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Why the Focus on Human Relationships in Social Media?
Posted on June 10th 2014
With the increased integration of social media into our daily lives, there’s also been an underlying push to create more human relationships with your brand. Pure Matter President Bryan Kramer summed this up at an event earlier in the year, when he presented a speech based around what he called ‘H2H’, or ‘Human to Human’, taking over from traditional ‘B2B’ and ‘B2C’ labels. The presentation was a massive hit – Kramer had successfully put a name to this new trend and people were keen to adopt it, the hashtag ‘#H2H’ now regularly utilised by those in the communications and digital marketing sectors. But why the emphasis on human relations? Why does social media demand that we establish better relationships with consumers in order to succeed?
A Change in Focus
In general, marketing has traditionally been a ‘push’ exercise. You assess your strategic direction, get an understanding of where to reach your target audience, based on demographic profiling, then you push out your message and hope for response. The growth of social media has altered this dynamic. Where push used to be the best way to spread your brand message, this method is not effective on social platforms. Pumping out ads is seen as intrusive, invasive and people just block you out, eliminating you from their feeds altogether.
Whereas once advertisers had a captive audience, it’s now the audience that hold all the cards. They choose what media outlets they see, they create their own news stream, tailored to their interests. As media consumption habits evolve, marketers, too, must realise that they also need to advance. If people can choose what they see and when they see it, the only way to reach them is to go where they are – and once there, you need to give them reason to choose you.
It’s Called ‘Social’ for a Reason
One of the biggest points of emphasis when looking at how to understand and utilise social media is that social media is just that – ‘social’. If you want your brand message to reach social media users, you have to communicate with them, hear what they’re saying, and tailor your message to their needs. The number of active users of social platforms is growing every day, and the more people are logged onto Facebook, the less they’re consuming traditional media sources. This is why we’re now seeing such an emphasis on content marketing, because great content is what you need to get people interested in what your business does.
More importantly, great content gets shared. The most valuable endorsement you can get is word of mouth – while this has always been the case, it used to be that word of mouth spread amongst a person’s friendship group would have a maximum reach of hundreds of people, if you were lucky. Social media, with its emphasis on followers and connections, coupled with the ability to post your thoughts publicly, now sees positive word of mouth spread to thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people, in an incredibly short amount of time. This has changed the game, putting increased onus on brands to produce content that speaks to their audience in order to get more shares and reach.
What’s more, with so much data, so many tracking options available, consumers are now growing to expect brands are going to find them, not the other way round. When someone mentions a brand on Twitter, they expect that the brand will be listening and, ideally, will respond. If they don’t and a competitor who is paying attention does, guess who’s gonna get that user’s business? The change in media consumption habits has necessitated a need to analyse brand messages, to better understand your audience, and to listen, more than anything else, to what consumers are saying.
The Human Touch
This is where the human element comes in. With brands now accepting that they need to be listening, that they need to be working to establish connections and relationships with their target customers in order to facilitate better brand reach and advocacy, marketers also need to realise that the best way to form relationships is by communicating with people. It’s not just a response users want, they want a connection, they want to know they’re being listened to. The strength of social media is that it gives everyone a voice, a platform where they can present themselves and their ideas. You can tweet a celebrity and let them know what you think, you can add a trending hashtag and immediately be part of a worldwide conversation - everyone has the opportunity to be somebody, to have their voice be heard. And the growing expectation is that brands hear them.
The best way to show a person how important their voice is is to respond to it. If your brand can respond to user queries, answer questions and be a useful part of the consumers’ world, that person will feel important, special even, and will speak positively on your behalf. This is the basis of human connection with brand – people no longer want to be advertised to or spoken at. They want real interaction, they want to know you’re hearing them, that they’re not just another number.
People spend time customising their profiles for a reason - because that’s them, that’s their digital self. If someone asked you a question in real life, would you ignore them? If you did, would you expect them to want anything more to do with you? Social media conversation gives you the opportunity to hear many points of view, many opinions on issues relating to your business or industry. People put these opinions out there for a reason – they want to share, they want people to hear. Acknowledging their voice, working to help where you can, these things go a long way to establishing a solid social presence.
human connections / shutterstock