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Back to human again on social media: developing a "thoughtfulness" strategy

In the early days of social media marketing, there were mostly two types of users:

  1. businesses and brands who remained professional at all times, and

  2. personal accounts.

Upon opening a social networking site between 2008 and 2012, these types are what you would encounter. Each user would fall into one of the two buckets: brands (professional) or personal (just for fun).

Tweeting and posting in a sales-y or marketing style became the norm for brands and businesses, and posts had to go through several rounds of approvals before anything went live on public-facing channels.

This style is still how many companies operate.

However, it's an older model of social media management.

Some might also argue that this style of social media management also led to ineffective brand messages, because, by the time the content posted, the message was convoluted or clouded in marketing speak.

Personal accounts, however, posted anything and everything they wanted. In the early days of social media, many people even posted questionable content without consequence – except for those now-infamous stories of people who got "publicly shamed" in the early days of social networks.

The primary advice given to many young social media managers around this time was, "don't cross the streams.," meaning, keep business accounts business-like, and don't you dare accidentally post something personal to a business account.

I even heard of experts advising young graduates along the lines of establishing a separate personal account for the sole purpose of looking professional when applying for jobs. That way, individual posts would stay private.

This separation caused a lot of fear and paranoia among executives, who resigned to stay away from social media entirely, citing not wanting to risk anything happening to them that would put them in a negative light.

If one were to look at Brand Twitter in 2020, however, it seems we've shifted entirely from where we started. Many brands are tweeting and posting like people, and you have a new crop of people (influencers) who have become brands in and of themselves.

Many businesses or brand accounts sound more like people than people do. Other brands, such as Steak-umm or SUNNYD, post content that would have gotten a social media manager fired just a few years ago.

So, where's the balance?

It comes down to one word: thoughtfulness.

I love this definition because, when applying it to marketing, there MUST be some thought behind what you're doing (strategy), and you MUST consider the needs of others (audience development).

The social media rulebook from 2010-2018 is no longer valid. Companies, brands, and individuals are quickly and effectively rewriting the rules on how people are supposed to behave online, including me.

As we rewrite these rules, however, it's the thoughtfulness of our content that's going to propel us forward, whether posting from a business or personal account.

Thoughtfulness in copy, thoughtfulness in imagery, thoughtfulness in humor, thoughtfulness in paid or promoted posts.

You may want to even "cross the streams" at some point as part of your evolved social media strategy. It's 2020. You can SO do that now.

There's way too much thoughtless posting going on out there. Make your posts count for something. Everything you share doesn't have to be a home run. Just put some thought into it if you genuinely want to succeed in social.

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