Remember when it was exciting to receive an email?
An email. One. Because, maybe twenty years ago, your email inbox didn’t get an awful lot of action. Heck, you probably didn’t even refer to it as in inbox. It was just “my email”. Email zero as a concept did not exist, because it was a given. You received an email, and you read it. Done. No more email to read. Until the next time, which might be in another day or two.
There are parallels here, of course, with regular mail. Snail mail, if you will. Twenty years before email, being sent something in the (actual) mail was exciting. It was almost always personal, and as such demanded your attention – which you were happy to give. And then, slowly but surely, what started to come through the letterbox changed. You still got those lovely letters from friends and family, albeit occasionally, but now you had bills, too. And direct mail shots. Then junk mail. Flyers for takeaway restaurants where you would never eat and postcard-sized promos for businesses that you would never use. Endless, endless junk mail. So much, in fact, that it ruined all of mail for you. And everybody else. Those personal letters stopped arriving. Pretty soon, it was almost nothing but demands and aggravation. Who looks forward to that?
Email went the same way, of course. It’s now just part of your job. Something you have to do. And, accordingly and so often, impersonal, automated, and cold.
Is this what’s happening to social media marketing, too?
Perhaps. Certainly there is a comparison to made here, too, with mail, both of the snail and electronic varieties. Back in the days of yore – i.e., Twitter, circa 2008-2009 – social media definitely felt more personal. When you had a question, or needed help, you reached out to your immediate network, and more often than not you received a response from an individual. Maybe they were representing a brand, maybe they weren’t. It didn’t matter. It was a personal response.
Then, businesses started to flock to social media, and things, slowly but surely, changed. They were personal at first, of course, but as Twitter and Facebook grew maintaining this kind of one-to-one approach became difficult. It became time-consuming. It became a chore. And so many brands started to automate their responses to consumer enquiries. Or, in many cases, ignore them altogether. And the larger the brand, the harder it became to get them to pay attention to you.
Not all businesses are guilty of these practices, of course – many small brands excel at customer support on Twitter and Facebook – but there’s absolutely a growing detachment between the users of these platforms and the organisations who look to profit from them. We’re at a turning point, but we have a choice. Do we continue to use social media as a simple broadcast channel – you know, much like every other marketing medium – or do we make the effort and find the time to scale those all-important, customer-pleasing, word-of-mouth-spreading one-to-one interactions into a critical part of our business?
Your call. See you on the other side.