Yesterday, I referred to a post by Jay Baer entitled “Is Technology Ruining Online Community.” My focus was on the skills that employers need to look for when building a social media team, but there was a subtext in Jay’s post seemingly unrelated to my comments that deserves attention of its own. As he states:
Most businesses massively overestimate the bond between company and customer in social media. Even your robust online community with appropriate social media staffing doesn’t create a blood oath among fans. Recognize that – especially in Facebook – your brand is literally competing for attention with friends and family and close confidants. There’s not been a company-authored status update ever written that I care more about than routine updates from my friends and family.
This comment reminded me of one of the best articles about social media I’ve read all year: “Are we killing our customers with engagement?” by Neicole Crepeau. Crepeau’s piece is a much needed, refreshing reality check for anyone who seeks to use social media for customer engagement:
[M]ost customers don’t want a conversation with a company or its representatives…
Customers aren’t beating down the doors of businesses begging them, “engage with me, please!”
Customers want to engage with their friends. They want to engage with content that amuses, teaches, or inspires them. They may want to engage with their friends about said content…
I’m not saying that companies shouldn’t listen to customers and respond to them. Good companies have been listening to their customers for years, in the ways available at the time. Good companies will continue to monitor, respond, answer questions, address concerns, elicit suggestions, all through social media as well as other means.
It’s the inane and sometimes manipulative attempts to converse and engage people that I’m decrying. With all the competition for our attention, the flood of content and news and status updates, I think consumers increasingly resent attempts to draw their attention with questions, content, contests, and conversations that aren’t valuable, relevant, fun, or interesting. It’s just more noise.
We’ve created a monster, by telling every company that they NEED a Facebook page and Twitter account.
I think these posts by Baer and Crepeau should be required reading for companies that use social media and those who advise them (ESPECIALLY those who advise them)–not to scare anyone away, but to articulate, very clearly, the fact that we’re entering a new phase of social media use for business. There was a time when it was enough to be present. There was a time when your customers would be delighted to hear from you in this space, because it was new. There was a time when a half-assed approach would work. But those days are over.
If you hope to use social media effectively, it’s time to get serious. It’s time to realize that your audience may not be all that interested in what you have to say unless you put them first, and make sure that instead of just being present, you’re committed to helping them even when there’s no immediate return on your effort.
Whether you’re using “old” media or new media to reach your audience, one thing hasn’t changed: your audience doesn’t want marketing and they sure as hell don’t want advertising. What they really want is education, information and–sometimes–entertainment that speaks to their needs. Put that first, and you’ll do just fine. Ignore it, and they’ll ignore you.