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[Book Summary] The End of Marketing: Humanizing Your Brand in the Age of Social Media and AI

The End of Marketing (2020) is a guide to how brands should use social media. In an age when traditional marketing is no more, businesses must find ways to give their brands a human face, to capture the attention of social media users and win their trust.

Content Summary

Introduction: What’s in it for me? Learn how to create an engaging brand presence on social media.
In the new era of social media, traditional marketing is dead.
Make your voice stand out by being human and getting engagement.
The key to a successful online presence is personality.
Rather than chasing after vanity metrics, do whatever it takes to grow engagement.
Social media personalities can help your brand – but only if they’re brilliant, relatable storytellers.
Your most powerful advocates are the ones you already have – your employees and customers.
Technology is changing everything fast. But what makes social media so powerful will always be the human touch.
Final Summary
About the author
Video and Podcast


Marketing, Sales, Multilevel Marketing

Introduction: Learn how to create an engaging brand presence on social media.

Who do you want to buy stuff from – a brand, or a person?

These days, social media makes it easier than ever for brands to connect with customers. But people have a natural aversion to being sold to by faceless, impersonal brands that are clearly just hanging out on Twitter to make a profit.

So what should businesses do, to harness the power of social media?

The short answer is: be more human. Social media will only help you if you’re sociable, relatable and not too explicit about your desperate desire for sales. A more indirect approach to selling your product will yield better results in the long term.

That’s not to say that there aren’t all manner of smart tactics you can use to hack your way to social media success. But whatever you do, you mustn’t lose sight of the need to humanize your brand. That’s what these summaries will help you do.

In these summaries, you’ll learn

  • how to develop a dynamic social media profile – without cheating;
  • the difference between social media “influencers” and “ambassadors”; and
  • how to get your employees to help you expand your online reach.

In the new era of social media, traditional marketing is dead.

Marketing is everywhere. Turn on the TV, browse the internet – everywhere you go, you’ll see ads, paid for by marketing budgets. But when was the last time you saw an ad for something, and actually decided to buy it?

Now think about this. When was the last time you bought something – like a song, some clothes, or a holiday – because it was recommended to you by friends or people you follow online?

Chances are, it was pretty recently. And if brands haven’t noticed this trend already, they need to start doing it right now.

The key message here is: In the new era of social media, traditional marketing is dead.

OK, so you want to sell your product – a pair of sneakers, say. The obvious, traditional approach is to make a load of ads, in print and online, which forcefully tell people to “Buy it now.” But that sort of aggressive messaging turns people off: nobody likes a hard sell.

What that means is, your goal shouldn’t be to “market.” It should be to get people talking to each other about your brand. The truth is, people buy from other people. And social media is an unbelievably good way to get them to do this.

The author Carlos Gil says that being sold to – at least, if it’s done right – can be a thing of beauty. Some of the best marketers he’s come across are people who follow him on multiple social media platforms, from LinkedIn to Twitter to Facebook. These marketers interact with him, get to know him, become a part of his life – and they only try to sell him stuff when they know the time is right.

Say he asks for recommendations for a fitness class. Then – and only then – one of these marketers might slip him a direct message – a ‘DM’ – about their own class. And, coming from someone he knows, that’ll be a message that’s very hard to ignore.

Social media marketing needs that personal touch, that element of real human connection. It’s not about having millions of followers – especially not on Facebook, where only around 1 percent of the people who “like” a business’s page will see a post organically. Rather, it’s about engaging people, getting them talking, getting to know them.

Traditional marketing is always talking, never listening. Social media can be more effective because it’s more flexible, more personal – in essence, more social, as the name suggests.

But only if you do it well! We’ll explore this in the next chapter.

Make your voice stand out by being human and getting engagement.

Have you seen the movie Cast Away? In a nutshell, Tom Hanks gets stranded on an island, can’t make contact with anyone, and starts talking to a volleyball he calls “Wilson.”

Bad social media posts can feel a bit like that – as if you’re yelling and yelling, but nobody is listening to you. It might feel like a volleyball would be great company.

But the thing is, you’re not really on your own. People are all around you. You just need to work out how to engage them.

How do you do that? How do you get people to engage with your brand on social media, so you don’t end up chatting away to inanimate sporting goods? The answer is to be more human.

The key message here is: Make your voice stand out by being human and getting engagement.

One quick win is to ask your followers questions. Questions like “What’s the best thing you’ve bought recently?” or “What’s your favorite emoji?” might sound basic – and they are – but they still spark a conversation, which is the most important thing. You can also try sharing interesting facts or tips that relate to your product – educating people as well as keeping them entertained.

Whatever you do to get people’s attention, you need to follow up on it too – in other words, you need to be social. That means not signing off after you post, but rather checking back and engaging with people’s replies to you – thanking them for responding, and answering their questions.

You should also back up your posts by going under the radar. As soon as you post something, it’s worth telling people about it via DM. You can also set up group chats for people you know appreciate your work, known as engagement pods. This should ensure that your post circulates widely. Plus, getting early interactions will make the social network’s algorithm think that your post is popular, which will further boost its reach. This applies especially to Facebook.

You also need to bring an analytical approach to every part of the process. That means not just measuring the success of particular posts, but also deciding which platforms to post to in the first place. Maintaining a social media presence is a lot of work, so you should only invest your time in the platforms your target demographic actually uses. Otherwise, you might as well be talking to a volleyball.

The key to a successful online presence is personality.

In 2018, the well-known American chain International House of Pancakes – IHOP – decided to change things up, and rechristen themselves “IHOB.” The controversial B stood for “Burgers” – as you can guess, they were shifting the focus of their menu.

“What a great opportunity for a rebrand!”, you might think. But the chain got one-upped by a competitor. Rival burger outlet Wendy’s delivered the perfect tweet. It read: “Can’t wait to try a burger from the place that decided pancakes were too hard.”

While of course an official account has to stay on message, it’s vital to let a little bit of personality shine through. That tweet from Wendy’s is a great example of how it is possible to be entertaining and promote your brand at the same time.

The key message here is: The key to a successful online presence is personality.

Social media is full of opportunities for you – and your brand – to express your personality. So you need to hunt them out. You should search through social networks like Twitter and Instagram for mentions of your brand, even the ones you’re not tagged in. In other words, you should find out what people are saying about you behind your digital back. You can even take a leaf out of Wendy’s book and follow what people are saying about your competitors.

Of course, not every brand can be like Wendy’s – it would be frankly weird for an insurance company to act like that online. But you can still make an impact by creating fresh, relatable content that your target audience wants to see. For more serious-minded companies, the key is education. Think about what people want to know about insurance, or whatever else, and find a fun and relatable way to share that information with them.

Brands need to work hard to create online personalities that feel human. Individuals, meanwhile, need to build up a well-defined personal brand. The author did this during a period of unemployment around 2014. Across platforms including LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat, he created content that was all about his experience of being unemployed – this was highly personal content that really resonated with people, and eventually helped establish him as a social media expert.

Whether you’re a burger chain or an individual looking for work, the same point holds: build up a personality, and you’ll become well known for being you.

Rather than chasing after vanity metrics, do whatever it takes to grow engagement.

Psst. Want a million Facebook “likes?” Guaranteed retweets or YouTube subscribers? A spot on the coveted Instagram Explore page at the stroke of a button?

There are ways to get these in no time at all – if you’re willing to pay.

And a lot of people do, because they’re hung up on what the author calls vanity metrics – things like number of followers and total reposts.

Essentially, that’s cheating. But there’s a bigger problem with this tactic, beyond the fact that it’s underhanded. Basically, if you simply purchase a bucketload of Facebook “likes,” those users won’t actually be interested in your product – so they won’t engage with you. That’s why cheating doesn’t work.

The key message here is: Rather than chasing after vanity metrics, do whatever it takes to grow engagement.

The classic example of a vanity metric is follower count. A high count looks great on a PowerPoint slide, and might be enough to convince colleagues that your social campaigns are going well. That’s why so many people cheat to get high follower counts with ease.

But as a strategy for growing your actual brand, this is useless. Why? Because it doesn’t lead to genuine engagement.

Think about it: who are those hundreds of thousands of new followers you’ve just bought? It’s pretty much certain that they won’t actually be interested in your brand – they might even be bots rather than real people. So they’ll barely notice when you post, they won’t engage with your content and they certainly won’t end up becoming customers.

Rather than vanity metrics, then, you need to stay focused on building up engagement. You need to find an audience that isn’t just big, but is also actually interested in your product.

There are still plenty of ways you can do this through exploiting how social networks operate. The author calls this growth hacking. Basically, it means anything goes, so long as it stops short of cheating. And remember, rather than aiming for “likes” or follows, you’re trying to capture people’s attention, in the form of engagement.

Facebook Groups are one great way to do it. How about setting up a group for superfans of the sort of thing you sell? Facebook Watch Parties are also worth exploring: this lesser-known feature brings people together at the same time, giving you a great shot at going viral.

Of course metrics are important to keep track of how you’re doing. But only worry about the right ones. Engagement is a far more valuable metric than follower count. Even better is what the author calls “ROE:” return on engagement. After all, your ultimate goal through all of this is still to grow your business.

Social media personalities can help your brand – but only if they’re brilliant, relatable storytellers.

One dark evening in December 2015, musician and producer DJ Khaled found himself stranded at sea on a Jet Ski.

So, naturally, DJ Khaled got out his phone… and went on Snapchat.

He documented his hair-raising experience though a series of posts – Snaps, as Snapchat calls them – that set the social network alight. It was a huge sensation. Soon after, each of his Snaps was getting several million views.

The reason for his success? Simple. DJ Khaled is a born storyteller. Through his charm and personality, he captured the attention of millions.

No wonder then, that when he tries to sell his followers something, they pay attention.

The key message here is: Social media personalities can help your brand – but only if they’re brilliant, relatable storytellers.

Another social media icon is Kim Kardashian West, who despite her incredible wealth and fame has an online image that shows her as a real, even normal, person. Few people can resist such a candid look at her lifestyle.

But Khaled and Kardashian West are more than just social media icons. They’re also canny business operators who understand how to promote products.

First, Kardashian West makes her fans feel like they know the real her – by sharing content from her day-to-day life. These posts won’t sell anything at all. But then, and only every so often, she’ll put out a post promoting a product like her lipstick. When she does that, she’ll use real people – usually herself, or her family – and she’ll put out a limited-time offer along with it, creating a sense of exclusivity.

Similarly, DJ Khaled has proved himself a superb brand ambassador, championing products from plant-based milk to cocoa butter to a tool to help you do your taxes. When he promotes a product on social media, it doesn’t feel like a celebrity endorsement – it feels like a recommendation from your fabulously successful friend.

All that said, the author is wary about “influencers” in general. Paying social media stars to promote products isn’t a strategy that guarantees success – particularly because many so-called influencers have bought their followers and use tricks to get engagement that won’t translate into sales.

Better than influencers, he says, are ambassadors – people who look and sound like your target buyers, and authentically understand the value of your product. They can effectively become company spokespeople.

Who falls into that category, you may ask? Actually, there’s a good chance you’ve already hired them, as we’ll see in the next chapter.

Your most powerful advocates are the ones you already have – your employees and customers.

By now you know that your priority on social media should be to humanize your brand content.

It’s easy to see the allure of getting celebrity influencers to help you with this. But even if they’re superb storytellers, do they really know your brand?

Here’s a radical idea. If you need to humanize your brand content, why not enlist the humans who already know and love what you do?

Any brand that has a large number of employees – especially ones like supermarkets or cafes – probably already has a far broader social media presence than they realize. That’s because so many of their employees will be using social media every day. There might even be hashtags – like #WalmartEmployee on Instagram.

The key message here is: Your most powerful advocates are the ones you already have – your employees and customers.

How do you harness your employees’ social media presence? One way is to launch an employee advocate program. Invite your staff to join it, and before you know it you’ll have a huge raft of new social media advocates, all of whom know about your brand, and in fact make a living from it.

You can provide resources for them through a content hub like Dynamic Signal, Sprinklr, or Bambu by Sprout Social. That way everyone has a script they can use as well as some basic guidelines. But you can’t tell them exactly what to do – they have to be themselves. Your job will be to keep an eye on how they do, and reward your most talented storytellers with extra opportunities – such as a takeover of your main account.

Don’t forget about your customers, too. Seeking out, interacting with, and shouting about positive mentions of your brand is always a great idea. And just like with employees, you should try to inspire a sense of loyalty and community.

Of course, none of this means that the days of the social media professional are numbered – though it will change the way they do their jobs. The author predicts that brands will eventually need to bring their key content creators in-house, as the importance of great storytelling becomes ever clearer. Generally speaking, expect to see a shift toward faces, rather than logos, representing brands – simply because they’re more engaging.

Another change will be that chief marketing officers will give way to chief digital officers. Just in case you didn’t already believe that traditional marketing is dead.

Technology is changing everything fast. But what makes social media so powerful will always be the human touch.

Artificial intelligence is coming at us fast. In fact, it’s already arrived.

Social media managers can already benefit from plenty of automated tools, for everything from following and unfollowing, to automatically sending out DMs. Messenger bots on Facebook, though far from perfect, are a great place to start experimenting with this technology.

But the most important change, for every brand right now, is to become more human, not less.

The key message here is: Technology is changing everything fast. But what makes social media so powerful will always be the human touch.

Make no mistake: social media is here to stay. Many people have predicted the demise of Facebook recently, especially in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. But the author doesn’t believe it’s going anywhere. In fact, he calls it one of the greatest, most transformative inventions in human history. Like the other major social networks, it’s changed everything.

Facebook itself is changing, though, and not just because of AI. As a company driven by profit, it’s always going to keep making alterations that affect how it can be used for commercial purposes. If you want to excel as a social media expert, you’ll need to be able to adapt quickly to changes and work out how to leverage them to your advantage.

Other social networks, meanwhile, come and go. Though he was a pioneer on Snapchat, the author has less time personally for that platform these days. And it’s worth watching out for emerging platforms including TikTok and Twitch – and Reddit too, although it’s been around for ages. These platforms may all play a big role as Millennials start to gray and Generation Z assumes the hot seat.

Of course, each platform requires its own type of content, and its own particular tactics for success. But some points hold true in general for good social media practice. Most importantly, no brand should lose sight of the fact that people use social media for fun – in other words, to relax, and, of course, to socialize. And that’s why your brand needs to be as human as possible.

Traditional marketing may be dead, but your brand doesn’t have to be. Humanize your brand, and, whatever the future holds, your business can be a part of it.

Final Summary

The key message in these summaries:

For marketers, social media has changed everything. The huge popularity of platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Snapchat means that audiences and brands are better connected than ever before. But being successful as a brand on social media isn’t easy, when most people use these platforms to socialize with friends. So businesses need to find ways to make their brands more human.

Actionable advice:

Audit your brand’s social media use.

There are ways that social media can help pretty much any brand, whether you’re business-to-business or business-to-consumer. However, not every brand should be on every platform. Take a look at which platforms your brand posts to, and compare their users to your target demographic. If you’re maintaining a profile on a platform where your potential customers don’t hang out, you could well be wasting your time.

Then, consider the type of content you’re posting. Are you asking questions? Educating your audience? Telling relatable stories? Does your brand sound like a person, or like a corporate logo? Tweak and adjust accordingly.

About the author

Carlos Gil is the author of The End of Marketing: Humanizing Your Brand in the Age of Social Media and AI and is based in Jacksonville, Florida. He is an international keynote speaker and award-winning digital storyteller with over a decade of experience leading social media strategy for global brands including LinkedIn, Winn-Dixie, Save-A-Lot and BMC Software. A first-generation Cuban-American, Gil’s work has been featured by Social Media Examiner, Inc. and Entrepreneur Magazine in addition to dozens of trade publications. As a social media consultant, Gil has worked with notable Fortune 500 clients, including Hertz, DocuSign, Western Union, Fiverr, Kay Jewelers and Green Dot Bank. As an influencer, Gil has been hired for campaigns in partnership with Nationwide Insurance, Facebook, Snapchat, MGM Resorts, Southwest Airlines and WeWork.

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