Confession time: Last night I got a SERIOUS craving for Pop-Tarts. Strawberry, of course, because up until now strawberries have been my biggest pregnancy craving.

It was almost depressing when it hit so strongly. I’ve prided myself on how healthy my cravings have been. Strawberry and grape fruit salads, and red cabbage. (Can you tell I have Danish blood flowing through my pregnant veins?)

I resisted the urge to run out and get some last night, but this morning the craving was just as strong. I knew it was time to give myself permission to indulge.

And indulge I did!

I drove the 4 miles to Walgreen’s (which is much closer than the grocery store 9 miles away) and stood conflicted in the aisle. I came in for strawberry, but brown sugar, blueberry, cherry, smore’s and chocolate fudge looked just as appetizing! How could I choose?

After walking up to the front counter embarrassed about my purchase of TWO boxes of Pop-Tarts, I quickly drove home and immediately popped two of those cardboard-y, sugar-infested treats into the toaster oven. This was going to be good.

I wasn’t disappointed. I savored every bite – crispy and warm on the outside, gooey and even warmer on the inside. First a strawberry, then a chocolate fudge. Both were more delicious than I had envisioned.

While I was eating them at my desk, pretending to be working, I went to the Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts Facebook page. If these cravings are going to keep hitting like this, I had to know what I was missing.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 10.30.14 AMThe first picture I saw was a Pumpkin Pie flavored Pop-Tart. Surprisingly, that sounds about as disgusting as a pineapple flavored Pop-Tart. I’ll stick with strawberry or chocolate fudge, please.

As I was thinking about what a pumpkin pie flavored Pop-Tart would taste like (and VERY relieved I didn’t crave it because my Walgreen’s didn’t keep it in stock and I didn’t want to go on some wild craving goose chase), I saw this comment:

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 10.18.11 AM

A customer named Christy is diabetic. Like me, she’s craving a Pop-Tart (although her flavor of choice is brown sugar) but needs it in sugar free. She wrote a legitimate question and waited for a legitimate answer.

The response from Kellogg’s was about as disgusting as the chemical filled ingredient list:

We’re glad you love Pop-Tarts!

Sure, Christy said she loved Pop-Tarts in the first line, but it wasn’t the focus of her message. The substance was a serious question to a serious company.

She was obviously frustrated with the reply. I would’ve been too.

The problem? Kellogg’s is obviously not listening to its customers.

Using Social Media to Market Your Business Requires Human Interaction and Genuine Interest in the Conversation

Businesses get this wrong all the time. They either:

  • Dangerously (and I mean dangerously) set up an automatic reply system like Kellogg’s did. Certain sentences or words trigger certain remarks. There’s no one listening except a machine.
  • Hire an outside firm to do the social media marketing for them. They rely on someone in another city to form a relationship with their customers.

Both are terrible ideas. Here’s why.

Automation Without Human Relation Sucks

Automating your marketing is only a good idea if there is some aspect of humanity behind it.

Automating social media responses isn’t human. It’s such an obvious disconnect between a brand and the people who make them a success (their customers) that it’s more likely to be a turn off than a help.

Christy is probably going to look on Pinterest for how to make her own Pop-Tarts now. She’s probably going to tell her friends about her experience. Even if they release a sugar-free version, she might not buy because of this tasteless interaction.

Local businesses have a unique opportunity to interact and embrace their customer’s demands. The goal  of marketing on social media should always be to spark conversation between a brand and a consumer. The better job you do listening, the easier it’ll be to meet customer demand, get the word-of-mouth buzz you want, and GROW in your community.

It’s also a great PR tool.

Businesses that truly pay attention to what’s happening in their customers life have a unique opportunity to respond with kindness and humility.

For example, one of my clients is a local car and dog wash. One day a customer came to him letting him know about her dog who needed an expensive surgery. She reached out in hopes of getting a donation through her gofundme page. Instead, my super-savvy client took it a step further. He shared the gofundme page on Facebook and in an email blast. He went above and beyond to get others in the community to rally around this woman and help her dog. The community came through.

His business indirectly got publicity as a brand invested in the well-being of their clients. They got people talking because of the good work he was doing to help someone in the neighborhood. If he hasn’t been listening on social media, he never would’ve heard her request.

Listening Locally Makes a World of Difference

The same client had previously hired a social media marketing firm out of Austin, Texas to do his Facebook posts. He paid way too much for what he got – a couple posts a week of cute pictures.

After we monitored their work for some time, we realized how sub-par it was. Everything looked surface level and boring. Nothing was locally engaging or exciting. No one was listening.

He fired the company and had one of his employees take over the Facebook posts. Suddenly, they were putting up pictures of dogs who came into their dog wash and unique cars using their car wash. Customers tagged themselves and their friends in the picture, sparking engagement and excitement. The conversation was meaningful again.

Are You Risking Your Business’s Reputation by Marketing Like Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts?

It’s frustrating to see such a disconnect between brands and customers.

Social media marketing isn’t a tool to use to shove marketing messages down consumer’s throats. It’s a way to engage.

Engagement takes time and effort, but it’s worth it every time.

Every time someone comments, you win. Every time someone raises a concern and you quickly resolve it, you win. Every time someone shares your post, you win.

The goal of any type of marketing (social media or otherwise) is to form a relationship with your buyer. The better do that? The better ROI you’ll see from your marketing investment.

Do you have a story about a company automating their social media marketing? There are tons of them out there. Share yours in the comments below!

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