking. As much as 70% of those conversations are related to personal experiences or other people in their lives; importantly, they also mostly focus on feelings rather than facts.
Adams finds that there are four main reasons why individuals talk on Facebook:
- To make my life easier
- To build relationships
- To help others
- To craft our identity
If that’s the case, then how can we as brands fit into these conversations in a natural way? How can we avoid being seen as that big corporation disrupting your daily life by pushing an unwanted marketing message at you?
1. To make my life easier – Many of us post questions on Facebook when we want input from our friends on anything from restaurant tips to technical support. As a brand, you can tap into this by providing advice related to your business, giving recommendations, sharing tips and tricks that can help your fans in a way that creates value in the consumer’s broader lifestyle beyond your specific product. Make-up brands can provide how-to tips on getting a particular look, food brands can share recipes, laundry brands can tell you how to get out that pesky red wine stain…
2. To build relationships – Fundamentally, Facebook is about connecting with other people. We share common hobbies and interests, we publically declare our love for our partners, we laugh at inside jokes, we tell people happy birthday or congratulate them on their promotion. You can do this too: entertain your fans with quotes or pictures, thank them personally when you reach a certain milestone of fan numbers, reward them for their support with exclusive access and special promotions…
3. To help others – As well as asking for help from others, the other side of that interaction is that we’re often eager to return the favour. Why not ask for feedback from your followers, let them choose the colour or flavour of your next product? This can also be an effective means of limiting the impact of negative comments, by channelling them into constructive ideas instead. You can further encourage fans to help each other, asking them to share their own tips or advice.
4. To craft our identity – An important chunk of what we do on Facebook is expressing who we are as individuals; we’re fashioning an image of how we want to be seen by other people. Where do we work, who are our colleagues? Which football team do we support? Are we married, do we have children? What about religion, sexuality, politics? As a brand, you can enable your fans to express who they are. Ask them to take pictures of their book collections, tell you what their favourite flavour is, where they are going on holiday.
Of course, throughout all this, you need to be true to your brand. There’s no use in a pet food company giving fans make-up tricks, or an airline company telling followers how to grow vegetables in their garden. Sounds obvious, but browse a few brands’ social profiles and you’ll be shocked at what you will find.
So the moral of the story? Remember that you’re a human being as well as a marketer. Would you appreciate this message? Would you pass it on to your friends? If not, then most likely your fans wouldn’t either, and you might want to rethink that post…