An Apology To Brands On Behalf Of Social Media Experts Everywhere

The biggest disservice influencers have done brands over the years is ...

by Jason Falls |

They don’t all know it yet, but social media experts, promoters, advocates and douchebags everywhere owe brands an apology. Granted, we were well intended when this whole thing started. We thought we were doing you right. In many cases we were. But as time went on and the industry matured, some of us saw the *slight* error of our ways.

It seems that brands have been mistaken about how human they can be. They’ve been convinced, by us, that they too can earn a never-ending stream of comments and likes and re-tweets and shares and thumbs up and so on. They too can just sit and write a little Tweet or Facebook post or blog entry and, for absolutely no more money or effort have hundreds or thousands of people see, read, react, respond and refer.

And these brands are mistaken, because that’s what we’ve led them to believe.

But we were wrong. We were showing them Apples when all they had access to were Oranges. And no matter how you cook, clean, slice or serve an Orange, it will never be an Apple.

You see, many of us social media folk sat out to show you, the big brand with the big bank account, how we built an army of passionate people who followed us, bought into our philosophies and tickets to our events. We wanted to show you how easy and cheap it was to just sit down and write something that people found meaningful and passed around the big, viral caldron known as the world wide web. And you could become one of our many followers and maybe even pay us a little consulting fee or speaking fee along the way. You got what you wanted. We got what we wanted. The world was a better place for it.

Except we were wrong. Or you were gullible. Or both.

As much as our puritanical philosophies are noble, a brand is not a person. As human as we can help you become is still, unquestionably, not human. As much as we can teach you about being engaging and audience-centric and community building, you’re still a big company, a building, a logo.

Unfortunately, it’s taken Facebook’s unweilding sword of organic reach killing to make this painfully obvious. Now, if you’re not human, or more specifically have a brand page, you’re not worth showing or seeing. You can’t become human and Facebook won’t let your content appear as if it’s coming from one, either. It may not be fair, but it’s accurate.

What a company says to me will never be as relevant as what a friend does. Facebook is not wrong in this regard.

Also unfortunately, there are those still holding on to the puritanical notions of human-ness, engagement and joining the conversation who still argue the soon-to-be moot point. My friend, and social marketing smarty pants, Scott Stratten, trying to point out that organic reach is still very possible on Facebook, posted this last week:

Scott Stratten's organic reach post

His point was valid. If you provide incredible content and consistent engagement, you will get organic reach. But what Scott left out was that it’s going to be a hell of a lot harder for you to match the numbers of him, or me or any other actual human being.

Granted, Scott was sharing metrics from an UnMarketing brand page. So there appears to be some logic there. But UnMarketing is him (and his podcast co-host Alison Kramer). It’s not a company/logo/business from a perception perspective. It’s also where he personally engages that audience regularly, driving organic share and reach with his smarts and ideas and discussions. It’s more trustworthy because it’s a person-as-brand execution. Provided Facebook’s dialing down of organic reach continues, he’ll see less organic reach over time, too. But not to the dramatic degree those less human-like in approach do.

In the comments of that post — please, do go read them — Scott pointed out that most brands still spit advertising masked as content that wouldn’t engage anyone. He’s right. But even the brands that do a great job of engagement and content creation, the ones that add value to their audiences and have fantastic, organic success on Facebook … they’re going to have to now work 6-10 times harder to achieve the success they’ve already earned.

When Facebook turns down the dial, preventing any brand page’s content from reaching it’s intended audience, fewer people will see it to begin with. Fewer people will engage with it overall. The same success will take driving people there and asking them to carry that content’s torch forward for you.

It’s not a question of whether the good brands can still be good. It’s that they are going to have to be 10 times better now to achieve the same success. And for them, that sucks.

Brands are not people. And we’ve been leading them to believe they are for a long time now. As brands begin to understand they can’t have the same type of organic success a human-as-brand consultant has, we need to also inform them that what used to be a great benchmark for engagement metrics, is now going to be next to impossible. Their outcomes will change. Their expectations need to change. Their investment may need to as well.

Scott’s point is valid: Organic success is not impossible. But my point is, too: Leading brands to believe they can also be human-like with human-like social media success is perhaps the biggest disservice we could have done over the years.

Let’s start fresh and make sure we point them in a more realistic direction from now on. Fair?

About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).