Social marketing is about the people

Jason Ford // Oct. 17, 2012

Consumer trust of big companies and brands is on the decline. As it turns out, the biggest adversary of traditional advertising is not ad-skipping tools like the DVR, but rather consumers simply tuning out most of the messages they hear, saying "meh – I don't buy it."

At the same time, social media has changed the dynamics of communication in general. A few lone voices broadcasting to the many – whether it be news, entertainment, or marketing – is no longer the norm.

On the surface, this leaves marketers with an irrelevant message and an out-dated way of delivering it. But social media marketing actually opens up two opportunities that can make brands more relevant than they have ever been:

1. Humanizing the brand with real people.

Companies are not giant borg-like entities with a single point of view, voice, and personality – they are a collection of individuals with unique interests and passions. Social channels provide a way to connect consumers with the real people that make up the brands they love. Just take a look at the dialog between the social media leads at Oreo and AMC – which ended (spectacularly) with a photo of the real guy writing the tweets at AMC.

AMC and Oreo Social Media Marketing

GE has also done a great job at this by pulling social posts from employees to their home page and even launching a dedicated "Experts" portal.

GE Social Media Marketing

2. Harnessing customer content to tell the brand's story.

It may be that no one would trust McDonalds if they tweeted about how much healthier their happy meal options are, but you can bet parents have tweeted about the apple slices now offered in happy meals, thanking McDonalds for providing healthier options. And parents trust other parents. Even ones they don't know personally. Rather than saying it themselves, McDonalds can simply retweet, repost, and showcase the things other people are saying to get an even bigger impact than they could alone.

Social Marketing Trust Gap

From this perspective, the big deal in these trust gap stats from Neilson is not that only 1/3 of people trust brand marketing, but that 70% of real people still trust other real people. And brands are made up of real people. Engineers who create the products, creative, strategy, finance, and other professionals who package and sell the products, and customers who purchase, use, and love the products.

Brands win when they make it more about the "voice of the people" and less the "voice of the brand."