Social Media Needs Connections, Not Just “Followers” and “Likes”

Anthony Miyazaki. Social Media.

Social Media Needs Connections, Not Just “Followers” and “Likes”

Social networking connects people.  It connects people to people.  It connects people to brands.  At least, that’s what we’re told and that’s what we’d like to have happen.

But the vast majority of commercial social marketing effort is put into acquiring “likes” on Facebook, “followers” on Twitter, and “subscribers” on YouTube.  While big numbers in those places potentially can be meaningful, if there’s no real connection then those numbers are deceptive in what they truly represent.

Consider Mark Walsh’s recent report on a Razorfish study which found that the most important element for consumers in connecting to a brand was to “feel valued” by the brands (companies, marketers, sellers, etc.) with which they connect.  This was the case regardless of the consumer’s level of technological preference.  Granted, the concept of feeling valued is a somewhat ambiguous one, but consider that this concept means something potentially different for each customer (or at the very least each customer segment).  How does a marketer (seller, brand, company, blogger, etc.) really connect and let their connections know that they’re valued?

Before answering that, let’s consider another recent report by Laurie Sullivan where she examines the value of a Googler versus a Facebooker.  Using data from Chitika ad network, the numbers show that Google searches do a better job converting traffic to sales than Facebook traffic.  This makes sense in that intentional searching has an information-seeking or product-purchasing motive underlying it, whereas Facebook type browsing doesn’t necessarily have a similar underlying motive.

But what social networking sites (such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr, Blogger, etc.) have is an opportunity to build a more “affective” (emotional) connection in a low-pressure environment that isn’t focused on the sale.  Anyone who’s knowledgeable about building brand loyalty understands that building emotional connection is far more effective in building brand loyalty than merely low prices or high quality (which may appeal to price loyalty or quality loyalty, wherein when either price or quality is beaten out by the competition, the seemingly loyal customer leaves for the other brand).

So how does the marketer connect?  It gets back to the basics of what online social media needs to be successful: Content and CommunityContent means that you need consistently new material that is relevant to your target audience(s).  Community means that you do more than a casual “connect.”  You have to use the interactive nature of online social media to facilitate communication in both directions: from the customer (or potential customer) to you and from you to the customer.  But you also have to move the communication from two one-way paths to a true dyadic interactive exchange of thoughts, ideas, information, and yes, even feelings.  This doesn’t mean that you have to spend hours chatting with one potential customer (indeed, you shouldn’t), but if you aren’t spending time answering, commenting on, or at least acknowledging your followers, subscribers, and “fans,” then you aren’t using social networking media for its greatest benefit: to connect.  Truly, a little one-on-one interaction could go a long, long way in building a true “relationship” between you (or your brand) and those in your network.

So as much as having 1,000 (or 100,000) “friends,” “likes,” etc. is nifty, if they’re not really connected with you and if you’re not really connected with them, there’s not much point in it at all.  In fact, having a much smaller, but truly connected group of people is much more valuable than a larger, unconnected group.

One last thought…  Think about how easy it is to click on that Facebook “like” or “recommend” button (go ahead, you can do it at the top of this page).  That minimal amount of effort really doesn’t represent a serious commitment from the person who clicked on it.  But it’s like someone saying “hello” to you while walking down the street.  If you don’t at least say “hi” back, who’s to say they’ll even pay attention to you the next time they’re in your neighborhood.

Connecting is sensible.

Be sensible.
                                                               Anthony Miyazaki
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