We learned it in kindergarten (or so they say), and somewhere along the line, our society seems to have lost a valuable skill — one, in fact, that could transform our communication strategies.
By basic definition, sharing denotes the act giving something of value to another without expecting a benefit or return. Traditional marketing campaigns always drive toward one end goal (typically sales of some ilk) monitored by strict analytics and ROI. So this idea of expecting no return is, at best, uncomfortable, and at worst, petrifying.
The Changing Playing Field.
The last decade’s onset of social media changes the playing field. As Garfield and Levy proffer in “Can’t Buy Me Like,” social media has ushered in a new era in marketing history, shifting the focus from messaging to relationships. People want to connect with people, not brands. Amy Jo Martin, author of Renegades Write the Rules (and social media guru for Shaquille O’Neal) put it this way in her Tedx Talk: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why do you it.”
The “why,” the intangible sense of trust, the connection. These are the commodities of today’s communication realm. And the same rule extends, if not more so, to social media. We crave real relationships where there’s genuine conversation, real reactions and unfiltered responses not marred by corporate jargon.
This idea is by no means revolutionary in psychology, sociology or communication academia. Consider Cooley’s Looking Glass Self theory that suggests that one’s sense of self is defined by his or her interactions with others. Simply, treat me like a comedian, and I believe I’m funny. Treat me like a friend on social media, and perhaps I’ll be your best one.
Get Back in the Game.
So what can businesses and brands do to actualize this idea? (Well, take a gander at Can’t Buy Me Like for starters.) But try this simple tactic.
I don’t mean share, as in treat Facebook like a diary (although we all have those days). Retweet. Repost. Give shout outs. Create content that features others, their ventures, their successes. This generous yet genuine interaction can foster a sense of belonging and affinity between people.
Recently, I’ve encountered TOPO (Top of the Hill), a distillery and restaurant based in Chapel Hill. They’re the biggest fan you’ve never had, generously promoting surrounding businesses and events when they easily could claim their own limelight on social media. For example, as a featured guest at the TerraVita Food & Drink Festival, TOPO could have spent its Instagram real estate on selfies with editors or staged shots of its product. Instead, its team created several short videos featuring all the other chefs around them.
The Bottom Line.
People loved seeing themselves “on camera,” but more importantly, they sensed a camaraderie with TOPO, Esteban (one of the owners) and the gang. Who knows how many more followers, customers and sales have ensued for TOPO from these types of interactions!
As the saying goes, sharing is caring. And caring is the currency of today.