In order to foster relationships with social network users, brands must pull away from tools and behaviors that depersonalize social media.
With the help of ad-blocking and filtering through extensions like Adblock Plus and uBlock, web users are better equipped today to bridge the gulf between the content they want and the content that they’re being served.
And with the help of anti-tracking and anti-cookie extensions such as Ghostery and Disconnect, we’re also better able to limit what information we share with others, too.
However, these concerns can be magnified in social media, where we’re prone to share the most about ourselves. Like the majority of online publishers, mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook fret over dwindling ad revenue due to technologies such as ad blockers, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated at blocking social ads.
The popularity of these technologies illustrate that web users are increasingly wary of websites that inundate us with ads and abuse users’ privacy.
Some social media users are even prepared to jump ship from mainstream social media entirely, and for reasons that shouldn’t escape businesses seeking to better understand what drives social media users.
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An Alternative Social Medium
Following the rising trend of programs and extensions to help web users avoid the privacy pitfalls and ad glut of social sites like Facebook, one social media platform is taking it a step further with the promise of a completely ad-free, private social experience.
Founded by Canadian privacy advocate and tech entrepreneur Frederick Ghahramani, Just10 offers an alternative platform that proudly offers no company profiles, no tracking, and not a single ad in sight.
In a statement about his company, Ghahramani addresses some of the most common pain points for users of social media: "...I want (users) to have a safe space online where they can freely express their ideas and opinions, without fear of being profiled and tracked by advertisers looking to exploit their data, hiring managers looking to profile their personalities, or even jealous exes.”
Unsurprisingly, many of the problems that social media users have is that all too often undesirable third parties use it for reasons other than being social. So why is it called Just10? Because unlike other social sites, users are allowed to have just ten friends. Their point is to emphasize that users establish closer relationships, not higher follower counts.
While businesses and brands clearly aren’t invited to Just10, the rise of ad-free websites and software illustrate some hurdles of social media marketing. Social media for brands and businesses is an essential marketing channel, but the endless barrage of competing promotional voices can make social media just as irritating for users as ad glut. And most importantly, these businesses fail to establish a meaningful relationship with their online community.
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Understanding Relationship Marketing
It is becoming easier and easier for users to tune out businesses only interested in peddling self-promotion. Businesses engaged in social media must come to terms with the fact that we cannot simply use it to project one-sided marketing messages, but rather foster an ongoing relationship with followers, a concept called ‘relationship marketing.’
Relationship marketing is the building and maintenance of customer loyalty. This requires a two-way conversation between companies and consumers, in which brands create a sense of community and respond to both positive and negative feedback. By encouraging loyalty through engagement on social media over time, one-time customers can grow to become advocates.
In this way, online social engagement can amplify your word-of-mouth marketing, which I discuss in greater detail in this post on the WTC Education blog. When a business takes the effort to establish a relationship with their community of followers, they’re channeling one of the most trusted forms of marketing.
In order to build a relationship with consumers, brands must pull away from tools and behaviors that depersonalize social media. While it’s easy to suggest simply avoiding excessive self-promotion and taking the time to thoughtfully respond to feedback, many problems can stem from the overuse (or misuse) of automation tools.
Certain types of social media automation can be welcome and convenient. Programs like Buffer can help schedule posts during peak periods of activity in addition to automating content curation, your RSS, and marketing flows.
However, automation tools such as as these can be damaging to your relationship with customers when haphazardly implemented such as in dealing with consumer complaints.
For example, in a recent developer conference, Mark Zuckerberg hinted at the inclusion of A.I. controlled bots in the future to help answer basic questions through Facebook Messenger. Although this can be exciting for page managers who lack the time to constantly monitor their pages, chatbots are known to not be able to handle more than basic questions, as illustrated in this guide to chatbots.
While useful in many instances, automation tools can be of debatable worth to brands when their use means sacrificing the human touch needed to foster a relationship with users.
In a content ecosystem where users are blocking content produced by automated software, and others are flocking to private social media sites to escape all of the endless self-promotion, it can be a surprising boon for businesses on social to actually be social.