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Lost in Translation: The Social Marketing Disconnect

We are well aware of the power of social networks to effectively disseminate a brand message and create real, mutually-beneficial relationships between consumers and brands. But there are two sides to the coin – a great deal of the content brands perceive as engaging to audiences falls short of expectations when the metrics on conversions and ROI come in. Likewise, some communications and activities that consumers find compelling are seen as less worthwhile by marketers. Without consistency and quality, brands can quickly find their audiences leaving for greener pastures.

The kind of brand loyalty generated by social media is certainly unique in the current marketplace. With consumer behavior becoming increasingly personalized, brands have an opportunity to garner eager ambassadors, willing to share experiences with others. This is a powerful tool in the marketer’s arsenal, but it comes at the cost of the expectation that the consumer will gain something from the relationship, whether a promotion, prize, or even simple recognition. Customers on social media platforms are constantly seeking this “social currency.”

Meanwhile, a 2012 study conducted by The CMO Council and social media technology firm Lithium showed that about 60% of CMOs believe their customers interact with social media for the content related to the brand philosophy, new products, and news. Just 33% thought that fans are looking for incentives or rewards, with even fewer operating under the impression that customers are actively seeking rewards or exclusive offers.


Therein lies the disconnect. It’s plain to see that consumers and marketers are speaking two different languages. So, if it’s really about the ‘social’ for the customers, why are brands so focused on the ‘media?’

Businesses must resist the temptation to promote themselves on social media platforms. They are simply a different animal than traditional marketers are accustomed to. Social customers expect to be rewarded for connecting with brands online, and there is no shortage of ways to please them. The more investment made by the brand, the more value contributed by the customer. The people have spoken, and marketers must adapt to bridge the gap and capitalize on the potential of their loyal customers.

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