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Don’t Struggle With Social Media: Products Don’t Have Opinions

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If you’re using social media to toss out information – as if it were some newfangled version of your website or even television – you might as well be marching around outside on a street corner with a megaphone in your hand.

If you fire up Facebook on your smartphone or desktop computer and head over to the Progressive Insurance Facebook page, you’ll see that it has over 467,000 likes and more than 455,000 followers. Now, check out Flo, the Progressive Girl. Her page has more than 4.7 million likes, along with almost 4.5 million followers.

The massive difference in the people that follow the person representing the product – rather than the product itself – is what clearly defines why many businesses struggle with social media. It’s about people, not products.

Products don’t have opinions

Unless your brand is a political movement, the product or service does not make a statement itself. It might stand for an attitude or approach, like Nike, but it requires the people behind the swoosh to speak for it on social media. Because a pair of sneakers doesn’t have an opinion.

This thought process gives companies the biggest frustration with social media. How does their product or service represent itself? How does their product or service manifest itself on social media?

Maybe they should ask Flo.

Branding? Not really …

Social media is a powerful marketing tool if it’s used correctly, and its correct use is unlike any other marketing avenue. Social media delivers an experience in place of information. Customers are not using social media to find out more about your product or service. If you’re using it to toss out information – as if it were some newfangled version of your website or even television – you might as well be marching around outside on a street corner with a megaphone in your hand.

Prospects are not seeking you out on social media to be regaled with features and benefits. They want to relate to you. They want to fit your product or service into their worldview, and that means they’re looking for ways to experience it. They want a connection.

The basics of psychology

Social media offered the average person – perhaps for the first time in their life – the ability to feel they’re being heard by companies who previously offered mostly just barriers to the actual dialog. Social media is massively powerful to you as a brand because now you can have personal conversations instead of grasping for ways to make yourself palatable to everyone every time you make a statement.

Social media gives brands the ability to fulfill one of the most basic psychological needs we humans have, the need to be relevant. Social media allows our opinions to matter. It lets us be heard.

What matters to us? What do we have to say?

The most important thing we want from our online experiences is validation – which gets back to the need for relevance. In this case, we’re not online using search engines or querying our social networks for features and benefits. We are looking for brands that can demonstrate to us that they understand our problem or pain.

When you go to see the doctor, she engages you in a dialog that usually starts with, “Tell me where it hurts.” When you engage your followers with social media, what does your dialog sound like? Read that question again. It’s where we could end this post. It’s all you need to know.

But let’s get back to Flo, the Progressive Girl for just a minute

You’re not interacting with Flo if you follow her on Facebook or Twitter. Take a real quick scan, and you’ll see that – gasp! – Flo is actually not acting as we advise. Alas, Flo isn’t engaging her 4.5 million Facebook followers by jumping in and adding her adorable flippancy to energize the conversations that get started when she posts something. Ditto for her social media content on Twitter. We can’t speak for Flo, but we’re thinking maybe it’s because she probably can’t keep up her job as the human face of Progressive Insurance and personally interact with millions of followers at the same time.

Even so, through the use of social media, Progressive Insurance customers and prospects are able to establish a connection. It’s a human connection. This insurance company has made the successful transformation from intangible concept to close-your-eyes-and-visualize-insurance-and-you-see-Flo reality.

Any company can do this. Let’s say you make ketchup. A bottle of ketchup doesn’t have an opinion. However, the customers who buy your ketchup are curious to know what the people behind the bottle of ketchup have to think. They want to know why those people think this condiment is so important that they decided to own and run a company to make it.

It’s not about your product. It’s not about your service. It’s about the ability for the groups of people known as your customers and your prospects to find ways to put your brand into their worldview by anchoring it when they get to know the people who represent the brand.

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