Most of social media marketing these days is about two things: tools and tactics. But whatever happened to the “social” dimension of social media networks?
While everyone is busy debating the takeover and benefits of artificial intelligence and its incorporation into marketing automation, a potential negative effect of these tools and tactics still lingers: the loss of the “human” voice—the quality and authenticity of human interaction.
After all, isn’t that what social media networks are supposed to be all about?
There’s a greater reason for businesses to pay attention to the power of being human in social media. Social networking done right allows brands to grow their presence online and leverage interaction to have a robust and engaged group of people who actually purchases their goods or services.
Human interaction, supplemented by new technologies, is still key to brand building using social media. One only has to look at the social media landscape littered with big brands to realise that while automating content and interactions might be useful, not having a human voice could lead to inevitable snafus.
As an antidote to the drawbacks of setting automated communications, here are the reasons why human-powered interactions make for a better overall experience in social media marketing.
Small and medium-sized businesses that use social media for marketing purposes sometimes miss out on a major opportunity: the chance to build relationships. In other words, their extreme focus on the marketing aspect occurs to the detriment of everything else, especially business-to-customer relationships.
Why does relationship-building matter so much? Because it’s all part of the customer experience, and customer experience can have a make-or-break impact on the bottom line. Consider these statistics:
- 70% of buying experiences are based on how customers feel they’re being treated.
- Australian businesses lose, on average, $720 per buyer because of poor customer experience.
- Customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the year 2020.
- 62% of companies view customer experience delivered by the contact centres as a competitive differentiator.
And in a world where omni-channel purchases and marketing are starting to become the norm, digital aspects of businesses and customer experience occur at multiple touchpoints. When businesses use social media to build relationships with their customers, they can address complaints, comments, and issues as they arise.
Customer loyalty is directly related to customer engagement. Engaged customers are five times more likely to buy only from the same brand in the future. If businesses fail to employ human interaction in addressing negative reviews or feedback, they risk tarnishing customer loyalty and brand impression.
Speaking of omni-channel marketing, advanced features that are part of CRMs and marketing automation software give marketers the data and the tools to tailor personalised offers based on past purchases and various behaviours such as clicking through emails and ads. Human interaction on social media allows a sense of face-to-face communication that encourages or coaches a customer to take the next step and actually act on these personalised offers.
If a business has a real individual, for example, speaking to a specific customer and not only presents the personalised offer but then offers to be available to speak further and answer questions, up a line of communication is opened where the customer feels both valued and courted.
The data and insights that marketing automation software gives marketers may be the initialising catalyst, but it’s the undeniable human touch that seals the deal, converts, and closes the purchase.
Online bots, when they first started out, were low-level programmable responders and were prone to error, often producing out-of-context responses that were likely to turn off customers. But AI is giving marketers the promise of smarter learning and deeper insights so that responses can be mimicked in a more organic way.
While AI is still in the early stages of adoption, it does point the way to a truly streamlined and simplified scheduling of social content. However, it still lacks a core human skill: Emotional intelligence.
The truth is that while social media marketing platforms can do impressive things such as customer response analysis, data collection, and even present decision-makers with options, human emotional intelligence is going to be what casts the final decision in stone.
And when it comes to human interaction and responses on social media, emotional intelligence is the secret sauce that allows the individuals behind a business to actually assess the merits of that incoming data, communicate effectively, and change market behaviour.
Better Audience Insights
Ask a woman who has to commute every day what the true issues of a city’s transit system are. Ask a marketer who spends time speaking and reaching out to specific audience members, one by one, person by person, email by email, following up with comment after comment, what the pain points of that communication are.
Tracking email opens, using tagging for smart segmentation and other direct response and conversion tactics such as tracking reviews, retargeting, and performing voice-of-customer research has positives.
But a marketer who has had to spend time “in the trenches,” and actually interact with customers, listening and then actively responding to their feedback is able to cultivate an almost intuitive understanding of what they need. This translates to understanding and using and knowing precisely which words, actions, and content will help turn engaged audience members into buyers.
These keys to human interaction in social media all work together in a seamless process that triggers long-term brand loyalty. It takes, on average, seven interactions for a customer to even become aware of your brand or business, let alone specific marketing messages. This “Rule of Seven,” is a process that can be further empowered by human interaction.
Yes, the positives to be gained are a value-added experience for customers and a sense that their issues and feedback matter to the business. But, when combined, these four benefits of human interaction also spur brand loyalty, which is integral to a customer’s perception of the brand, choice of purchase, and future behaviour.
Businesses might protest that social media and brand-building efforts are simply moving too fast to populate all the time with new content and still find the time and manpower required to provide consistent responses and interactions. But this is simply a lazy response that reflects a misunderstanding of social media in general.
Firstly, brands don’t necessarily need to be generating new content all the time. In fact, they can build active relationships with other brands and re-share content. There are other tactics such as repurposing and refreshing old content, running contest with strategic partnerships, and influencer marketing they can rely on.
Secondly, brands and businesses with lean teams can always opt to delegate or work with digital marketing agencies. Content marketing can be a well-oiled machine with the right strategy and focus behind it.
The bottom line is, if there’s a will, there’s a way. And the way forward that still works best for brands in terms of social media is human-powered, customer-centric, and also open to new technologies for support.