Is social media killing our ability to be empathetic?
With the rapid shift from in-person to digital communications, many are arguing that this vital aspect of relationship building is starting to decline. In fact:
- The University of Michigan found empathy among college students dropped considerably between 2000 and 2009.
- Sherry Turkle’s book “Reclaiming Conversation” found a clear link between social media and bullying.
- Comedian Louis C.K. went on an insightful rant about how social media is reducing empathy (not exactly a credible source, but he certainly offers an interesting and popular perspective on the subject).
Being empathetic in real life is a matter of learning about varying worldviews and trying to understand something from the perspective of those experiencing it. When people display empathy to another person, their connection is stronger, barriers are broken, and real progress is made.
Even in the business world, using empathy is not a new trend, but it is certainly an effective one. Experts suggest that those who are empathetic to their employees, superiors, or colleagues, have a better time at working their way up the ladder and changing a corporation from within. It opens the door for new ideas, stronger relationships, and tenacious leaders. The empathetic leader who can incorporate other people’s strengths to make up for glaring weaknesses will reach success sooner.
But what does empathy mean for B2B social media marketers?
What Does ‘Empathy’ Mean in Marketing?
As technology continues to advance and artificialize daily human interactions, there is a greater need for marketers to understand and act human. In the industry, this approach is called “human-centered marketing”. It involves marketers putting their customers at the focus of their strategy by understanding their needs, personalities, emotions, and goals. And the power of human-centered marketing begins with empathy.
To empathize with your customers means to literally put yourself in their shoes. It’s a powerful factor that brings you back to the good ol’ days – outside of competitive settings and cutthroat cultures.
When empathizing with your customers, you want to understand:
- What’s important to them and why?
- What are their short and long-term goals?
- How do they view the world?
- How can you solve their everyday challenges?
In a modern world where customers are saturated with marketing content, empathy, when used effectively, can make all the difference in reaching audiences. This is especially true when exhibited by your employees on their social channels. Of all the places to show your corporate empathy, the faces and voices of your organization couldn’t be more ideal.
[Tweet “Here are simple steps to becoming a more empathetic employee advocate on #socialmedia”]
How to Establish Empathy in Employee Advocacy?
Indeed, when it comes to building empathy, an audience is a lot more likely to identify with employees than with the official corporate accounts. As part of an employee advocacy program, all employees are empowered to promote the company’s content on their personal social networks.
When engaging and reaching out to customers, advocates who really try to understand how their company’s product or service could potentially affect customers’ lives, will generate deeper insights to improve the company.
To make it easier, here are a few ways employee advocates can demonstrate empathy on social media:
- Establishing thought leadership. Ensuring advocates share valuable and relevant content allows them to gradually build up a credible reputation and inspire customers with their knowledge. Over time, they will become a trustworthy voice within the industry that customers will automatically want to turn to.
- Always listening. Once advocates share lots of amazing content, they should also keep their eyes open to what customers are saying – good and bad. That means following social conversations and replying to comments that their posts generate in order to really understand what their customers are thinking and evaluate what is working and what isn’t.
- Being Authentic. Customers know when you understand their true needs and can relate to their pain points, so it’s important to respond in a genuine way that resonates with audiences – kind of like talking in real life. This way customers are more likely to believe in the product or service’s value and perceive it as a solution to their problems.
- Establishing loyalty. If advocates notice a specific pattern in users’ behavior on social media – for example, user X is always commenting and engaging with their company’s content – then it’s time to take the next step and initiate a real one-on-one connection by messaging users privately to discover whether they need some extra help or information.
When employees are expressing empathy on social media, they are, in other words, representing the company’s culture and what it stands for. Having real people deliver the brand message while showing real emotions, improves customer experiences and helps to build stronger connections with users. From now on, think of your brand as a human being and center your employee advocacy strategy around your customers.