How SMEs can maintain the human touch

How SMEs can maintain the human touch

SME marketers have less time and fewer resources – which makes it temping to rely on tech tools to broaden reach. Yet small businesses are expected to retain the ‘human touch’. Here’s how they can walk the line.

“Are you human?” asks the now ubiquitous online verifier. Yet the same question could increasingly be asked of SME marketers.

This is no criticism. Indeed, the most effective SME marketers of today are likely to be those who understand and deploy the technologies available to them. Yet as they do so, they must be careful not to lose that all-important personal touch.

Here is a checklist for you to keep, and use occasionally, just to remind yourself that you and your SME marketing are indeed human.

1. Be consistent

Just as we expect people we know to behave in broadly consistent ways, whenever and however we interact with them, so we like, trust and buy brands that offer consistency across touchpoints. As Hannah Kimuyu, head of social media at Greenlight, puts it: “Even though each social media platform plays a different role, SMEs have to remember that there needs to be continuity across the platforms.”

She continues: “The need for consistency is enhanced by the fact that Instagram is now owned by Facebook, meaning that both companies follow the same algorithm. Consequently, it is probable that a consumer that likes your brand on Facebook is likely to receive content from you on Instagram, and so SMEs need to ensure content and messaging is consistent.”

2. Don’t over rely on automation

Marketing automation allows us to reach a far greater volume of prospects with more relevant and timely messages than was dreamt possible just a decade ago. Yet while using it, SME marketers must remember to keep the content personal. Keren Lerner, founder and director of Top Left Design, advises us to pay close attention to content curation.

She explains: “For curation, I use Flipboard on my phone and Feedly on my desktop. When sharing content I find there, I use Buffer – clicking one button opens a pop-up, allows me to confirm a picture, prewrites my headline and shortens the URL. From there, I can choose which channels to send the article out to, add my own comment and, if sharing on Twitter, a couple of hashtags too. I use this combination of Feedly, or Flipboard and Buffer, to share posts to Twitter, G+ and LinkedIn. While it’s using automation, it’s still personal – I have chosen the article to share, and I retain control over what was written to accompany it.”

3. Get your hands dirty 

Lerner also advocates keeping a close eye on how well your content is being receiving and jumping in if necessary. “Make a habit of looking at your social channel activity while waiting for a bus, queuing at the supermarket, or working in between meetings to see what people have said,” she says. “Comment on some posts and reply to anyone who has spoken to you on social media. This allows you to intercept some of your shared content with the ‘real you’. The idea is, eventually, you’re going to start meeting some of these people and having real life conversations with them about business!”

4. Take advantage of user generated content

For Sophie Turton, digital marketing manager at Bozboz, the key to engaging people digitally is to encourage those people to create your content. “Invest in social listening to learn what excites your audience,” she advises. “Then create a UGC campaign that focuses on it. By putting your audience in the driving seat and asking them to actively show you what matters to them, you are automatically engaging in a conversation that means something. Use of a hashtag centralises the discussion and people's desire to share content they or their friends have created helps spread the message further.”

She adds: “UGC is the ultimate way of building a human connection. By getting your audience to be your content creators, you not only save on time and resource, you also make your audience feel invested in your brand, which in turn creates a far more loyal customer base.”

5. Integrate with offline marketing

Finally, make sure your digital marketing is not operating as an end in itself. Ultimately digital allows us to create conversations with more new people than ever before, but our end goal is to drive real-world leads and sales, and face-to-face human interaction remains the most effective channel for that. So, do all of the above to build connections online but keep in mind the end goal of bringing those connections into the real world.

Alex Blyth Freelance Journalist CPL
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