How to Create Real Relationships With Social Marketing

by Ted Rubin

If you want to continue to reach your market in the social media age, the marketing focus needs to be on building relationships, and metrics need to expand beyond ROI. In fact, ROI is simple dollars and cents. But a return on relationship is the value — both perceived and real — that will accrue over time through connection, loyalty, recommendations, and sharing. That’s what any marketer actually wants, and here’s how to do it.

Don’t Just Act Authentic

This might seem obvious, but authenticity is on the verge of becoming just another buzz word in social media marketing. True authenticity — not just using that word often in your tweets and posts — will set your brand (product or personal) apart in today’s highly competitive market. Followers and advocates can and will sniff out a fake in a heartbeat.

The only way to be authentic is to be authentic. For example, don’t filter out your brand’s negative feedback. No one believes 100% positive claims on a website or social pages anyway. Make all feedback public. Then honestly address any claims around the negative feedback, and give your followers the tools to tell their truth about you and your brand because that is what people trust, and what they trust they will buy.

Be Real to Create Trust

We are hearing so much now about social media creating a shift from ‘the wisdom of crowds’’ to ‘the wisdom of friends’’, but what does that really mean for brand advocacy? A lot. It’s this ‘wisdom of friends’ that brings a new social power to brand advocacy. The payoff is a long-term and personal relationship that creates brand advocates and an emotional connection that drives influence. Brand advocates are those people who are so delighted by your product/service/brand that they can’t wait to tell their friends and their whole social networks about the experience. To achieve such an enriching relationship, communication must be relevant and have a distinct and authentic personality.

Take Care of Your Advocates

Successful social media marketing is all about relationships, with the highest return coming from relationships with your brand advocates. Friends trust friends who are advocates. They will purchase a recommended product and, if that experience is everything they hoped for, a new advocate is born and the cycle continues. Advocates are an incredible asset now more than ever. Treat them as such.

Be an Actual Friend

The way you engage with people makes an impression no matter what tool you are using. Look at your own behaviors and ask yourself, “Would I want to be my friend?” Are you noticing and affirming the value of individuals and groups in your network? Are you genuinely interested and paying attention to the people behind the texts and words on a screen? Are you going out of your way to be of service to others in your network? That’s the kind of friend I would want to have and to be.

For example, it is unbelievable how many people never bother to connect after an event, or even fail to add who they met into their contacts file. What a complete and utter waste of time. So be the one who does. Add people to your contact file, and connect with them via LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Make a note with every entry where you met (name of event and date), and anything else you remember or had the presence of mind to write on the card. Then, when and if you have an email exchange, cut and paste that email in the notes section so you will always have a point of reference when connecting again in the future.

Forget the adage Win/Win and make a commitment to Learn/Learn. Win/Win is good, but implies an end. Once you win, then what? Learn/Learn creates a paradigm of ongoing value. This creates a Learn/Learn situation. I learn about you and you learn about me. And we learn from each other.


Ted Rubin is a leading social marketing strategist and the chief social marketing officer at Collective Bias. In 2009, Rubin started using the term ROR, Return on Relationship™, a concept he believes is the cornerstone for building an engaged multi-million member database. His book, Return on Relationship, is out in August. Follow him @TedRubin.


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