Narcissism Isn’t Social: How To Engage With Your Audience

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When social media was relatively new, I feared that it would undo a whole lot of my work.

I had worked hard to get client companies to realize that it really wasn’t all about them. Most companies naturally gravitate towards we-language and chest thumping.  We’re this and that and our product/service is the best out there, etc. etc.

Getting them to switch to you language — as in, “here’s what we can offer you and why you should care” — takes work. But we managed it and the results were well worth the effort.

But my fear was that Social Media was going to get clients back in the habit of talking about themselves, in the mistaken belief that they were “joining the conversation.”

Turns out my fears were both totally unfounded and spot on the money.

Unfounded because Social Media didn’t inspire any greater levels of narcissistic communication than normal.

And spot on because “normal” levels of narcissistic communication amongst companies are breathtakingly high, and this was indeed one of the factors that killed many Social Media efforts.

Oddly, this dynamic is hardly any better today than it was back in 2007.  Just take a look at this Wendy’s Facebook ad:

So I like the picture, but really, who is going to click on this?

Where, in this ad, is there any mention of “What’s In It For Me.”  Where’s the benefit to the customer?  Why should I click?

And, since this is Facebook, after all, where is the targeting?  This ad showed up on my wife’s Facebook page, but it could have showed up on anyone’s page without any modification whatsoever.

If you’re going to try to get a mother of three to care about fast-food quality, why not target the messaging to mothers specifically.

In other words, why not create an ad more like this one:

See how the ad is targeted specifically to mothers?

And how the “What’s In It For Me?” is answer by “feel good about feeding your kids our (real chicken) nuggets.

I’m not saying this is the best ad ever, but it’s decidedly more focused on the customer’s life and cares and concerns than the original ad, which was nothing more than narcissistic chest-thumping.

Bottom Line: All ads represent a social exchange — the prospects time and attention in exchange for relevant information delivered in an interesting (maybe even entertaining) format.

If your ad’s message is irrelevant to the consumer, you are breaching that social contract, which is no way to behave on an inherently social platform.

Because narcissism isn’t social.

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