I am not Jack Grubb. I am Mr. Married White Male Age Range 35-54. I am Return User US-en Bounce Rate 84%. I am a statistic -- a series of digital bits of information -- and you are, too.
I know this as truth from numerous conversations to and about social media marketing companies. The discussion usually goes as follows:
Them: We utilize multi-channel SEO algorithms to generate a larger, faster click-funnels.
Me: I just try to create stuff that creates a connection between an individual and the organization.
I understand where these folks come from, as a sales-funnel approach can be beneficial to the bottom line. Keywords, cost-per-clicks and conversion rate optimization needs to factor into a budget. Brand managers need sales to grow exponentially. Marketing companies need to ensure the big bucks keep flowing as efficiently as possible. And if they can look cool doing it, so much the better.
But for some reason, I think we need more. We should want a sense of humanity emulating from our brands, especially on the very social media platforms created to connect us together. There's a certain amount of empowerment when we feel that companies treat us better than a money mule sliding down the ramp to a profit margin. And that empowerment leads to brand loyalty and shared meaning.
When I served as Director of Marketing for the SoyNut Butter Co., we had this disconnect between our customers and our company. We did great at trade shows, talking to people face-to-face and sharing our stories. But come marketing time, we went back to "Please buy us" mode. Facebook and Twitter was filled with links to products and news items on allergies. The networks grew, but they were mindless chores trying to game the algorithmic system.
Unfortunately, when I have to do something I don't really enjoy, I have to find a way to make it more fun. After heeding the advice of Joel Warady (@EnjoyLifeCEO) at a blogging convention, I put away the editorial calendars. I started listening to what people were talking about. And we started interacting on a personal level. Our company became more than a place that sold peanut-free peanut butter. We became a company that had actual people with actual lives and actual personalities.
In just a few weeks, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram became a fantastic place to hang out. It turned out that our SoyNut Butter really helped those with allergies lead a normal life, so we celebrated that. I posted links to blogs that I liked, and played on other people's Twitters. We built up such digital friendships that when some punk tweeted that "SoyNut Butter tastes like my poop," instantly someone retorted, "Your poop must taste amazing!"
I didn't think what I did differed much from how others approached social media. Little Debbie's Twitter feed is filled with inspirational messages and replies. Wendy's and Duracell like to joke around with posters. When you follow Enjoy Life Foods they always follow you back. Cynical folks would call that strategic branding. I'll call it humanity.
This year I have talked to enough marketers to know that genuine interaction isn't always a goal. Social media seems like a cheap way to churn out product links. The only thing that matters is pumping out leads with targeted direct mail. As long as those impressions are strong and the SEO clickbaits keep working.
But we live in a time of disconnect. Companies seem like they care more about their stock index than their customers. Prices rise, wages stay the same, and they look like they pay more attention to tax cuts than sexual harassment. Maybe just for a little while we can feel like they care what we think. That there's still a soul worth caring about.
We may laugh a bit. We may share the posts with our friends. Or we may scroll on looking for the nearest online rant. I give credit to those who try, because they know that sometimes humanity is found in the details.
But what do I know? I'm still searching for a full-time gig.
Jack Grubb writes an incredible blog, Losing the Internets, which is read by at least 37 people and over 2,100 Russian SPAM bots. In his spare time he helps small companies find their marketing voice. Jack currently lives deliberately in Appalachia, Kentucky with his wife, two daughters, Jack Russell and a Lego collection beyond compare.