We need to make social media human again

by Blagica Bottigliero


Last Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking to a wonderful group of people on the grounds of St. Catherine University, care of Social Media Breakfast Minneapolis. The topic? Making social media human again. Now, more than ever, I think we are losing the core of what social was meant to be.

The other day, I was reading stats from large brands touting often consumers talk to them via social media platforms. Whether it’s an Instagram account or a Twitter feed, consumers are taking the time to write a message to their favorite brands. You know what most of those same brands companies aren’t disclosing? How often they are actually talking back to those consumers.

I’m not talking about a targeted Facebook ad buy that knows how old I am and where I live.

I’m not talking about a promoted Twitter ad buy that pops up on the word ‘pants’ when I am tweeting about my latest shopping excursion.

I’m not talking about the large marketing campaign that is meant to drive me into a store to do something after a celebrity talks about it.

I’m not talking about a retargeting ad that follows me around the web (and Facebook) to remind me that I didn’t buy those high heels.

I’m talking about real people. A person behind a machine.  A person at the brand (or their agency) who reads my messages and/or the content I create and responds back to me. Is that a lot to ask? Of course it is.  However, if I hear one more marketer ask me, ‘But we need to scale social’, more angels lose their wings.

Scale for whom? For what? Oh yes, scaling for the quarterly revenue that needs to happen.

Scale for showing profitability with your department.

Scale for more sales to ensure stockholders are happy.

Scale to get picked up/written about by a large trade publication.

Where is the consumer? Me? Where am I? How about me?

Brands spend months, practically half a year in most cases, planning for large campaigns. The amount of money and time spent with brainstorms, PowerPoint presentations, meetings, testing, surveys, TV commercials, print campaigns, etc.is tremendous.  All of this is necessary of course, but what I notice is missing: people power to talk to the consumer. 

Think about it.  Digitally engaged campaigns ask you/us to do something. Go to a website. Use a hashtag. Visit Facebook. Fine, but what about the brand? How do these brands not invest in enough human capital to try and respond to every single (yes, I said ‘every single’) tweet or Instagram message that comes through?

One of those answers? Fear. The fear behind what a consumer says, how a social team responds back and what may cause a potential Twitter ping-pong game is valid. So I challenge this fear with this response: So what? Stick with me here.

First, not every ultra negative tweet or post needs a response. We all know that. But I’ve seen enough ‘Level 1’ negative tweets left unanswered in my day.  Many of those tweets could have received a ‘We are sorry’ or ‘Call us here for follow up’ or ‘Thanks for letting us know’. Yes, sure the person on the other end of the message may want that Twitter War. This is when a brand can simply reply back to the consumer with something like ‘Thanks for reaching out and telling us about X. We’ll do our best to fix it.’ Or ‘Please send us a DM and we can chat.’

There simply aren’t enough people staffed at the company, their agency or their customer support teams to respond to consumers. This makes me incredibly sad.

When did we lose the human touch? When did we lose the patience? When did we forget that every person is an influencer? How did we forget that it only takes one upset person to create a local then national news segment about a product or service?

Here we are, a sea of practitioners talking about ‘going where the eyeballs are’ or touting social media stats and how long people are spending on Pinterest and Instagram.  We are in THEIR space.  We are trying to get consumers to change their habits and talk to us. Then when they do, we turn a blind eye? Or we categorize the banner click as social media engagement?

I had many talks with many of you this summer. We all agree. We all know that online media buys and programmatic methods are needed and important – but those don’t build true relationships with everyday people.