Let’s make social media human again

Blagica Bottigliero is vp of digital media at Metaverse Mod Squad, a digital engagement agency.

In an era where we celebrate big data, automated ad buys, in-app purchases and ad retargeting, we seem to be losing something that made social media special and magical: human connections.

What started out as a place to get to know people, understand what makes them tick and build a long term relationship has turned into the need for scale and instant gratification.

I spent the summer talking to some of the most well known practitioners in the space and everyone echoed the same belief: social media is at risk of turning into just another marketing platform. We know that consumers are spending a good portion of their time on social platforms. We also know that we can push the right content to the right people at the right time. Public relations and marketing activities are typically meant to be big, bold and create an instant movement. Big wins are defined by repins and regrams.

But do we really know the consumer anymore? Do we really know them? I would argue that we don’t. The majority of the industry just doesn’t have the patience anymore. Which brings me to my mom.

My mom lives in metro Detroit and is in her late 50s. She has a good sense of what I do for a living, so much so that she assumes that if anything in the house breaks or needs an update, I can tweet to Brand X on her behalf. Mom doesn’t have a Twitter account and barely touches Facebook, but she’s been conditioned through various articles, stories, etc. that anyone can talk to any brand with social media. I tried explaining to my mom that every company has their own approach to social media and customer service. One brand may respond back to customers while another may see that a customer has few Twitter followers and may not deem their Klout score high enough for a response. Mom’s take: ‘So…is my question not important?’

There are thousands of people who are just like my mom. With the democratization of the Web, anyone can become a Vine or Instagram celeb overnight. Companies are spending copious amounts of resources over who can be their Next Viral Rockstar. Meanwhile, scores and scores of regular, everyday consumer conversations aren’t responded to because they aren’t deemed an ‘influencer’. The time and money that was one spent in building relationships shifted towards creating mini research staffs in finding the next Brand Ambassador.

Imagine the amount of brand ambassadors a company can naturally create if they simply acknowledged the daily conversations of their consumers – both positive and negative. This support turns into advocacy, which leads to support for future marketing programs and/or major corporate decisions.

The innovation in our world is tremendous, yet it seems that we aren’t investing in the training and development of human capital on the other end of the tweet, email, Facebook post, comment or regram. Facebook’s upcoming changes to its news feed coupled with Forrester’s recent report on the value of social advertising point to a solid reminder: investing in building relationships with consumers across multiple digital platforms is win-win for the consumer and the company. By ‘relationship’, I don’t mean a targeted ad, but a bona fide human conversation.

Let’s bring that conversation back to social media. I’m sure your mom and my mom will thank you.