social media strategyAs a business or agency, it’s impossible to avoid working with social media. Social media is in use by over a billion people, so there’s no reason why you would want to avoid it. But do you ever stop and take a moment to think about if you are approaching social media for your business or your clients from the right perspective? Is the way you use social media getting through to your customers? Are you doing more harm than good or are you just treading water? I’ll try to answer those questions right now.

The OK Approach

Hop on Google and search for “How to use social media for business” and you’ll get over two million results. Yikes, that’s a lot to look through. There are plenty of websites out there telling you how to use social media. A lot of them tell you that you need to engage the customer, you need to be active and post frequently, and you need to show the customer why your brand is what they need according to many of these articles.

One recent and better quality post about how to use social media gets close to what I’m going to discuss shortly here. Anton Koekemoer at Memeburn has a great list of six questions all businesses should be asking themselves when using social media and creating their social identity. He makes an important point that your brand identity should be the focus of your social media use because it “provides a structure and guideline for the types of messages and content” to use on social platforms.

All of this can help your business, or help your agency grow businesses, but is it the most efficient way to approach social media?

How You Should Approach Social Media

In order to get to the core of how you should approach social media, there’s one simple question to ask that a lot of businesses and agencies struggling with the medium have unfortunately overlooked. It’s simply, why do consumers use social media?

Jeff Haden on has an excellent piece covering this topic and my the inspiration for writing my own article on the topic. In an interview with Shama Kabani who runs The Marketing Zen Group, Jeff got to the heart of how a company or an agency should approach social media.

Shama puts it plainly, telling Jeff that, “People use social media to showcase their own identities.” Right there is the key aspect of social media many businesses miss. It’s a mere nine words and yet it means so much. Thoughts, ideas, and doubts should be going off like crazy in your head. I’m not sure why this point isn’t the focus of more pieces for branding and how a business should approach using social media. Maybe one day soon it will be all that we read about.

Anyway, back to that nine word statement. What Shama says means that social media isn’t about getting your brand out there and showing what it means to consumers. It’s ultimately (and ideally) about “what [your] brand says about the individual.” Don’t believe me? Umair Haque at the Harvard Business Review writes that “The majority of people worldwide wouldn’t care if two thirds of brands disappeared tomorrow.” He’s right, too.

Connect to Life

Your brand and your social media usage needs to focus on “sociality” as Umair terms it. You have to “connect life to life.” Social media networks are ripe for use in this way. As we become more connected as a global population we communicate more frequently. Consumers learn more about how and why they spend their money, and they are seeing things more holistically. People are looking for meaning and identification and social media is just one way we’re doing that.

For a business and its brand and product to be successful in that vein, it needs to connect from within the individual. You need to craft your social media message in a way that the consumer can identify part of their life and why they do things with your brand. It’s not enough to simply “deliver product” anymore, you need “to impact lives” as Umair explains. In other words, you need to reflect the lives of the consumers in your brand and how you present it on social media.

A Shift in Thinking

For some people, this concept could be a pretty big shift in thinking about how you approach social media and branding in general. It certainly was to me. Umair writes at length about his ideas, as does Jeff Haiden, and you would be missing out if you don’t read their articles in full.

I wish right now that I could give you a checklist of how to change your strategy based on the implications of these ideas. If I knew how to do that for every business, I’d be busily writing a book and waiting for the royalty checks to come flying in (a man can dream, right?). Implementing changes based on this view is definitely business-specific and requires a solid team of thinkers to get the most out of it.

Regardless, I find the ideas Jeff and Umair discuss to be very revolutionary to the world of content marketing, online advertising and social media use. I hope that everyone who has read and shared their articles thinks the same. Approaching things from a different perspective can be tough, but sometimes that’s what it takes to make your efforts truly excel.

What do you think about this perspective of social media use?