3 tips for creating transparency and engagement in your social media marketing strategy

I get to talk with people every day. Not just colleagues, friends, and family, but also individuals who have read Fierce Founder and CEO Susan Scott's bestselling book "Fierce Conversations" or who have implemented our content in their company's leadership and development training.

You'll find me more often than not having these conversations behind the screen, since I'm the Social Media and Marketing Intern and manage Fierce's social media accounts. And over the last couple months, I've had a chance to put my ear close to the pulse of the conversations that are happening and gain a clearer sense of the state of social media marketing today and where it can go.

Soon after I started my internship at Fierce, I had the opportunity to attend the Fierce Conversations workshop onsite. It was amazing to see firsthand how powerful and impactful the content was on both myself and the other participants. It really resonates with people and has the power to change not only companies but people's lives.

While managing Fierce's social media accounts and keeping on track of trends and changes in the world of social media, I continue to read stories and feedback from clients who have seen their companies and lives changed by our content. And in my own small way, I get to play a part in creating that change.

What are people talking about? They're concerned about employee engagement and how not to lose top talent. Equal pay across the board. How to ask for a raise. Tips for confronting a colleague or even a boss about an issue. Accountability and how to hold your employees able is a concern I hear repeatedly.

Social media has created a unique space where conversations about these problems—and also solutions to them—can occur.

According to a 2015 report published by Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising, the most credible advertising comes from people we know and trust (according to feedback from 84 percent of respondents). Another 66 percent of global respondents said that they trust consumer opinions posted online.

This authenticity and trust that we place in others who are making recommendations for us extends into how we look for solutions to these common business problems. Within digital communities like LinkedIn, you can express your problems, explore solutions that are working for other people, and ultimately find a solution that works best for you or your company.

These are conversations that we can all be a part of, and at Fierce, we are passionate about both facilitating these conversations and helping people solve problems. This sense of purpose drives my own work.

The state of social media marketing

Marketing gets a bad rep these days. In fact, it can honestly be annoying. I can't tell you how many times I've searched for a product on Amazon, purchased it through my Prime account soon after, but continued to see suggestions for alternative products from other companies trying to win my purchase...too late! Then there's all the ads for the item pop up on my social media feed.

Yeah, it's annoying.

Other people think so too. According to a 2013 Infolinks study, only 2.8 percent of respondents thought the online banner ads they saw were relevant to them.

Both stats point to that fact that people will trust other people over a company.

We talk a lot about transparency here at Fierce, how it is the foundation of trust. In a digital world where people have lost some level of trust in advertising and marketing, we have made the deliberate decision to be as transparent as possible about our marketing practices.

And in the spirit of transparency, I'm sharing three key trends around social media marketing that I've gathered during my time facilitating a space on our social media platforms for conversations to happen and solutions to be explored.

Marketing Trend #1: Create experiences, not messages

Old models don't work in today's digital world anymore, and human connections are so becoming so much more powerful. As marketers, we need to do more. This process starts by looking at each phase in the customer journey as its own experience.

"How is your marketing adding value to each stage in the customer's experience and interactions with the brand?" We need to think about the spectrum of the customer experience, and not just as isolated messages.

Remember those annoying pop-up ads? When they popped up in my Facebook feed, I'm not there for that. I'm there to connect with people and ask for advice.

Here at Fierce, we look at marketing through the lens of the complete customer journey and use this context to inform our content marketing efforts.

To succeed in this goal, you need to bring together all the departments in your company to work towards this goal, through collaboration.

"How are you all contributing to the customer experience and working together to deliver tangible results?" A better experience for your customers and visitors equals better results.

In my role at Fierce, I am intimately involved in the awareness, engagement, and advocacy parts of the customer experience. Approaching social media marketing from this perspectives results in my creating content and facilitating conversations that enrich Fierce's relationship with both potential and current customers in some way.

Marketing Trend #2: Data and privacy

Empowering users brings new challenges for marketers.

The incident that comes to mind first when we talk about user data and privacy is the recent issue with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. In the aftermath of the debacle, the conversations that were happening within companies and homes alike were how to navigate a world where your personal information and data can be used and even sold in exchange for your access to a product or service.

In light of this, there have been a lot of updates lately to protect user data.

A couple examples include ad blockers, email/data legislation, unsubscribe features, privacy settings, new browser updates, and privacy settings within our social media apps.

Data and privacy are hot topics, and they don't always guarantee an easy conversation, especially when you consider how users view company handling of their data. However, we believe in having the difficult conversations, the ones where you interrogate your own reality and are transparent about your intentions.

This is something that we value and a behavior that we build both within our company, as well as with our customers and in our marketing. And it's driven home when we come out from behind ourselves into the conversation, to make it real.

As a result of this increased need for data protection on social media, there needs to be a shift in your company's social media strategy. You've heard the debate about Facebook and Instagram's newest algorithms, right? What we've taken away from these changes is an opportunity to prioritize engagement and interactions on our social platforms more than ever.

It's about quality over quantity, having conversations on social media that get people talking and are relevant to your audience.

Marketing Trend #3: Personalization

What if you rethought of marketing as speaking to "us", curating the user experience to make it more personal and unique to the visitor or user? Netflix is one example of a company who is succeeding at this, using member data in a way that is compelling and makes for a very individualistic experience. Utilizes data to deliver holistic experience.

Companies of small and large sizes are struggling with personalization. The reality is, data and personalization are intertwined. It's hard to provide a personalized experience if you don't gather and use user data to inform that experience.

In a world saturated with advertisements and digital messages from brands and companies that bombard your screen on an hourly basis, prioritizing that personalized experience for the customer provides value for your audience.

In the same way, I personalize what type of content I share on social media to reflect the unique demographics and interests of our audience on each platform. The content is relevant to them, just as I like content I see on my social media to be relevant to me. I also use a voice and tone on each platform that is going to resonate and foster a connection with that audience.

How you can market with transparency

So how can social media marketers shift their marketing strategies so that they respond to this need for a human experience, even if it is not a face-to-face one?

Trust and transparency is very important. In a digital culture where tangible, face-to-face interactions aren't the norm anymore, creating a digital experience not only responds to your customers' need for human connection, but also enriches that connection and builds the relationship by being transparent about what you do and why you do it.

Building a culture of trust and transparency in your organization can extend to your marketing initiatives. How are you building trust with your customers, website visitors, or newsletter recipients? One way to reinforce that trust is through sharing the perspectives and stories of clients.

Having transparent conversations where you talk about your process and how your company is utilizing social media also responds to fears about how someone's data is being used, or who they are interacting with behind the screen. They educate and empower. They're what led to Facebook becoming more transparent about their usage of user data and do a better job at educating Facebook users on what was happening to their data.

What empowers me in my role at Fierce is knowing I'm creating an experience for our followers and visitors to our social media platforms that builds connections and a relationship.

And there's nothing more empowering than knowing that I am a part of a collaborative effort to educate and enrich people's lives, one conversation at a time.

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