What Happened To The Human Factor

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This article was previously posted on my SocialWeb101.com website, I am consolidating the 2 sites together so have moved it here. This is one of those topics that really gets me going, and here is my rant:

Metrics:

Far too many marketing/social media companies worry more about metrics than they do about humans. Some committee, or board of directors has to be answered to, and numbers/data needs to be presented and explained how we are doing better and getting ROI (return on investment) with our efforts.

In a sense, it doesn’t matter what experience the end user gets, it only matters how many “LIKES” or “COMMENTS” you get. This, to me, is utter bullshit. I plan to tell you why I feel that way in this article.

Facebook:

Facebook has become a cesspool of high school drama, but it comes from 40yr old drama queens/kings.  I am not much of a fan of FB anymore, but it has become a necessary evil in online marketing so you almost have to use it. Recently I deleted a facebook account I had used since around 2007, simply because it was too difficult to delete so called friends I had, that I really didn’t know (about 1,000 of them). So I started a new account and only have people on it I really know on some level.

In today’s age of social, there are so many places a company has to be to market itself, and with the ability to schedule almost everything, social has disappeared from social media. If you schedule 2 posts a day, at the “prime” time, study FB Insights for more information on increasing your “fanbase” and never actually interact with the people that comment on your posts, then you are just another robot in a human world.

Let’s talk more about Facebook Insights. You realize that Facebook wants to keep it’s users on FB as long as possible right? Those insights are geared to get you to believe that as well. When that SM Marketing Company presents a barrage of “metrics” showing your company how many more “Likes” your page got, that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t help you as much as you might think it helps. What they do with those followers is what really matters.

If your SM company uses a service like Hootsuite, or even the native FB scheduler, to schedule 2 posts a day, and never actually interacts with people (you know, like answer comments, thank people for shares, react to them in some way that is personal), you should immediately fire them. I mean it.

What happened to the human factor of social media? People want you to interact with them, they will sometimes sit and reply to comments in a thread over and over. Next thing you know, you have a real fan, one that will talk about you and refer you to everyone they know! You can’t measure that with some metric or “insight”, and you can’t put an ROI on it either. It’s priceless. And what is so aggravating, is it is so simple!

So called “professional” marketers and consultants had to find a way to convince C level folks how they could get a return on hiring them, so they came up with all these metrics that allows them to keep doing nothing and get paid for it. Unfortunately, the C-Level exec’s don’t have a clue as to what those insights really mean. If you sit at a conference table, looking at charts and graphs, where is the human factor? When is the last time you took a good look at your Facebook page? Are your so called social media consultants actually interacting? Answering questions? Encouraging a real conversation? If it looks like they are just scheduling 2 posts a day and most of those posts are just asking for “Likes”, “Shares”, or “Comments” then I would recommend you fire them right now. They are doing nothing for your brand, I promise you.

Twitter:

Once again, Twitter is meant to be a “social” platform. Some people use it to curate information, but most brands are not information curators. Most brands are worried about the bottom dollar, and social media consulting firms work to make those exec’s “feel” good. Even though they aren’t really being social at all, only reporting data. People are not data, they are real humans.

Back in 2008-2009, I built a little fence contracting business from $0 to $50k in sales per month. I did it using only a blog, and my Twitter account (back then my handle was @TheFencePost, but that isn’t mine anymore) by actually … wait for it….. being social!!!! I won’t go into all the details, but basically I never talked/tweeted about my company other than the occasional mention about an article I had written. My strategy was simple, I looked for people to follow that were in my area, and I tried to have conversations with them about general topics. Coffee. Sports. Weather. News. Food. I went to Tweetups, I met people, and I interacted with them.

I can’t tell you what the ROI was on my efforts, and I didn’t really care. I liked being social. And it paid off. People didn’t always remember my name, but they knew I was “that fence guy”, and if it ever came up in general conversation with their friends they would always refer me. How do you measure that in a graph?

Back then, there was no ability to schedule tweets, so you actually had to do it manually (imagine that!). I answered every mention and RT.

Today, companies upload a months worth of tweets, again, 2 per day at “prime” times, and look at reports telling them whether they are gaining followers and people are clicking their links. But the problem is, no one is trying to interact or actually respond to people that mention their brand. They have left out the human factor.

In public feeds, like Twitter, people can see who people are talking to, they can get in on the conversation, then people that follow them see it is well, and so on. That is the pathway to something going viral. You can’t make that happen by automating it.

Why haven’t brands taken to Google Plus as much? It isn’t because it’s supposedly a “ghost town”, it’s because they can’t automate it yet.

Keep The Conversation Going:

A successful social media campaign will keep the conversation going. If you have 70k fans on your FB page, but only get 30 likes and 3 comments out of a post, that is not success. That is failure. Pages that consistently beg for Likes and Comments are only doing that because FB EdgeRank has made that a necessity. But that takes out the human factor. It takes out the interaction.

To be successful in social media, means you are actually being social. Your page will answer every question, comment, and complaint. It is an extension of your customer service, not a billboard or megaphone.

I have friends that are social media consultants, they don’t work for huge marketing firms, they don’t have MBA’s, but they are successful. They interact with the brand’s audience, they monitor hashtags and checkins, they respond to people in the comments of a FB thread, and they answer every single @mention and RT. I also work with large firms, because of the committees I sit on. They only present us with metrics. These firms charge large amounts of fees, and get away with it because they know how to make a room full of executives feel good, but they don’t know a thing about being social.

 Conclusion:

We have systematically removed the human factor from social media, thereby removing the social from social media. We have become more worried about graphs and data than about actually building a base of advocates. Remember the old saying?

The best advertising is word of mouth advertising

You can’t put a price on it, you can’t measure it in some ROI graph. If you are a social media firm, try incorporating human interaction back into your campaigns. If you are a brand, try finding a company to help train you how to do it internally, or at least one that will actually be human in their campaigns.

I would love to hear your comments on this, and I will always reply ;-)

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Comments

  1. says

    I find soliciting for likes to be yet another form of SPAM. I find myself deleting or simply ignoring a lot of requests of that nature. Other than that I concur with what you elaborate on above.
    I’d like to expand on the “word of mouth” analogy in this way that I seem to find a small number of true advocates to be a well working way of literally “spreading the word”. As for myself, I can’t really provide a positive proof-of-concept experience just yet, but that’s rather to do with my inconsistency in following up with new content/marketable products (music). It seems to pay off for other artists, though, who have built and rely on a solid fan base. It’s not so much numbers here, either, but consistency and dedication. If you had to put it in a nutshell, I’ve heard the formula “100 dedicated fans will feed you”. Whether or not that is true, I fail to prove yet. But I think, it’s a better and more reliable course of action than to rely on metrics as you pointed out. Plus: Catering to a smaller number of dedicated followers also puts the “social” back in social media.

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