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11 principles of empathy marketing on social media

As social media professionals, we play a very strong role in people’s day to day. Empathy is understanding what their goal is (unconsciously or subconsciously) for being on any given channel at that time. Are they stressed? Give them something to laugh about. Are they looking to network? Give them a chance to do so.

In marketing, you don’t take people out of their day to day. You meet them where they are. You can surprise them, but on their terms. If you are creating an audio ad and targeting people listening to educational podcasts, your ad better teach them something. If you are targeting people listening to holiday music, your ad better sound like holiday music. Market on your audience’s terms.

Now what exactly is empathy?

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Practicing empathy is not necessarily the same as BEING an empath. Emotion researchers generally define empaths as having the ability to sense other people's emotions, empathy is the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.

As I have been writing my book, Feel Something: How to Use Empathy to Build Trust with Your Audience, I have learned from many marketing leaders, game-changes, and power-houses. From the conversations I have had with these incredible marketers, I have put together a list of 11 Principles of Empathy Marketing that all social media professionals can put into action today. Let’s dive in.

1. It is Not Yes And- It is Yes 100%

In improv comedy, you are taught to never say no when acting with scene partners. It is best to always respond with a version of “yes and.” With Empathy Marketing, you need to take that to a whole new level and respond to your audience and customers with “Yes 100%.” The difference between “Yes And” and “Yes 100%,” is that with the first, you hear them and move on. The second, you hear them and talk to them about it. If a customer is disappointed about their experience with your brand, “Yes And” would look like: “We would love to give you a free item to make this better” and “Yes 100%” would look like: “We are so sorry you experienced this. This must be very frustrating and we would like to extend our apologies by sending you a gift, refunding you for this item, and providing feedback to the team. Thank you for being a customer.”

2. Be Constantly Curious About Your Audience

Curiosity about how other people experience the world = empathy. By understanding what your audience not only THINKS about your brand, but what they FEEL about your brand is vital intel. However, they will not always tell you directly about how they feel. To gain a sense of this, use tools like social listening, surveys, focus groups, and netnography to understand them. An amazing tool for this is Audiense’s Insights tool.

3. Test, Test, Test

To practice curiosity and empathy for your audience, it is key to be data driven. Not sure if copy will resonate with your audience and make them feel something? Post it. Post another version. And another version. Test these versions and lean into what works for the future. It will help you gain a better understanding of what works and it will make your audience feel even more connected to your brand.

4. Consent for Communication

In Empathy Marketing, it is key to consent for communication, especially as brands. On social this is actually quite simple, once someone follows you they are consenting to hear from you. In regards to comments and community engagement, only chime in if your brand is relevant to the conversation OR is brought in by someone in the conversation.

5. Talk About Them, Not You

Everybody loves talking or hearing about themselves. It is in our nature. We don’t really want to hear what a brand is doing, what product features are developed, etc. We want to hear how they will help us, make our lives easier, etc. Make your social copy about your audience and use language that will make them feel something.

6. Understand All People

In all marketing, understanding basic human psychology is a great way to understand what exactly makes people feel something. If you’d like to do a deep dive into human emotion, I’d recommend looking at the personality tool, the Enneagram. I am a 3 with even wings 4 and 2 by the way. Always feel free to slide into my DMs and chat about the Enneagram.

7. Be Hyper Relevant

The conversations on the internet move fast and so should your brand. Being relevant is nice, but being hyper relevant and one of the first brands to comment on a new breaking headline or the latest viral meme can help your brand seem more human, develop empathy with your audience, and create a deeper emotional connection.

8. Be Proactive not Reactive

What does your audience really want to hear from you? If you don’t know the answer to this question, don’t post another post until you do. You have to have a general understanding of what your audience cares about and how they will respond to certain messages. Be proactive and not reactive.

9. Do things that are Unscalable

While sending someone stickers and a t-shirt with your logo on them may seem trivial, its a great move. Why? It makes the receiver feel special. For those audience members that go above and beyond in engaging with their brand, make them feel special by doing things that don’t scale.

10. Be Authentic and Vulnerable

Everybody has bad days, mistakes, truths. Even your brand. Own the conversation and story of your brand, the hardships your team or co-founders / founder has faced to get to where they are today. Attaching a story, authenticity, and vulnerability to your brand, will deepen the bond with your audience.

11. Advocate for your Audience

When in your marketing team meetings, as a social media manage or community manager, you are the voice of your audience. You are the ones that are talking to them every single day. Always use the information you gain about your audience to advocate for them in marketing decisions.

I’d love to hear from you, how do you ensure Empathy Marketing is part of your social strategy? DM me at @pattimmons_ on Twitter and we can talk about it.

Also, be sure to pre-order my book Feel Something: How to Use Empathy to Build Trust with Your Audience here.

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