Business, Culture, Economics, Marketing

Social Media Marketing Genius In Ten Minutes

Jumping off of bridges, wearing your pants below your underwear, investing in any stock with a .com in the name, credit default swaps, the atkins diet, asking people to follow their business on facebook out of nowhere — there are a lot of things that people do in great numbers because everyone else is doing it when it doesn’t really make any sense.

Over the holidays I saw a billboard on a major interstate that said LIKE <Business Name> ON FACEBOOK.

My wife and I had been making fun of this trend for a while and here’s a billboard on a busy stretch of I-40 that probably cost the advertiser 5-7k per month.  At that moment I realized that the mania had finally hit critical mass.  The blind are leading the blind on a mass exodus to oblivion.  Businesses are willing to shell out unlimited amounts of money on something that they clearly do not comprehend.

Now, there is nothing wrong with making it known that you have a presence on facebook, but when this type of inappropriate advertising gets this brash, it’s clear that a significant part of the population is following convention for convention’s sake.

What if I bought a billboard that said, “Tell your friends that you support our company.”  Of course,that statement is appropriate if the company is a big auto dealership and the billboard is on the way out of the showroom lot.  In that context, we can assume that:

  • Most viewers know you
  • They probably have formed an opinion or have been a patron
  • Will refer you to others if they are advocates

But what if the business was a start-up or was trying to inform people of  their products or service for the first time, as was the case of this company who bought the offending billboard?  Generally, that is the POINT of advertising – to win new customers.  In that case, telling people to refer or support you before they know anything about you is not only awkward, but a huge waste of money on something like a billboard.  That’s why people who really GET social media think that such efforts are just plain backwards, yet because others are jumping off the bridge, everyone else seems to want to follow.

The simple fact is that most businesses don’t have a clue of how social media is supposed to fit into their marketing.  What’s worse is that there are a lot of “Social Media Marketers” out there who bought into a series of early myths about social media that were based on traditional marketing paradigms and elevated them to gospel.

Myth #1 – You Need A Social Media Campaign

Ok, I just wanted to get that out of the way.  There are people who say that if you don’t have social media strategy that somehow your going to wither away and die.  That’s complete nonsense.  This myth is propagated by the sales pitches of social media marketers.   On the contrary, if you don’t have the resources or the knowledge to substantially engage in the social sphere, it’s probably better that you don’t.  For some companies, social media isn’t really appropriate.  Your budget would be far better spent on traditional advertising.

Every day I see businesses cheapen their brands and annoy their customer base with idiotic crap by some clueless “social media” person randomly tapped from existing staff because they know how to turn on a computer, or by a social media marketer who thinks that noise is good.

“Boy, we sure have been busy polluting peoples newsfeeds with pointless comments that they now associate with your brand!  Look at all these posts we’ve done for you this week!”

This brings us to our next point:

Myth #2 – Get Involved In The Conversation

This one kills me.

What conversation?  What are you talking about?  Literally, what the hell are you talking about?  Who’s conversation? Which one?   The conversation about your brand, or the 500 billion conversations happening about 5 billion different subjects?  Who’s leading the conversation?  Is it you?  Who’s listening?  Your employees?

This is the real kicker — most companies are either posting pointless crap that their own staff “likes” and calling it a conversation or blathering on about the same self promotional marketing speak over and over.  It’s completely internal and totally useless, or it’s making your customers wish they had never clicked that button. You savvy social people know what I mean, really stupid daily posts like,

“Today is a great day to buy a car! Come see us at Randolph Toyota!”

Oh, wow!  I am so glad you reminded me of that!  Who cares that all my real friends are involved in a heated discussion about political unrest in Zuquebestan, I’m going to drop what I’m doing and go buy a car right now!

I always imagine sitting at the high school lunch table and having an intense discussion with friends about which was the best Zeppelin album, and some idiot you hardly know walking up out of nowhere, “hey guys, I got 25,000 on my video game last night!”

The table goes silent and everyone turns to the guy in disbelief.

This is a sure-fire way to make sure that you’re on your way to running what I call a “deaf campaign.”   I’ll talk more about that later.

Myth #3 – The More Friends/Followers The Better

I’ve heard marketers boast the number of followers they have.  Who cares?  What’s more important is how many of your audience is listening, discussing what you say and reposting.  It’s much more important to engage with true advocates of your brand, or decision makers in your sales pipeline than it is to focus on feathers in your cap.  More on that below.

The Five Sacred Truths Of Social Media Marketing

Truth #1 – Social Is The Fine Art Of Pull Marketing

Push marketing is the old way of letting people know about you – you buy a sign, a radio commercial, you send them direct mail.  They look at it and they may learn something about your business.  It’s as old as business itself and everyone understands it.  You shove your message in front of people.

Push marketing is easy.  Just about anyone can do it.  It works.

Pull marketing is much more refined. You have to create things that people want to find out more about.  You write an article or post a video that people may be interested in and share with others.  You educate others on things that are your specialty.  You create a contest where people can win something.  You actively pursue and nurture one-on-one relationships with advocates who in turn refer you to others.

What you don’t do is PUSH market in a pull channel.  In other words, you don’t talk about your stupid business sale every day and shamelessly self-promote yourself on Facebook.

Pull marketing takes talent.  It’s asymmetrical, it requires creativity and not everyone can do it in the same way that not everyone can write songs.

With pull marketing, people have to want what you have.  It’s like hiring a really funny comedian to stand in your store.  People come to hear the jokes, and buy stuff while they are there.

Truth #2 – Feed Access Is The Platinum Thread That Is Easily Broken

If there is one thing that is more important than ANY aspect of social media marketing, it is understanding that access to peoples news feed is the name of the game.  When people follow you, you are granted access to their private personal news feed and your updates will appear there.

This feed access is how you connect to them and add value to their lives by sharing information that is useful to them, or opportunities that will entertain or give them reason to share with others.

It is extremely easy to screw up and lose access to this sacred newsfeeed.  Most marketers botch it within the first week and don’t even know it.  This is the crux of where social media marketing goes horribly wrong.

Truth #3 – Most SM Marketers Are Running Deaf Campaigns

Imagine a man stepping out on stage, head held high.  He walks across the stage to a podium, and with an air of confidence looks out into an auditorium of hundreds of “followers.”  He thinks about how popular he is and smiles.

He begins to speak, going on and on about himself, what he thinks and what he’s doing.

In the audience, every single person (except perhaps his mother) is wearing headphones and is staring down at their phones, listening to music, chatting, watching movies and other personal activities.  Not one of them hears or sees a single thing the speaker says.

If there is one concept that most people don’t comprehend it’s that every Facebook user has the ability to privately reduce or completely turn off your updates in their newsfeed.  You are still their “friend” and they get to save face by maintaining that facade of “friendship” but you don’t have any real access to them unless you want to send a private message to them.

In other words, the main reason you were trying to attract followers is now moot.  I call this, a deaf campaign.

I’ve read various numbers, but the fact is that most business fan pages run deaf campaigns.  They attract followers but because of their inability to engage with their followers appropriately or add value to their lives, they stop listening within the first week.

This is why the number of followers you have is only useful to impress your clueless boss or competitor.

Social media marketing companies regularly fool their clients by engaging in contracts that focus on “number of updates per day or week.”  This is a sure-fire recipe for a deaf campaign.  If your only objective is to SPAM your audience, you can be sure they will stop listening, even if they were dumb enough to listen the first time.

Truth #4 –  Don’t Be A Populist, Focus On Advocates

Let’s face it, it’s nearly impossible to be interesting or relevant to everyone.  Unless you are a true commodity like a hamburger shop, you should expect that your customers and therefore your followers consist of a niche group.  It’s much more important to attract followers who are genuinely interested in a conversation about your industry trends than attempting to please a mass audience.

It is possible to engage a mass audience, however the tactics usually rely on free giveaways or pure entertainment that isn’t specific to what you do and creates a positive association with your brand.

By focusing on the advocates and decision makers in your market, you target the people who matter and maintain focus.

Truth #5 – Let’s Not Talk About Me, Let’s Talk About You

Anyone who knows how to work a room, pick up the opposite sex, or be an effective conversationalist knows that nobody likes a windbag.  On the contrary, people love to talk about themselves, or even better, hear someone else flatter them or give them positive feedback.

One of the cornerstones of many social media campaigns is the magic art of the REPOST.

The repost is when something you post is reposted by one of your followers to everyone in their personal friend network.  This happens sometimes organically when you post an article or amusing video that they share.

The best way to predictably leverage the power of the repost is to create original content that features YOUR followers.  When someone is featured in a photo of an event, mentioned in an article, or wins a contest of merit, you can be sure that they will repost it to their network.

A smart social media strategist will devise contests and create original content that regularly features his or her followers so that they may spread the love.  For this to be effective, it’s best to attach it to some sort of contest with photos or video.   A good example of this is a contest where people submit a funny image of their children, show off their home decor, or share images of their pets.  Each week, you feature a winner and put their submitted content on your website.  If each winner has 200 friends, then each week you are getting exposure to up to 200 folks who may not have heard of you before.

Congratulations, you are now a social marketing genius.  Go forth and spread the good news!