You've decided to finally jump on the social media band wagon -- congratulations. Before you go head out into the social media jungle and begin tweeting, Facebooking and YouTubing with reckless abandon, I urge you to take a moment and formulate a plan.
It can be particularly difficult to change our marketing "voice" from commercial to non-commercial. We are inundated with advertising messages everywhere, every day -- and many users turn to these networks to escape brands altogether. Still others use social media to gain greater insights into brands before making a purchasing decision. They will listen to feedback from other consumers, compare you to the competition, and gauge your customer service. These factors are crucial, and should not be overlooked.
So, we know that our audience is always operating on the assumption that we are trying to sell them something -- and a lot of the time, that's true . Marketers do try to sell things online, even if it is during an online conversation that is not directly related to their products or services. Their persistence has made it difficult for other marketers to sell their products, even when they are deliberately ignoring the non-related conversations and targeting buyers that really are interested.
The mass marketing activities have poisoned the well, and it has made it even more difficult to penetrate social media's marketing shield. But make no mistake, it still can be done.
There are hundreds of examples of brands succeeding through social media - Zappos, AirAsia and Whole Foods spring to mind - but replicating their success can be incredibly difficult. However, there is one thing that seems to separate social media's major marketing players from the wannabes that have tried and failed. It is the level of "marketing drive" behind them, and it appears to be inversely proportional to the amount of success that they find.
Huh? You read that correctly...I said inversely proportional. Counterintuitive, yes. But, highly effective, nonetheless.
Marketing drive is persistence. Persistent marketers always try to sell, no matter what the circumstance. "Looking for ice cream? Why not buy this humidifier too?" That's their marketing style -- it isn't winning them any popularity contests, and it certainly isn't bolstering their bottom line, either.
The Zappos school of thought is that rather than attempting to force a consumer into a sale, allow them to elect whether or not they wish to talk about buying. If folks aren't talking about buying, Zappos isn't jumping in with the subtlety of Kathy Griffin and trying to change the subject.
Social media communities are not averse to marketing; but social media users hate direct, pushy marketing with a passion. You'll be about as welcome as spandex on Mr. Blackwell's Best-Dressed List.
You'll stand out, but not in a good way. Get the picture?
Success in social media is relatively simple -- add value. Let that guide your activities on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like. I may be interested in what you are selling, but I really don't want to hear about it all the time. Just as offline marketers pick and choose which markets they're targeting, online social media marketers need to take a step back and examine what opportunities are actually worth it. Once you've identified your target, join the conversation, but remember to be genuine, helpful, and interesting. In the end, this will win you respect and business.
People turn to Facebook and Twitter to communicate with each other, not with major brands and marketers. And while there is always going to be the one in one-thousand user that responds to direct marketing, the conversion rate for appropriate, targeted conversation will always much higher. When you enter social media determined to sell 10,000 units, you are destined to fail.
If you are already marketing with social media, now is the time to take a quick reference glance in the mirror. If you aren't marketing like the successful big brands, you can still change course. Target your audience and provide them with genuine value and your efforts will be rewarded. Leave the pushy sales tactics behind.