Romancing the Customer

Kelly Shibari

I spent a nice chunk of time at airports this holiday season, doing one of my favorite things – people watching. It’s a good exercise in seeing interactions amongst people, which I can then translate into how it can be applied to online communication.

One of the things that I see regularly online but never in real life is how people assume that social networking is something that is an “add-on” to their marketing strategy. It’s something that people work on maybe once a day, for about ten minutes, and then go back to the grind — or whatever it is they are being paid to do. In real life, people talk, interact, and try to get to know each other. Reality TV is popular for that reason — people want to connect. They want to find something that they can relate to. In a world where we spend more and more time online, the need to connect, I think, is exponentially growing.

Stop treating your social media strategy with a caveman mentality. Don’t be Tarzan — be more like, say, a Harlequin romance model. Get the audience interested in you, sweep them off their feet with your charm and warmth ...

A phone meeting I had the other day reminded me that a lot of companies are doing the social media “thing,” but they’re making it almost an afterthought. They’re delegating employees that they already have and asking them to add a social network to their list of things to do during their workday. The problem with that is twofold:

• You get employees that you hired to handle a specific set of tasks, who may not know all the ins and outs of your company.

• You get employees that are going to put their participation on a social network on the bottom of their priority list.

As a result, you’re getting one or two posts on a social network per day, five days a week (or however many days per week they are in your employ). Their posts aren’t going to be friendly and warm and inviting, but fact-based. Their primary focus (and the reason you hired them) isn’t to promote your brand — it was to perform a set of specific tasks for which they interviewed and subsequently were hired for.

What happens when you ask someone to do a project, and then ask them midway to “oh, by the way” add something to that list? If they don’t recognize the value in the added task you’ve asked of them, they’re not going to make it a priority. Even if he/she is the best employee in the world, they’re not going to devote the time and energy to that extra thing as much as the primary task that you asked them to do. And if they’re rushed or overworked or underpaid — I don’t even have to finish that sentence. You know how that ends.

The problem with companies that delegate social network participation to their employees is that the brand gets diluted. At first glance, it may seem like a good idea to have 10 people handling the social media for your brand. You’re definitely saving money, which in this economy is crucial. But if you’re not supervising what’s being said, monitoring conversations and managing the direction of how the brand is being promoted, you’re going to end up with something that is simply not going to net you the desired effect.

So why ask your employees — whom I’m sure are already taxed with a list of job requirements as it is — to do something else on top of all of that, especially if it doesn’t get you the results you want? Why even bother with social networking and social media marketing if you’re not working on your brand the way it’s supposed to be done?

Social networking is like dating, in a way. You have to get to know your audience/followers/friends. You have to open up to them, show them your soft underbelly. Invite them into your world and ask how their world is as well. Once you’ve established a connection and have their trust, then you can take things to the next level. But don’t bash them over the head with a stick and demand that they go on a date with you — in most states, that’s illegal anyway.

Stop treating your social media strategy with a caveman mentality. Don’t be Tarzan — be more like, say, a Harlequin romance model. Get the audience interested in you, sweep them off their feet with your charm and warmth, and you’ll find that your potential customer base won’t go kicking and screaming when you ask them to buy/go to a link/be a member/donate/invest their time and energy on your product.

And that’s the thing. Most of the employees that you have don’t know enough about the entire brand of your company to take the time to romance their follower base on a social network. They just don’t have the time to invest. They’re more likely to only be able to provide a “Me Company X, You Buyer Y” approach — which just isn’t going to work. Think of it this way — does it work for you? Do you run clicking links that all the junk mail is sending you, or do you have a spam filter? If it doesn’t work for you, why in the world would it work for your potential customer base?

If you do decide (whether for financial or other reasons) to utilize the people you already have in your employ to be your social media representative, make sure they know what you’re trying to achieve. They’re going to be the face of your brand — if you’re not managing that, then you’re going to end up wondering why everyone else is profiting from using social networks and you’re left out of the party. Make sure they know what you’re hoping to gain on a weekly basis — and make sure you get regular reports from them as to what the follower/friend base is saying to them as well. It’s a key way (and free!) to make your product better – an unpaid testing panel that is more than happy to tell you what’s missing, what could be better, etc. Be part of the romance of social networking. Help them fall for you — and they’ll follow you wherever you go.

Kelly Shibari is marketing director for, which provides marketing and PR services to membership sites and adult studios.