If you’re looking for a scapegoat for just about any of the world’s issues, you probably know technology makes a good choice. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people talk about how technology and being “plugged in” is making relationships harder than ever.
For some, I’m sure that’s probably true. At the end of the day, though, technology is a tool, and your relationships with other people — including your audience — depend on how you use it.
For marketers, technology presents an opportunity for you to reach and connect with your audience. Content marketing tools, for example, help you plan and craft your brand’s most engaging messages. Social media tools help you get them into the hands of the right people. Marketing automation platforms help you streamline and automate your processes, among other things.
The only catch? You can’t entirely remove the human element from the equation and let technology do it all.
Learn the Golden Equation: Technology + authenticity = engagement
If you had your choice between an engaging, personalized message from an authentic thought leader at a company and boring, automated content coming from an impersonal corporate logo, which would you prefer? It’s no contest: We’d all choose personalized content from real humans.
Marketers can use technology to create that content, deliver it, measure their efforts — any number of things. But tech, as ever-present as it is, won’t magically result in audience engagement and stronger relationships. Like I said, it’s a tool that needs to be used to make your job of connecting with your audience easier than before.
Sadly, too many brands forget their role in building those relationships and overlook the human elements that are necessary to make their messages resonate. They then wonder why engagement is low, assuming technology has created this huge trust barrier and made it harder to connect instead of looking in the mirror to find the root of the problem: They haven’t humanized their brands or used the right content to communicate that.
Make the shift from me to you
Talking “at” versus talking “with”: It’s a big distinction. Too many companies are knee-deep in the former, pushing out information like that boorish uncle at your folks’ annual Fourth of July picnic who simultaneously says everything and nothing.
In the past, brands would develop an idea or a message and push it out for everyone and their mother to see, whether those recipients truly cared to see it or not. In my business and marketing book, “Top of Mind,” I call this “Me Marketing,” where marketers only push out what they want and focus on themselves in the process. (I’ve yet to meet one person who truly enjoys getting spammed with a ton of promotional emails that were clearly sent out en masse with no personalization at all.)
Today, effective brands and marketers are taking a different approach. They have shifted to what I call “You Marketing” and have begun creating content for the actual audience members receiving it.
There’s a much greater focus on what audiences want and how they like to receive information, engage with content, and work with brands. Marketers need to listen to and authentically engage with audiences, and they need to do it on that audience’s terms. Technology can help.
Pursue new technology for better relationships
One example of a tool that’s taking the modern customer experience and running with it is PingPilot. Launched by SCORCH, this software aims to change the conversation between businesses and individuals by allowing people to choose their preferred means of communication. The means of conversation can change depending on the client’s needs — live chat, voice, and SMS are all viable channels. Essentially, businesses move over and give consumers the keys to the car, as well as the wheel.
Over time, this allows brands and consumers to forge sincere bonds based on trust and live interactions, not chatbots or automated replies. Each touchpoint becomes an opportunity to build a better understanding of customers; data from these interactions can improve the company’s marketing stack and explode lead generation, not to mention conversions.
This is a prime example of how technology actually helps build stronger personal relationships and connections, not replace them.
Everyone loves to hate something, but it’s time to pull back from blaming technology left and right. Instead of cursing a technology-rich world that’s made Snapchat filters and hashtags so ubiquitous you hardly notice them anymore, it’s wiser to look deeper into what those selfies and hashtags mean to the people who make, view, and engage with them. Authenticity between brands and audiences has technology at its core, but it takes human hands, minds, and hearts to execute it.
John Hall is the CEO of Influence & Co., a keynote speaker, and the author of “Top of Mind.” You can book John to speak here.