Stop muttering and start listening

Posted on Jun 8, 2015


“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.” (Bernard M. Baruch – US Economic adviser).

Think about that Facebook post that first convinced you to join a brand community recently. Undoubtedly a wry blog piece, a beautifully crafted video or a genuine discussion forum with a real community manager. Unless you’re a real sucker for punishment, it was unlikely to have been a discount offer, like all the other discount offers you’ve seen many times before.

Whilst the purists vehemently reject the idea of ‘selling’ through social networks, sales promotions have inevitably sneaked under the wire to help clients get some immediate return on social investment.

As long as there’s a healthy balance of ‘brand’ dialogue, a community should flourish healthily.

The problem is some brands, particularly retailers, behave like impatient puppy dogs, yapping for your attention at every turn. And like anyone with social diarrhea, anything engaging runs out a long time before the conversation does. Soon your facebook looks remarkably similar to that Hotmail address you abandoned under a an ocean of spam back in 2006.

So much so, up to 57% of consumers actively avoid brands who bombard them with offers, giving rise to a ‘deletist consumer’.

That’s 57% who take action to avoid brands who abuse their relationship. Who knows how many of remaining 43% are simply ignoring mundane posts.

The challenge is for brands to step-back from the mire and think about what social marketing actually means and consider the truths in human relationships.

  1. Social relationships work on mutual connections – everyone understands each other. And that starts with listening and learning the social rhythm of your social community. There’s enough data to build proper insight into social personas and get some decent segmentation going to make dialogue more relevant to them.
  2. Be conversational, not simply promotional. Brands need to develop a conversational tone-of-voice, to build a social personality. Contrived sales messages should be confined to advertising channels. This doesn’t mean you can’t sell of course, but be sociable in your approach.
  3. Make them feel part of the conversation. We all want to contribute, comment and grow dialogue. Avoid lazy ‘broadcast’ tactics and be open-ended, inviting communities to be part of the message.
  4. Give them something to share. Communities have a strong hunter-gatherer instinct. It’s a profitable truth for those who take part.
  5. And most importantly… be creative. Good ideas generate their own momentum, delivering the true exponential power of social marketing. By switching effort from incessant muttering to fewer and more profound campaigns… your communities will genuinely come to life.

Marketing teams, undoubtedly, need to show tangible returns on social investment. Long-term community sentiment, built on a carefully crafted relationship campaign, might not provide the right metrics to satisfy short planning cycles. However, even in a short-term climate, more listening, better data and ultimately creative thinking will minimize your ‘deletists’ and grow your advocates.