Want to connect with your community? Then listen to what it has to say

Let me share with you how I feel about the word “marketing.”

I loathe it, and I am loath to use it to explain what I do for a living. It is too cold and impersonal of a word to describe how businesses, organizations and individuals should strengthen their brand in today’s environment.

Merriam-Webster defines impersonal as “having or showing no interest in individual people or their feelings; lacking emotional warmth.” To me, that is what the word “marketing” conveys. It is void of the human touch.

This is why I do not reference “marketing” when I work with clients who want to introduce or strengthen their brand. Instead, I encourage them to build relationships by creating and sharing authentic content with their community. A brand needs to add the human touch to its message in order to engage people and earn their trust. The message needs to be personal and not impersonal.

For this to occur, however, a small business, organization or individual needs to listen. Not to me, although I hope you will take this advice to heart, but to your community. Social media platforms offer numerous ways for brands to share their stories, but businesses often forget that it is a two-way street. It takes more than disseminating a sales pitch and waiting for the transactions to begin. Businesses need to listen their community to understand its wants and needs. Brands need to respond to their audience’s questions, comments and feedback, both positive and negative. It is the only way to build trust and a faithful following.

Standup comedian Brian Regan has an insightful bit called “The Me Monster.” This type of individual believes the best way to carry a dialogue is to shout over everyone with personal tales of triumph and glory. Yes, a company’s message is important, but so is the message from those it is trying to engage. It is difficult to hear others talk when you are the loudest in the room or, in this case, the loudest on social media. It is difficult to connect and strengthen your brand when your message drowns out the voices of existing and potential customers.

Clients often ask me the number of social media platforms they need to create and the volume of content they need to post to connect with an audience. They want to know the best times in the day and the best days of the week to post. These definitely are important questions, but your small business, organization or association is missing the point if the goal is to be me-centric and loud by creating as many posts on as many platforms as possible without first listening.

Don’t miss the wealth of opportunities to connect with your audience through social media by using it as a simple marketing tool. It’s too impersonal. The message may arrive at its intended destination, but there is little chance that it will engage anyone to respond or interact.

#branding #marketing #listening #strategy #content #socialmedia #smallbusinesses #authentic #community #message

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