Kevin Adema
Kevin Adema 4 November 2016

Connected & Alone (Why Social Media Is Leaving Customers Unengaged)

I recently had the privilege to participate in a summit event where marketing executives from across North America gathered to address the future needs and challenges facing marketing. Not surprisingly, one theme was dominant: digital.

What was most interesting was the dichotomy in focus: strategic differentiation vs. tactical implementation. As the conversations unfolded, the tactical side was undoubtedly attractive with its appeal, design and functional facets but, the strategic side wrestled with isolating true value capture and concrete methodologies for driving brands forward.

This post is about providing guidance for marketing executives gazing at the allure of social media marketing.

As mentioned in my other articles, Digital has radically changed how marketing is done: Digital is NOT about enabling past brand actions in a different media, digital is a two-way dialogue between a brand and its customers whereby marketers are responsible for ushering in a new model to brand behavior.

In its most simplistic sense, digital is shifting brand actions

FROM: how do I communicate using available media to drive sales

TO: how do I understand my customers and prospects and shape my offering through dialogue for optimal awareness, engagement and conversion

Mechanically, digital is therefore not a new set of tactics in the marketer’s toolbox. Digital is not another asset to push conventional 4-P marketing (Product, Price, Promotion, Place). Rather, digital enables a marketer to strategically understand the 5th and most crucial part of any business relationship: People.

And unless you’re an equipped marketer, you’re not going to see how this truth (the truth of: more technology doesn’t equal more connected) is completely lost on most brands.

To be clear –the word “connected” is NOT friends on facebook, or followers on Twitter or clicks on a webpage. Connected is enabling the desired dialogue consumers want (honest, transparent and consumer-serving) and weaving it meaningfully into a business transactional framework.

Said again, simply adding new “new” to the challenge of business is actually keeping us from our goals as marketers. Connecting with people, understanding them and delivering a brand to them that actually meet their needs.

Citing two leaders in this field:

“Expect to see more brands rising to the challenge of understanding consumers; Brands MUST harness social culture” – Christine Huang: head of cultural trends, GlobalHue

“We live in a world of addressable brand: highly personalized, relevant messages that bring value” – Dean Donaldson: CIO IPG Mediabrands

But before you rush off to start a flurry on social media, some strategic realities you need to be very aware of:In a social media review study including participants of varying race and ethnic background, there was a direct correlation between a person negative outlook on life and their time spent on Facebook. The more time on Facebook, the worst they felt. (counterintuitive of what would be expected from a media that prides itself on keeping people connected)

Another study by Professor Robert Kraut et al via the American Psychological Association openly shows how life satisfaction decreases as time on the internet increases. People think they’re connecting by sitting on a device or in front of a screen but the real outcomes are the exact opposite.

Please realize: The technology isn’t the problem or in fact, isn’t to blame. People are wired for connection. Matthew Lieberman in his work: “Social, why our brains are wired to connect” speaks openly how we must focus on the human condition and not rely on technology to be the answer.

So what do you do about it? HOW do you actually understand and engage this “people economy” within our dialogue age for momentum based campaigns?

It’s about purpose. And marketing also has a purpose – a deeper meaning than just selling, advertising, promoting, posting and tweeting. Marketing is the only business-focused discipline that combines skills in both the transactional realm and the personal realm.

When you understand these two things in their complete sense (people and technology) and, of course: remember what we all learned in kindergarten:

“Do unto others…”




Kross E, Verduyn P, Demiralp E, Park J, Lee DS, Lin N, et al. Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults. PLoS ONE 8(8): e69841. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069841 Robert Kraut and Vicki Lundmark, Human Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University; Michael Patterson and Sara Kiesler, Social and Decision Science Department, Carnegie Mellon University; Tridas Mukopadhyay, Graduate School of Industrial Administration, Carnegie Mellon University; William Scherlis, Computer Science Department, Carnegie Mellon University.

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