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The End of Marketing

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The End of Marketing

Humanizing Your Brand in the Age of Social Media

Kogan Page,

15 min read
11 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Learn authentic digital brand marketing – for any platform – from an industry pioneer.

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  • Applicable
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


Digital marketing expert Carlos Gil has worked on the front lines of social media brand marketing since the beginning – launching in 2008, and later, providing strategy for global brands like LinkedIn and Winn-Dixie. In his 2018 manual for brand marketers, Gil offers a wealth of insights, tactics and examples from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Useful for corporate social media account managers, agency executives or individuals building a personal brand, the book emphasizes authenticity and focuses on gaining real benefits – not vanity metrics.


  • Social media changed the nature of marketing.
  • Brand marketers need to shift from a mass communication mind-set to one of engaging customers individually.
  • To cut through the noise on social media, create genuine engagement.
  • Approach sales and marketing like a person looking for personal connections.
  • Use community management to build your brand’s following.
  • Use growth hacking to build networks and spur engagement – not to pump up vanity metrics.
  • Turn your brand’s employees into digital advocates.
  • Learn from influencers, but rather than relying on them, recruit your own instead.
  • On Facebook, understand the algorithm and, again, aim for authentic engagement.
  • Build your personal brand organically by connecting with people individually and sharing interesting content.
  • Technology will put many marketers out of work if they don’t adapt.


Social media changed the nature of marketing.

Marketers used to depend on mass communications, logos and celebrities to influence how people thought about their brands. But the shift to social media means brand marketers need to adapt. They must connect with consumers on a personal level. At heart, this means listening more, engaging more and selling less. They must enter into a dialogue rather than creating content for content’s sake. Instead of trying to control what people are saying about your brand, engage with those who are already talking about it.

“People don’t buy from logos, they buy from people. People trust people.”

Consumers are highly influenced by one another – and brand marketers need to harness the power of that interpersonal influence. They need to learn about their customers in order to turn them into influencers – brand advocates – within their own personal and professional circles.

Brand marketers need to shift from a mass communication mind-set to one of engaging customers individually.

Many executives don’t understand the power of individualized marketing on social media: They continue to think of social media as just another means of broadcasting traditional marketing. But the way the giant social media corporations monetize their platforms makes it impossible for marketers to connect with millions of followers. Instead, brand marketers should engage with and cultivate just a tiny fraction of those followers, with a goal of turning them into “super fans” who will use their influence on the brand’s behalf. Those super fans will have their own circles of influence – so a fan base of only 20 or 30 advocates could give your brand indirect influence with many thousands.

“Everyone has influence within their own circles.”

On social media, corporate brands battle for consumers’ attention not only with the major influencers – including the very ones they hire to promote their brands – but also with every single other person who participates on the platform. Working with celebrity influencers doesn’t have much of an effect on consumers’ brand awareness. Brand marketers need to build their own influence, by connecting with industry thought leaders, local figures and individual consumers. Brand marketers should view every single person as an influencer.

To cut through the noise on social media, create genuine engagement.

To stand out in the noisy arena of social media, you need to emphasize the unique qualities of your brand – but more than that, your brand has to engage. Socializing – through meaningful dialogues and relationship building – builds your following. Post high-quality content people will want to share. Offer information, insights and entertainment. Genuine engagement triggers the social networks’ algorithms to promote your content.

“Here’s what today’s customer wants: People, not products. Faces, not logos. Stories, not posts. Experiences, not sales.”

True socializing gets attention and extends the life expectancy of your posts, because people will like, comment on and share them. But don’t rely solely on posts as the venue for conversations – they also happen in comments, in DMs and offline. Through dialogue, you help people feel recognized and valued. Focus on the social platforms where your target customers tend to congregate. For a B2B brand, that means LinkedIn and Facebook; for B2C, you might be on Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter.

Approach sales and marketing like a person looking for personal connections.

If you focus on selling on social media, your brand will get lost in the noise, because no one will pay attention to your content. You’ll be creating what people – and algorithms – specifically filter out. The key to getting results on social media is to act like a human being. Social media users appreciate authenticity and inspiration, which means you can be real about your failures as well as your successes. Consider social media platforms channels to make your voice heard. Thinking of your online presence as your voice rather than a platform gives you flexibility. Fundamentally, the shift in the marketing landscape means brand marketers must humanize their brands.

“Who wants to hear from a logo? Nobody.”

To gain trust, scrap the corporate tone. Focus on delivering education or entertainment, or both. Create an entertaining online personality for your brand – and make sure it comes across as personable. If you can’t be funny, be educational, but relatable. Finally, engage more: Reach out around the clock, like real people do. Ordinary people gain huge followings on social media because they deliver what people want to see.

Use community management to build your brand’s following.

Building a following has two parts: content marketing and community management. Community management means proactively seeking out opportunities to engage with people about your brand – across your industry, and including your competitors.

“The key to success for all brands is to be personable and as close to human as possible while working within the confines of a brand logo and guidelines.”

Find out who is talking about your brand. Search for mentions, not only of your brand’s username, but, also, for organic mentions. Search for instances when people mention your brand along with competing brands. Also, look for cases where consumers discuss how they feel about your competitors. Then, jump into these conversations. For example, in 2018, when IHOP changed its name to International House of Burgers, Wendy’s jumped in with the tweet, “Can’t wait to try a burger from the place that decided pancakes were too hard.”

Use growth hacking to build networks and spur engagement – not to pump up vanity metrics.

Growth hacking combines strategy with tactics to achieve the same results as traditional marketing, while reducing the expense of ad buys and overheads. Growth hacking depends on understanding the social media platforms, developing skill in writing content and experimenting to get results. Growth hacking doesn’t mean buying followers or engagement.

Vanity metrics – follower or impression numbers – don’t reflect real influence or engagement, and therefore, don’t lead to revenue. Growth hacking focuses on effective tactics honed through experimentation. Self-employed people can use growth hacking tactics to build a business in spite of a small marketing budget, and corporate marketers can also use them to get results without large outlays of financial or human resources.

“Facebook Groups…seem to be the last frontier on Facebook for organic reach in the newsfeed.”

Growth hacking tactics include creating or joining Facebook Groups, holding Facebook Watch Parties to boost early engagement with video content, and blogging on platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Medium – called native blogging.

For example, Carlos Gil growth-hacked his website by creating LinkedIn groups with relevant, searchable names and then – in the confirmation email for sign-ups – inviting new members to visit the website. These emails had the legitimacy of coming from a LinkedIn address and led to daily website sign-ups sometimes exceeding 1,000.

Turn your brand’s employees into digital advocates.

Whether decision makers like it or not, a brand’s employees represent it to the public. You can’t control employees’ social media posts – but you can give them tools for conveying your message, and incentives for using them. Understand employees will post about the brand, one way or another, and develop a strategy to help their posts contribute to your marketing goals. An employee advocacy program can broaden your digital reach, boost sales, increase brand trust, and aid talent attraction and retention.

“Being able to transform people into the faces of your brand effectively will define the future state of your company.”

To launch an employee advocacy program, first, get clear about the benefits you expect – this will help you gain leadership buy-in. Select a group leader in each department or silo of the organization to develop content. Consider adopting an employee advocacy platform such as Elevate or Bambu.

Learn from influencers, but rather than relying on them, recruit your own instead.

Brand marketers should learn from influencers such as Kim Kardashian West and DJ Khaled: Become more authentic and relatable. Make real people the face of your brand. Interact with fans. Provide content in a continuous stream.

Brands turn to influencers for content as much as for their followings, but brands’ own ambassadors could fill this role more authentically. Tap employees to act as storytellers or ask customers to become advocates for the brand.

“You already have influencers that work for you called ‘employees’ and influencers who buy from you every day called ‘customers.”

Plan your content in advance, and make it concise. Tailor it to the platform you’re using. Let people on other platforms know what you’re doing, and ask the members of your communities to share your messages. Make your calls to action – including sales asks – gentle, and save them for the end. Celebrate small successes, such as when people tweet about or tag your brand, or share a review. Engage at every opportunity, not only when a user tags the brand or posts a complaint.

On Facebook, understand the algorithm and, again, aim for authentic engagement.

Facebook is here to stay; if anything, it will become more pervasive and influential in the coming years. Many marketers struggle on Facebook because they don’t really understand marketing. They push content and focus on vanity metrics, without an understanding of how the platform works.

Many brands created their Facebook pages a decade ago and built up large fan bases, but today, they’re seeing negligible engagement from them. This happened because brands enticed users with giveaways and promotions, but those users didn’t have a genuine interest in the brand or its community. And since then, Facebook has limited the amount of brand-page content that appears in feeds, so less than 1% of people who’ve “liked” a brand page will ever see its content.

Given Facebook’s algorithm, posts will appear in users’ feeds if they represent content from a user’s friends, family and groups, or if they produce engagement – likes, comments and shares. Facebook will limit the reach of posts that include obvious promotional content, calls to action, clickbait and excessive tagging. So, avoid overt selling and, as always, aim instead for genuine engagement.

“Social media is more about understanding psychology and human emotion and less about traditional sales and marketing.”

The algorithm favors posts that keep users on the platform rather than linking them away to, say, YouTube or a blog. Thus, to increase the reach of your Facebook posts, avoid including links away from Facebook. Instead, use native Facebook features such as Facebook Notes, Facebook Live, Facebook Watch and the built-in e-commerce tools.

Build your personal brand organically by connecting with people individually and sharing interesting content.

As you prepare to build your personal brand, before you do anything else, identify your strengths and the knowledge and expertise you have to share. Give people insights and tactics they can act upon. Offer a blend of personal and professional content. Always respond whenever someone engages with your content.

“Every brand, every creator and every professional has the same opportunity in front of them – to be human and relatable.”

On LinkedIn, take the initiative to connect with people individually, but take care not to seem “spammy.” Avoid overt sales pitches and, instead, aim to build relationships and offer value. You’ll do well on social media if you come across as likable and can motivate people to take action. To succeed on social media, you need to have passion, persistence, perseverance, personality and persuasion.

Technology will put many marketers out of work if they don’t adapt.

Marketers have no choice but to humanize their marketing – because if they don’t, bots will replace them. Technologies such as machine learning, predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) will dominate marketing in the future, taking over many tasks, including sales and customer service.

But bots can’t – yet – substitute for the face and voice of a human being, or for real, authentic interactions. As AI and chatbots take over many rote tasks, brand marketers will, increasingly, focus on one-on-one engagement and storytelling.

“It’s always been about the customer, not technology, and it always will be.”

As the future unfolds, platforms will continue to change. Facebook isn’t going anywhere, but it will probably not be free much longer. As media or tech giants absorb social networks, brand marketers and individuals will likely consolidate their activities by focusing on selected platforms. YouTube and Facebook will continue to dominate, while TikTok, Switch and Reddit could grow in importance.

About the Author

CEO of Gil Media Co., a full-service marketing agency, Carlos Gil is an international keynote speaker and digital storyteller. He has over a decade of experience leading social media strategy for global brands including LinkedIn, Winn-Dixie, Save A Lot and DM Software.

This document is restricted to personal use only.

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