Know your purpose before marketing on social media

In a recent Forbes article about social media engagement for business, it was noted that brands are using social media more than ever, and social media users are ignoring them more than ever.

Research from Forrester, a research and advisory firm, found that:

▪  Eighty percent of the top 50 global brands actively post to the top five social media platforms (such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, etc.).

▪  Of those 80 percent, most saw their followings increase. Yet the engagement rates have declined. Social media engagement for business has always been low. For example, Instagram posts from brands created interactions with their followers went from 4 percent last year to 2 percent this year.

Facebook was the only platform where interaction rates increased.

While people may follow a brand, they may not interact with the brand unless needed and it will be on the user’s terms.

This should not come as a surprise. Brands are finally realizing the value of social media and are now using social media as a viable channel to communicate with customers.

That being said, lets be honest. Most brands are using social media in a traditional way, as a one-way street where information is broadcast with little or no interaction.

Increased social media participation by businesses is creating a lot of noise for the consumer. Most social media users are savvy. And, just like with Internet advertising, users are tuning away. It seems consumers aren’t interested in being talked at, but rather being talked with in their interactions with brands.

How do you break through the noise? That is a good question. It isn’t the right question though. A better question is, Why is your business — or any business — participating in social media?

When you answer that question then you can ask why users should care about what you are saying. Think about what value you bring into the space as an expert in your sector. That is the key to breaking through the noise.

Marketing professional Jay Baer, talks about being useful to customers in his book, Youtility. He is spot on in my experience. He says people do not want you to be their friend. And they do not want to be sold to all of the time. People want you to help them solve a challenge they maybe having.

How can you do that?

▪  Understand the purpose of your organization. Remember why you are in business. Focus on what problems are you solving for people.

▪  Recognize to whom you are providing services and products. What are their challenges? Needs? Aspirations?

▪  Listen to the conversations of your customers and competitors. That will help you understand your customers and give you an opportunity to do better than your competitors.

Be the brand that solves problems. Be the brand that shares valuable resources. Be the brand that is there for your customers.

Ann Marie van den Hurk is an award-winning, accredited public relations professional and principal of Mind the Gap Public Relations. She proudly called Lexington home but now lives in North Carolina. Email her at, or follow her on Twitter at @amvandenhurk.