Let’s not forget, the internet is still made of (and for) human beings

In this age of Big Data and
metrics, let’s not forget the internet is still all about human activity
and emotion. Here’s a few things digital marketers need to remember. 

If you’re responsible for the social media presence of a brand or
organization at all, you probably spend a fair amount of time answering (or
asking) questions like “What’s our ‘Like’ strategy?,” “But what’s his Klout
score?,” or “Why aren’t our hashtag numbers high enough?”

PR and marketing folks have access to more data than ever, but it
 can distract us from what we’ve done so well for generations: knowing
what people want.
So many communications professionals have made the transition from
completely ignoring or outright dismissing social media directly, to obsessing
over each and every data point associated with it. It seems we’ve completely
skipped the crucial process of understanding what these data points mean and
what it all has to do with our business.

Every meaningful online metric is generated by the action of a
real-life human being.
One of those ‘Likes’ on the photo of the
company picnic on your B2B company’s Facebook page was generated by Helen from accounting, who truly did like the image of her and her smiling work
friends, at least as much as it takes to push a button and indicate that to you
and her friends. Fifteen of those retweets of your nonprofit’s infographic were
from a group of people who geek out about your subject and wanted to be
the first in their group to share it. Five were spambots and they don’t matter.
Hell, even most of the data in the Google Search algorithm is generated by us
human beings using our fingers and opposable thumbs to search and click on what
we want.

We have to start with people and what they want, not with our
message and what we want.
Say for example you’re a construction
company, trade group or political organization that wants to get people excited
about infrastructure investment. Instead of trying to fit “infrastructure
investment” into a hashtag (#infravestment? #infinv2013?) or asking fans to
“Like” if they love the nation’s interstate system, let’s think about people’s
natural connection to the topic and how that might manifest online. Check out
the hashtag #roadtrip on
Instagram, or #bridge on
Tumblr. You’ll see human beings moved to share their love of infrastructure
without even knowing it. Let’s put down the Like button for a second and figure
out how to compel these folks to take action.

Your brand will never reach the right people until you understand
who they are, how they behave online, what gets their attention, and what
motivates them.
The great thing is this isn’t hard. Many of us and most of our
bosses were raised to trust old-school PR or marketing wisdom. We learned to
think about what people want and how to exploit trends, events or new outlets.
We should not stop listening and feeling just because this newer set of
channels and tool produces such huge piles of data.

We shouldn’t ignore numbers nor the science of social media. We’re
fortunate that today, communicators can learn more about our field than ever
before. But let’s not chase metrics at the expense of doing what PR and
marketing people have done for over a hundred years: giving people what they

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