We have all seen the numbers, seen the stats and have seen how fast social media is taking off. We are trying our best to create audiences, promote product, educate users and become influencers for the brand’s new market. Marketing industry professionals, myself included, are eager to sign clients, create promotion strategy, sort out metrics and compile analytics. To what end?
I’m not saying that we’re blind to what we are doing here, quite the contrary. What I am saying is, even though social media is new, it’s evolving already.
All of us, including the users and brand followers, are creating a revolution in the marketing world. All of us in some capacity, are improving the networks and driving innovation and expectations further. Never before have we seen such immediate communication between the sellers and the buyers. Social media marketing is fairly new to the advertising/marketing/communication world and it’s changing faster than we can assimilate at times.
What sometimes slips through our cracks is the end user’s expectations of the rapid evolution of social media. Brand followers and customers are not stupid. And in all honesty, they never really were, we just treated them like that. That needs to change. The driving force in the next steps of social media marketing will be adapting to the expectations of the brand follower/user/customer.
For a while now, new media marketers have been set to a standard of post, link, editorial, post, link, editorial, and engagement when needed. Where content is king (whatever that means) and the flow of information is the most important asset any company has. Users, from what I have noticed, are starting to expect more out of the brands they follow. They are starting to understand what marketers are doing, which is basically conventional advertising and marketing practices guised as social media.
So, what do I foresee what brand followers will expect out of us in the near future? It’s hard to tell exactly what the evolution will be. However, if you look at the big picture, you start to notice behavioral changes. Here are a few ideas.
BRAND PERSONALITY OFFICER
Brand followers were fine, for a while, with brands just pushing information out on them. Followers liked the idea of “liking” their favorite brand and telling their friends about it. However, the brands have become too passive. To speak to a follower, you need to be able to speak TO them, not at them, or wait for them to speak to your brand. Followers will start to expect a “Brand Personality Officer” to interact with while online and one who creates and fulfills the personality of the brand to the followers. The BPO’s mission will be to engage with brand followers utilizing their own personality mixed with that of the mission of the brand. “Speak as if you ARE Brand X.” If the brand doesn’t have anyone to speak with, the user will most likely pull the plug on the “follow.”
Why do your brand’s followers actually follow you? What is in it for the brand followers other than a link on their Facebook page and a post twice a day? Incentive based social media marketing has already popped up on the grid but, we need to press further. Rewarding the followers of the brand that have taken the time to view your page or feed is the right thing to do and, in all honesty, the followers are wanting, if not expecting it. Service with a smile and a free cup of coffee.
USER GENERATED CONTENT IS KING
It once was said that, “Content is King” in the land of social media. Well, that was true about a year ago. But now, as we press forward and engage with our followers, the brand followers want to engage with “their” brand, they are thirsting for it.* Imitation is the best form of flattery. Allowing and promoting brand followers in generating their own content and sharing it with the brand, even if it’s crappy, is a gold mine of promotion.** Think of it, you as a marketer don’t even have to spend anything to promote your brand, they’re doing it for you and they are happy, if not, eager to do it! Give them the avenue and the “incentive” to do so.
* Brand followers have a belief that their favorite brands are actually “their” brands.
** One key thing about User Generated Content, is the “Brand Personality Officer” needs to comment on it, thank and engage the follower for doing so.
These are just some observations and predictions I have as to the future of online marketing to brand followers. What is the common denominator with all of these? The brand follower wants to be engaged by the brand and wants some sense that there is a person behind the curtain they have access to. The brand followers are going to be expecting more out of the brand and us as marketers. We have to be ready to foresee and adapt to their changing expectations.
->> PS: These are merely observations and not based upon any sort of analytic, just in case you were wondering.