In 2016, everyone is a "social media guru."  

The self-proclaimed thought leaders throw around phrases like "creating great content" and "knowing your audience." They preach best practices, meanwhile have trouble practicing themselves.  They say, "It's all about grabbing people's interest."

No. It's really not. That's short-sighted thinking.

Social media marketing--which is very different than the updates you share with your friends and family on your personal Facebook--comes down to one thing and one thing only.

What value are you providing?

Too many social media marketers are in it for the short game. They tell their clients, "We can get you huge exposure on Instagram!" They promise attention and virality and clients eat it up like candy. But at the end of the day, social media marketers are just telling clients what they want to hear, and what a client wants to hear is that they will get huge exposure overnight.

Ok. So let's say all the stars align and your social media agency drops you a viral hit.

...Then what?

Because you aren't providing any real consistent value, people have no reason to stick around. So all that attention you just gained, you've lost just as quickly. 

Too many people are in this for the short game. They want huge popularity, now. They want attention, now. They want to see ROI, now. And because of that, they are making the biggest mistake you could possibly make when it comes to social media marketing.

You aren't providing any real value.

The big problem here is everyone wants to be the superstar, as it was previously defined. Everyone wants to be the brand that doesn't have to be open and vulnerable and real, but still have everybody clap and share and spam the 'Like' button.

It's no different than the entertainment industry, where the artist wants to wear the sunglasses and never do any interviews and yet still be a household name.

News flash: It doesn't work that way anymore. 

Social media is a window into someone's personal life. Its intention was to be a very intimate, very direct connection to another human being--a friend or family member. When you try to use a medium like that to spew your brand's press releases, you end up turning a lot of people off. You are a businessperson walking into a hipster house party. You are severely out of place. 

If you are a brand, or if you are a public figure with a personal brand, social media is not a place where you talk about how awesome you are. It's not a place for you to promote yourself over and over and over again. It's a place where you can provide real value directly to your consumers, and then every once in a while ask for something in return.

And yet the majority still wants to treat their Instagram feed like a billboard.

So, how do you provide real value? How can I, for example, give you real value in this article?

1. Know Your Audience's Pain Points

"Knowing your audience" is too broad. A fitness brand, for example, might say, "Our audience is active people." Great. My grandma was active at 92, she went for walks up and down our block once a day. Does that make her your audience? No.

It's not about "knowing your audience." It's about knowing what your audience is struggling with, what they want to learn more of, and what they really need. 

Let's use the fitness brand example. Let's say you make workout supplements. The short-sighted approach to social media would be to post pictures of your products every single day. Why? Because there's nothing sexy about a container of preworkout. It's a container. I don't care how amazing your packing looks; at the end of the day, it's a container, of plastic, filled with (unregulated by the FDA) powder. 

If this is your social strategy, you are not focusing on your audience's pain points. You are focused on the vanity of your brand.

If I am a consumer, struggling to lose weight or gain muscle, is a photo of your preworkout container helping me at all reach my goals? No. 

This is what I mean when I say you have to play the long game. Nobody wants to play this game because it is typically more expensive, more difficult, and requires (gasp!) a pinch of creativity:

If you are a brand, then use your social platforms to highlight influencers and thought leaders in the industry, and have them teach your audience everything they need to know. Find as many audience pain points as you can, and then address them directly. For example: If you know that consumers struggle with finding things to eat while working a 9-5 corporate job, find a nutritionist influencer and have them co-create content with you addressing this topic head on.

Find pain points and use your content to address them.

2. Remember: Brand Second, People First

"People don't care about brands. People care about people."

How many times have you heard that phrase? Great. Now can you tell me what it actually means?

It means nobody cares about your brand. I'm a firm believer that the brands who survive tomorrow will be the ones who can set their egos aside and put people first today.

Too many brands think that unless their video starts with their logo, and their brand is mentioned 800 times throughout the video, and the video ends with a link to their website, then nobody is going to take action.

False. Wrong. No.

As a big brand, you have the opportunity to provide the single greatest platform to any thought leader in your industry. If you really want to succeed, if you really want to create true market value, then you need to take a step back and put the real people who have real voices in your industry at the forefront. 

It's so simple. Follow me here:

Let's say you're a car brand. Which brand would you value more? The brand that makes ten videos with highfalutin business-looking-men saying things like, "And that's why I drive a (insert product name here)," staring dramatically into the camera? Or the brand that steps aside and creates a video series called "Under The Hood," and gets thought leaders from automotive industries to do 20 minute episodes, taking cars apart, talking about classic models, home hacks people can use on their own cars, etc. 

When you explain it that way, you would never pick the first option.

And yet every single day, the masses continue to create overly promotional, value-lacking content. Because it's easy. Because it's cheap. And because it doesn't require a whole lot of thinking.

3. Trust Your Viewers

In literature, there is a saying writers use: "Trust your reader."

It means, if you just spent an entire page explaining a character's back story, you don't need to reference it for the next ten pages. Your reader remembers what you just told them. Trust your reader.

Your viewers are your readers.

If your channel has your name and your logo all over it (which it does), then why is your logo on every single photo, and mentioned in every single piece of copy, and why do you tell the influencers you work with to mention your brand fifty times before the video is over?

Trust your viewers. One time is enough. You don't have to bash it into their skulls.

Too many brands fall into the trap of spending 90% of their effort into being promotional, and 10% into providing value. 

Flip it.

You should spend 90% of your effort on providing value, and 10% of your effort asking for something in return.

The reason nobody does this is because, as I said, the business industry is in a transition. A lot of the big brands are still being run by people who grew up in a world where sales were driven by very different beliefs and practices.

Now, we live in a world where business success is more firmly rooted in the phrase, "Never stop providing value."

The irony is, if you do provide real value, you'll end up driving way more sales in the end because you are building real customer loyalty.

And a loyal customer is the most valuable thing you could possibly have.