There are times when marketing in the digital age can feel like walking an ever-narrowing tightrope.

We're living in strange times, after all - at the same time that our society is evolving, becoming more accepting of difference and more inclusive, the speed at which we communicate is also rapidly increasing.

We expect brands to respond to our questions, or to make statements on trending news stories, almost immediately. But we also expect these responses to be thoughtful, considerate of all viewpoints, and substantial.

It's easy to see that these two things - rapidity and thoughtfulness - aren't exactly a perfect match. However, it's also clear that this is the new reality. Transparency, humility, and integrity are hugely important values for today's consumers - even more so for Gen Z than they are for Millennials.

So how do you cultivate an ethos of integrity, acceptance, and thoughtfulness throughout your brand's entire digital marketing spectrum - from your highly researched marketing campaigns to your reactive social media marketing?

The key: emotional intelligence.

What exactly is emotional intelligence?

We've all heard the term "emotional intelligence" before, and you've probably got a general idea of what it means. Let's get specific, though.

According to Daniel Goleman, who literally wrote the book on emotional intelligence - it's called Emotional Intelligence - this capacity comprises of 4 different areas:

  • Self-awareness

  • Self-management

  • Social awareness

  • Relationship management

As you can see, emotional intelligence involves both self-awareness and awareness of those around us.

A highly emotional intelligent person will be able to recognize and manage his or her own emotions, while also being able to recognize and respond to or influence the emotions of the people they're leading.

Each of us possesses different levels of ability in each of these areas, but the good news is that emotional intelligence isn't fixed. We can always improve our capabilities.

Bringing emotional intelligence into your digital marketing strategy

Emotional intelligence is important for marketing not only because it will help you avoid offending anyone, but also because it will help you make authentic connections with your customers.

Not sure where to start? Here are a few tips.

1. Start with self-awareness.

Take a good look at your brand. What do you have to offer that sets you apart? What value can you bring to your customers? How are your followers responding to your blog posts, videos, and social media posts?

Once you've answered these questions, you should have a good idea of what you're bringing to the table. Use that - the value you can add to your customers' lives - as a starting point for the rest of your marketing.

2. Employ social listening on a consistent basis.

Social listening, or tracking what your followers are talking about, caring about, and engaging with, is the "awareness of others" part of emotional intelligence marketing.

What are they saying about your brand? Which pieces of content are they engaging with in a positive way? What's the overall sentiment you find among your followers? Which values do they express, whether explicitly or implicitly?

3. Be truthful and authentic.

Authenticity is vital in today's digital marketing landscape, and it's only going to become more crucial as Gen Z begins entering the workforce and accounting for more consumer spending.

Emotional intelligence means being authentic to what your brand stands for. Don't be tempted to stray from your brand's values for the sake of hopping on a fast-growing trend, or drawing in a new demographic who might not stick around for long.

4. Remember you're talking to humans, not "followers" or "fans."

In the early days of social media, we didn't really have a clear knowledge of how to talk to each other online. Today, we know that there shouldn't be much of a difference between how we respond to a Facebook comment and how we'd respond to that person in real life. After all, we're all people behind those comments, tweets, and posts.

On days when you're feeling less than motivated, or when you can't think of something to share on your social media platforms, try to remember that what you're doing online is starting a conversation.

5. If you receive negative feedback, complaints, or if you realize you've made a serious mistake, take responsibility in a thoughtful and timely manner.

An emotionally intelligent person will always reach out and take responsibility for their mistakes, or for their part in a conflict.

The same is true of emotionally intelligent brands. If you receive a customer complaint, resist the temptation to go on the defensive. Be gracious and authentic, and ask how you can help make things better.

If you find you've offended people through a misunderstood or hasty social media post, step away from your computer and put down your smartphone. You need to take some time to analyze what happened.

Once you've done so, craft a truthful, humble, and authentic response that includes an apology to the people you've offended, even if it was totally unintentional.

Then, file this in the "self-awareness" box of your emotional intelligence homework. This setback can be transformed into an opportunity for growth - both for yourself, personally, and for your brand as a whole.

Embracing emotional intelligence in your marketing can help you improve your message, stay true to your brand values, and make more authentic connections with your followers. What are you waiting for?