Trouble Harnessing Social Media? Relationships Can’t Be Automated

Today I can’t imagine recommending a brand not be on Facebook. It’s hard to ignore reaching one billion people. A recent survey of CMOs indicate they know this. In fact 82% said they plan to increase their use of social media over the next 3-5 years. But that same IBM study indicates marketers are struggling to harness their social media investment. They feel overwhelmed by the volume of customer data on websites like Facebook and consider themselves ill-equipped to leverage it.

IBM’s solution is more robust software. Marketing executive Marcel Holsheimer says, “Marketing is going to become much more an automated software play than it was in the past. This is why IBM is now making the investment in this space.” I agree that automation is key to collect and analyze social media information, and we need more robust software to manage big data. But we shouldn’t pretend that is the only part of the solution. In all the hype over big data let’s not forget the human at the end of the technology.

Social media has exploded because it connects real people. Humans by nature are social creatures. Relationships give meaning and purpose to our lives like no other activity or endeavor. Despite the attempts of HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey you can’t have a relationship with automated software. Use all the social media dashboards you want, but there still has to be a human with that update, post and tweet investing time into the customer relationship.

How do you develop strong social relationships? Student health services at University of Indiana suggests the following as essential relationship skills:

  1. Listen to what the other person is saying.
  2. Develop solutions that suit both of your needs.
  3. Express your appreciation.
  4. Show empathy and genuine concern.

A similar list emphasizes these key interpersonal skills:

  1. Look
  2. Listen
  3. Ask
  4. Learn
  5. Understand
  6. Acknowledge
  7. Provide
  8. Commit
  9. Contribute
  10. Follow up

If your brand is on Facebook, good, you probably need to be there. But are you acting the right way? Go to your page, look at the activity and compare it to the two lists above. Then estimate your brand’s social skills score. How are you doing?

For those who have seen 2001: A Space Odyssey you know how HAL 9000’s personal interactions turn out for the Discovery spacecraft and crew. If you haven’t seen the movie, take a break from big data software automation to interact with an epic film filled with real human drama.

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