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The Social Revolution

By Amanda Hite and Steve Guglielmo

Amanda Hite is the Co-Founder and CEO of Be The Change Revolutions. Often referred to as the workplace model of the future, BTC is a multi-million dollar company with a 867.7% three-year growth rate. BTC Revolutions ranked #442 on the 2016 Inc 500 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America’s list and the fastest-growing private advertising marketing company in Washington DC. Amanda will be giving a presentation at the Emerging Leaders Conference on Thursday, July 18, from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Amanda was nice enough to speak with The MHEDA Journal about that presentation.

 TMJ: Can you give an overview of some of the things you’ll be discussing at the 2019 Emerging Leaders Conference?  

AH: The topic is “The Social Revolution: Changing the Marketplace, Workplace & the World.”

Social media has been one of the most disruptive forces for change (good and bad) in our lifetime, for consumers, creators, communities, corporations, the list goes on… and a lot of thinkers and leaders have tried to meet this change centering their strategy primarily around the social media platforms and advancing their technology and tools. When in reality the platforms and technology are just tools, as the movements and revolutions of social media have shown us “people are the medium.”

In this session we’ll talk about a social media marketing approach called “Movement Marketing”, marketing that moves people and is moved by people. A model for igniting and sustaining passionate word-of-mouth movements online and how they lead to offline action and ultimately impact. We’ll explore the power and potential of human-powered media and intelligence that social media allows us to tap into. The ability to follow, collect insights from and learn from our existing and target audiences at each stage of the customer journey.

One thing we know has always been true is that people are the medium for change. The tools might evolve, the technology becomes more advanced, but at the end of the day we are trying to move people to action—whether that means buying our product or banding together to fight for change—and if we apply these tools to help us be more human, to listen and learn from our consumer communities, and organize and activate the most influential among them, we can make a lot of impact in a relatively short amount of time.

TMJ: Your presentation touches on an important topic in the industry right now. How are successful businesses using social media to increase brand awareness and communicate with customers?  

AH: I think it comes down to a mindset shift — there are a lot of tactical pieces that might work for one set of businesses or an industry right now, but so much of that can depend on forces outside of our control, because we don’t control Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, right? All we can control is the mindset behind our human-centric approach and I believe in principles that can adapt to any technological or social changes.

98% of conversation and content about almost any major brand comes from outside the company. Now, let’s be clear, this isn’t entirely new either—it’s really just modern word-of-mouth, but what’s new is the overwhelming scale of conversation and the ability of businesses (whether you have a billion dollar brand or a two-person startup) to listen and respond to that conversation on a regular basis. Successful businesses understand social media isn’t a single department or individual role, it’s a paradigm that affects every aspect of almost every industry, because now your marketing is being done by the community and consumers you’re working with and selling to.

Instead of trying to be louder or more clever than competitors, businesses who use social media for real impact, lead from a place of listening to and learning from their most vocal stakeholders — and I mean that across the board, their customers, their investors, their employees, their detractors — so they can navigate the choices and changes they need to make to amplify the best and work to solve for the rest. Social media intelligence tools have come a long way in a relatively short period to help with this, but there has yet to be a truly effective standalone solution, so it’s also important to have the right people behind the tools to surface actionable insights from that information.

The other piece, the integration of social, is something I can’t stress enough. The core competency of marketers has generally been messaging/ creative, social media requires much more in the way of both hard and soft skills. I built a career in the restaurant and hospitality industry before becoming an entrepreneur and it’s amazing to see how the principles of guest service and customer care translate so successfully in social media—I think marketing as we know it will benefit from this shift, the need for more empathy and engagement in this “always on” age, but business leaders need to have the foresight to make those moves while it remains a competitive advantage.

TMJ : For companies with very little to no social strategy in place, do you have any tips or advice on how or where to start?  

AH: I don’t want to reinforce a notion that social media is a “nice to have” because it’s affecting your business whether you have a strategy or not, but here are three ways to at least avoid some common pitfalls on the way to a meaningful long-term strategy.

  1. Set up social listening. This allows you to actively listen, learn from and engage with people talking about your industry, brand and products. The conversation about your industry or brand is happening, make sure you hear it to avoid potential damage to your reputation and to leverage the ability to drive advocacy. Your audience is telling you everything you need to know from what matters, who matters and where you need to be engaging – make sure you’re listening and not guessing.
  2. Invest in context of relationship over content. Businesses often make the mistake of putting the bulk of their social media marketing resources into creating appealing content, and very little time, energy, and effort into engagement. The true power of social media is interactive, so if it has be a choice between the two, choose the path that creates greater context of relationship with your customers and the people and communities that influence them over the one that creates more content that may or may not even make it to your audience in the fight for attention online.
  3. No one can grow a love for something like those who love it the most. Empower your biggest internal and external advocates to be ambassadors online for your brand. Invest in happy employees. This might sound counterintuitive in a conversation about social media marketing, but your happiest customer will only be as happy as your happiest employee. There is no amount of marketing budget that can outrun the destructive power of a toxic culture or match the potential impact of a loyal, dedicated staff of internal advocates. While you work to build a strategic vision for social in your business, make sure that all the pieces of word-of-mouth you can control—the quality of your products, your employees, your investments in the community—will drive positive word-of-mouth for you.

All that said, don’t wait to develop a social media strategy. We see brands lose significant market share every day because someone decided social media wasn’t a high priority.   

TMJ : How would you say that social media has changed the business landscape in the last decade? Where do you see things heading in the next five years?  

AH: In the past decade, even the past handful of years, social media has given us superpowers, allowing us to collect insights on our audiences that we’ve never had before, and scale word-of-mouth through engaging and activating online communities and influencers that our audiences know, like, and trust most. For brands that have made the investment in social media intelligence and strategic social media engagement, these developments have been nothing short of game changing.

Looking  ahead, over the next five years, all of these platforms will become more experiential, with technology and software evolving to both capture and further an entirely new dimension of media — as smart devices become more ever-present, and designers perfect augmented reality technology, the way we navigate and experience the “real” world (and the way it experiences us) will be transformed in a way we haven’t seen since the first iPhone boom. As devices learn to “experience”, consumer technology will continue to evolve to accommodate the moves and moods of the user. With these tools, and in light of growing consumer demand for deeper and personal connection, brands will invest in creating experiences instead of campaigns, using consumer insights to target and tailor experiences that reach far and wide, yet hit close to home.

Artificial Intelligence is also going to fundamentally change a lot about social media, marketing, and really society as a whole — from the point of view of my business, I know it’s going to lead to extraordinary strides and give us significant power to capture and capitalize on insights about our consumers and communities online.

As advertisers work towards more personal engagement, and artificial intelligence changes the marketplace and the workplace in ways that will ripple into our online world, people will continue (perhaps even accelerate) the trend towards a more closed social media philosophy, more about private groups and direct messages and less about easily accessible (and exploitable) public information and social sharing. Technology will help some overcome the challenge of marketing to an increasingly closed off consumer space, but the standouts across industries will be the ones that go deeper and work to build real, lasting, human relationships with their consumers.   

TMJ : What would you say is the biggest takeaway you want attendees to walk away from your presentation with is?  

AH: People are the medium. The power of social media, for business, for life, for social change, is in activating human mediums — influencers, advocates, communities — wherever they may be, to take action. Attendees will see the virtue of long-term “movement” thinking in their marketing and social media strategies, and how we can all work towards being more human (and humane) online.