Hilary Bird
Hilary Bird 19 December 2017
Categories Social Media

The Plight of the Social Media Marketer: From Twitter to Fake News

The bad news is that the general public doesn't trust social platforms anymore. The good news is that we, as social marketers, can help fix that.

According to a recent Harvard-Harris poll, 87% of more than 2,000 registered voters said that they don’t trust the news or the information they see on social media.

Given our daily news consists of “fake news” and alleged accusations of social platforms being used to sabotage US elections, these results aren’t surprising.

And that’s bad news for marketers.

Social media sites like Twitter are debatably the most useful platforms for marketers. They’re used to identify and build relationships with industry influencers, engage in conversations with niche communities, and monitor trending topics.

So, it’s bad that nobody believes a single word coming out of our mouths anymore. Even the creators of these platforms (Twitter, Facebook, SnapChat, etc.) have lost faith in how they’re being used.

As marketers, we’re partly to blame for the problem. We’ve overused news articles and social media sites to push our own messaging, and forget that most people just want genuine human connection.

And that means honesty.

If marketers want to find success in a changing world, they need to start fixing the problem by reasserting themselves in a more authentic way.

So, how do we that? Let’s look at Twitter as a basic example.


How Twitter Has Changed

Twitter had 10M active users in 2010 and is projected to have over 70M by 2020 in the US alone. It’s one of the fastest-paced social platforms; a tweet disappears from a timeline just as quickly as it appears. Its recent change from 140 to 280-character tweets seemed to rock the boat for many users because it pulled from one of its defining features--that is, brief and to-the-point tweets.

While Twitter claims this change is to help make adoption easier for new users, it’s hard to not see it as just another marketing tactic and wonder what’s really up Twitter’s sleeve.

As marketers, we have the choice to abuse or embrace this new feature. Abuse would come in the form of long-winded, spammy tweets loaded with links that tag random people. But what would embracing it look like?

Well, to start, it could look like more in-depth Twitter chats. 140 extra characters could breathe life back into one of the most authentic, genuine activities of Twitter: Twitter chats. Many big brands host weekly chats, but recently chats have decreased in activity and now half the participants typically work for the hosting brand, which can kill the authenticity of the chat.

As marketers, we should have a sincere interest in joining chats that relate to both marketing and whatever products or services we’re trying to market. We should make it a priority to consistently join these and provide thoughtful input.

More so, it’s the perfect way to build relationships with prospective customers and industry influencers.

But what stops most of us from doing these activities in the first place? Why do we pass up a prime opportunity every single week to make connections with potential customers?

The Conundrum of the Social Marketer

It’s because we’re too busy trying to create our own branded Twitter chat, so we can become the next thought leader. Or maybe it’s because we’re too busy scheduling out a bunch of automated tweets that no one is going to interact with anyway.

We self-sabotage by partaking in the exact activities that we think drive sales, but actually detract from our brand. But why?!

It’s because we’re eager to please our bosses, and the best way to do that is by showing them concrete proof that we’re positively impacting marketing and sales - this usually comes in the form of numbers.

Even Harvard Business Review writes what’s most important to your boss is seeing you, “relentlessly focused on making your numbers and completing projects or initiatives in a timely, responsible fashion.” But, since meaningful Twitter conversations can’t be directly tied to any of those metrics and take time, we shy away from them.

We opt for (what we think is) the quick route to success. If we just schedule enough tweets, follow enough people and share our blog content enough, we’ll see the fruits of our labor. What’s ironic is that just about every other marketer is doing the same thing.

The result is an endless flow of unread content and tweets going straight into the abyss of no man’s land. In order to solve this as marketers, we sort of need to stop being marketers.

We should focus on building our personal online brand by having organic conversations that have no hidden agenda. Why should we do this? For a few reasons:

●      People prefer interacting with people over faceless brands.

●      People will trust a “thought leader” source as a person more than they will a brand. For example, if you manage both your company and CEO’s Twitter accounts, put more organic effort in your CEO’s account than your company’s account.

●      Tweets can be more diverse and cover more topics than just industry-specific content. This humanizes your account, which naturally increases audience trust.


While there’s nothing wrong with tailoring your Twitter conversations to fit your brand voice, just keep in mind that people want to feel like they’re talking to people, not robotic, salesy brands.

If we want these social platforms to stick around as an added marketing channel for us, we need to take care in how we use them (while taking care in how we present ourselves on social as well). We need to remember that there’s just another human on the other side of that Twitter handle.



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