To know the road ahead, ask those on the way back. That’s a proverb worth heeding by retailers and manufacturers engaged in social media marketing.

Doug Stephens of Retail Prophet recently asked a full auditorium of marketers how many were engaged in social media.  Most of the hands went up.  Then he asked how many were disappointed. The hands stayed raised.

Many social media marketers have been disappointed because they lacked clarity in two areas: (1) purpose for their brands and (2) expectations about their audience.

Many brands simply aren’t primed for social media because they lack purpose. As Stephens says, social media is not a modifier; it’s an amplifier. It doesn’t change your brand’s voice; it just turns the volume up. If your story is vague and vacillating, social media will amplify this lack of conviction. Your followers will feel let down.

This can feel unnatural because marketers are trained to sell, not interact. It can be uncomfortable to resist this urge to trumpet this week’s great brand initiative. Instead, marketers need to get comfortable with fostering a dialogue. This means content your audience values, of which promotions are a part, and soliciting feedback.

Many brands expect too much from their audience. After they have built fan bases, they wonder why they don’t see a rush of likes, comments, tweets, and devoted followership.

Let’s be realistic. There are too many brands for frequent engagement. The average user follows nearly 10 brands, according to Mashable. The last 10 comments from Skittles, a top Facebook brand, only drew Likes from .05% of its followers and comments from a mere .004%.

Let’s remember followers are self-centered. Most often “like” brands to get free stuff. According to a recent survey by ExactTarget, a full 40% want discounts but only 13% want to interact.

The answer isn’t to ignore social media marketing. Not having a Facebook page or Twitter feed is like forgoing a website. Many brands need a presence if only to communicate.

But there is an opportunity to learn from others’ lessons. As Gary Vaynerchuk, author of The Thank You Economy, is quoted by Stephens: “There’s more original content created today in 48 hours than there was from the beginning of time until 2003.” Don’t launch a social media marketing effort with too low a proposition for your brand, or too high expectations about followers.

Categories: Branding, Online, Pre-store, Social | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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