Many brands still see social media as a "channel" to get exposure. While that is certainly an important element, the real effect of social is not to create exposure, but to connect.
The effect of an exposed reader/customer is only slightly higher than that of premium advertising. A connected reader/customer, however, is one who sticks around because they identify themselves with what you do. That leads to higher sales rates, and an increased social effect (resharing, advocating, positive endorsements, etc.).
To really connect with your audience you have to reach social media maturity. And that shift can be identified by looking at when you start do something for others.
Brands starts off like this. They create a Facebook page and just post something about their products. "See our latest pair of shoes", they say. That is not social. It is just traditional exposure on a social channel.
Brands then realize that traditional exposure doesn't work that much, so they start to encourage their audience to share it. "Do you like this?" they ask. Still, the brands are not social. The audience might be, but the brands are not. The brands are still just broadcasting to the world.
The next step is when brands accept that social is a two-way street. When they start to reply to the reactions of their audience. "What do you think?", they say, and then respond to people's questions. This is social puberty. Yes, the brands are communicating with their audience, but it is still based on "what we do." It's egocentric.
Finally, brands reach social maturity when they stop being egocentric and start focusing on how to make their followers' lives better. One of the early signs of that is when a brand shares a link to something that isn't about themselves.
Social maturity is when you as a brand engage the same way with your audience as the audience engages with you. It's when you start talking about the interest that you share with your followers.
It is not enough that you audience is doing something for you. You, as a brand, also have to do something for your audience.
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Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter
"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé