Is your brand a one night stand or keeper?

Social media has opened the door to far more effective dialogue between brands and consumers. Like any relationship, though, if both parties aren’t equally invested it’s unlikely to last.

At first, many brands just rushed to have any sort of social media presence. In my experience it went something like this. Twitter account. Check. Facebook Fan Page. Check. Talk about yourself all day. Check. Voila! Your social media extravaganza is complete(ly ineffective). Right now we’re seeing the next iteration of that same short-sighted strategy – an increase in the use of bots and sweep platforms as a tactic used by brands to engage but only only a superficial level.

Now as any ‘love lost’ veteran will tell you, simply checking in with someone to talk about yourself is a fast track to quality time alone. So what is the right mindset for social marketing?

Firstly, the whole term “social marketing” is effectively meaningless because all marketing is inherently social whether it is television, radio or print. So choose your words carefully (always a good idea).

Secondly, social media is fundamentally different to traditional advertising. That means you can’t approach it the same way. Yes, they must and will work together, but using social media is about starting a dialogue in which a brand’s role is to listen. So you can’t spend all day talking about yourself and telling people what they should be. (Unless, of course, your brand enjoys Saturday nights alone.)

Thirdly, social interaction isn’t a thing you do, it’s a relationship you build. Brands have to be in it for the long haul. They actually have to want to build a relationship with their customers. Otherwise their efforts will will come across as another example of disingenuous marketing. You’ll waste your time and actually harm your brand. And, more than likely, the brand will end up blaming the customers or social media. (Boy, does this still sound familiar?)

Fourthly, measure engagement by what you put into it. Obviously, metrics and ROI are critical for brands investing money in new tools in a tough economy, but that doesn’t mean you abdicate any responsibility and see the tools as an end in themselves. In fact, the opposite is true. Start your measurement with what you bring to the dialogue/engagement/conversation, including smart contributions, relevant products and a listening ear. Re-tweets, followers and fans are the results of such engagement but not the goal. Where you put the focus will determine the results you get.

Every relationship is an investment in the other person and social media is no different. To approach it as a box to tick is like using a cheesy one-liner at a bar. The only response you’ll get is a roll of the eyes.

So if you’re a brand using social media tools, ask yourself: Do you really want a relationship with your customers? Or do you want to be forgotten in the morning.

Anyone have any tasty stories of slap-dash brand behavior? Or, rather, true brand investments in their customers?

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