3 Social Media Lessons Every Marketer Should Keep Close

With a vast amount of available information on social media, society as a whole, and especially marketers, sometimes forget just how young these platforms are. Now, we know that social media dates back to the days before Facebook and Twitter to forums and other chat rooms, but still, the social media industry is very young.

On one hand, the youth is positive because it brings energy, excitement and a new perspective. However, the flip side of this understands that the platforms are continuously evolving. In other words, a marketer can’t rely on the same strategy and tactics for 5 years or more. For instance, just this week, Twitter began experimenting with showing “favorites” directly in user feeds. While great for marketers in getting possibly more eyes on particular tweets, the change may go away, especially with users complaining.

This is why marketers have to stay on top of their game and evolve with social platforms. Otherwise, their marketing efforts would be obsolete and very ineffective. Marketing with social media is really a constant learning curve, which is why we all have to regularly remind ourselves of certain lessons.

A Quiet Audience

In most cases, when it’s been a while since you’ve received a comment, reply, message, retweet, it can be more than discouraging. In fact, some marketers will even want to stop everything they’re doing a start from scratch. But, even though you may not always hear from your audience, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there and that they’re not listening.

When we talk about listening as a marketing activity, we put great emphasis on quietly listening before taking action. This gives you the opportunity to observe, watch other reactions and prepare for when it is time for you to act. So, why should it be any different for our own audiences? Well, it’s not. Sometimes our audiences are just taking in the information we feed them, and it’s okay.

Excitement Spreads – Utilize It

There is no disputing that word-of-mouth takes on a whole new level with social media. For instance, think about the recent news of Robin Williams’ death, which spread like wildfire. Where did you see it? It’s likely safe to say that it was on some form of social media. Once this new is distributed to the masses, it’s really difficult to go back and change it.

While Robin Williams’ passing was sad news, good news also spreads quickly across social media. Simply put, don’t put any secrets out on social media. But, for marketers, this can be used to your advantage. You have the opportunity to tap into that news by producing an article that ties it in, making a related spoof video, a related meme or any number of other tactics.

As a word of caution, marketers do have to be careful of being respectful and tactful on certain news items. For example, it would have been distasteful to create a meme related to Robin Williams’ death. Unfortunately, some brands have made this mistake and have faced backlash as a result.

Marketers should utilize trends on social media even related #MondayMotivation, #ThrowbackThursday, or #FridayFunnies. Users love this type of content and will share your inspiration and excitement.

Social Was Made To Be Social

A recent study from Harvard neuroscientists shows that it is rewarding for humans to share information about themselves. Interestingly, talking about ourselves is just as appealing as food and money are to us.

Bragging reaction on brainFor anyone who’s on social media this news should come as no surprise. Yet, in marketing, we should know that we can’t talk about ourselves. We have to produce content that adds value to our audience.

A good rule of thumb to apply is what has become known as the 4-1-1 rule that was initially equated to Twitter. This says: Tweet 4 pieces of relevant original content from others and re-tweet 1 relevant tweet for every 1 self-promoting tweet.

4-1-1 Rule for Social Media

Ultimately, by making your story about your audience, it will subtly benefit you more than any piece of self-promotion could have. Social media was meant to be social, so please be human and social.

It’s these types of lessons that we sometimes neglect but that are critical in moving our marketing efforts in social media forward.

Building a Powerful Voice for Your Brand

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning. – Maya Angelou

How true is this? Words are powerful, but the real influence comes from the voice carrying them. From a business perspective, this could not hit closer to home. And, from a social media angle, it hits the nail on the head.

Words need to be brought to life. In my college days, I remember a speech professor explaining the many different ways to say “I love you” and how differently each example sounded. The inflection, the pitch and the tone all played an integral role in the response and/or reaction.

Interestingly enough, the same elements apply to online marketing. The tone that you set for your brand carries the same weight that an external voice has. For instance, the voice that only pushes out links across social media has a robotic voice associated with it and is rarely heard. On the contrary, the brand voice that pushes out a variety of content with mixed media shows personality and spunk and is much more likely to resonate with users.

One of the best and most effective ways to build a strong voice online is through blogging. According to Hubspot, businesses that blog perform better on multiple levels:

  • Blog frequency impacts customer acquisition. 92% of companies who blogged multiple times a day acquired a customer through their blog. (HubSpot State of Inbound Marketing, 2012)
  • The global population of blog readers keeps growing. (eMarketer, August 2010)
  • 81% of marketers rated their blog as useful or better. (HubSpot State of Inbound Marketing, 2012)
  • There are 31% more bloggers today than there were three years ago. (eMarketer, August 2010)
  • 46% of people read blogs more than once a day. (HubSpot Science of Blogging 2010)
  • Most people read 5-10 blogs. (HubSpot Science of Blogging, 2010)
  • Nearly 40% of US companies use blogs for marketing purposes. (eMarketer, August 2010)

In addition, blogging fuels search engines. Google loves good content and will reward those who provide it. Blogging also gives a brand personality. Similar to social media, blogs also give brands the opportunity to appear more human. There is so much you can do with a blog such as to insert multiple personalities. A blog doesn’t have to have a single author. It could have many authors encompassing all levels of the business that share the many aspects of what you do.

Another excellent way to let your voice be heard is by listening. We say this so often, but it never gets any less significant. The whole purpose behind this voice you want to build is to produce two-way communication with your audience. No one likes a one-sided conversation, right? This turns anyone off, which is why listening plays such a vital role in being heard. A brand must listen to know what their audience is saying, how to differentiate themselves among their competitors, and understand user expectations.

Look at brands and “listen” to those who are doing it right. If a corporate brand like Taco Bell or Sephora can engage with individuals, small to medium-sized businesses should be able to as well.

Sephora Twitter PostsTaco Bell TweetsWe also spoke recently about how listening goes hand-in-hand in tackling and combatting reputation management issues. The bottom line is in order to be an effective communicator that has any voice, listening must be in your toolbox.

Thirdly, as you establish your voice, you must be consistent. Building this voice through your website, social media and other online channels is just half the battle. It’s not a one-time initiative. It’s a continuous effort that you must not neglect. A brand can never turn on the cruise control, unfortunately. You work hard to establish a voice, but it takes work to maintain and grow it. The stronger voice you build, the more on your toes you need to be because results will be rolling in.

If you’re not consistent, you’ll lose your edge, and most importantly, your audience. When researching, I often come across sites that have not updated their blogs in months and some years. Audiences and search engines pay attention to this.

As you build your voice, set a standard. It’s okay to have some boundaries, but if you let it go, you’ll have to start from scratch. And everyone knows the comeback is always harder the second time around since competition grows and search engines get smarter.

A brand voice is a powerful tool, if used right. There are lots of messages already being told, so to be heard, you must get out there and tell yours effectively.


Listening Is Always Key in Meaningful Conversation… Online Too


Listen - hand


In a day and age where everyone has a voice and wants to be heard, the concept of listening is getting harder and harder to put into practice. Marketers have been talking about the importance of listening for years, but it has almost become a reverse approach given the trend to be heard. So, what’s the deal? Is it a catch 22?

Just like so many other areas of marketing, there needs to be a balance in listening versus being heard. If you’re so focused on pushing your message out to your audience, then you may speak too soon and find out the hard way that you are not connecting with them. On the flip side, if you spend all your time listening to what your audience is talking about but you fail to jump in when you have the opportunity, you also miss out in effectively positioning yourself. It’s a balancing act to get it right, but it pays off.

Listening sounds so basic, but it is so hard for some people to do. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone that interjects themselves every couple of minutes so much so that you never really get to state your point? It’s one of the most annoying things, especially since the people that interject themselves usually seem to be “know-it-alls.” In the online marketing world, the equivalent of this type of behavior is, for example, when a shoe retailer reaches out to everyone with foot complaint with “buy our shoes now!” talking points. It’s annoying in person, and it’s annoying online.

So, how can you really listen and have it mean something?

First, understand what it is that you want and need to be listening to. As social networks have grown, the noise level has also grown. Define your target audience through conversations that are already happening and that you wish you were part of. This weeding process could also come, in part, from offline resources as well as online.

Secondly, identify who you should be listening to. This aspect really helps you sort through the noise. Companies should look at their customers, overall consumer trends, influencers in the industry and competitors. These perspectives will provide valuable insight into what current and potential customers want and what your competition is doing, so you can effectively engage in conversation.

Thirdly, create a monitoring system for listening. Whether you use Google Alerts, keyword lists on Twitter or other paid tracking alternatives, this will help you avoid scrolling at your computer all day long looking for conversation. Again, with so much information, you need a means for dissecting the information that applies to you and your brand.

Once you’ve implemented these practices and have some data, you will then be able to start participating in the conversation. As you begin this process, you must remember that it is a conversation. This may seem elementary, but spend 5 minutes online and you’ll know why I’m saying it – the conversation must be a natural, 2-way communication in order for it to work. You can’t shove your product or services down someone’s throat every time they mention a need. If you can be of help to them, it would be much more effective to send them a link to a blog post stating why your methodology behind building your product, for instance, is sustainable, durable, etc. as opposed to sending them a link to your product page. To make your conversation meaningful, you must set yourself up as a valuable resource, expert, or something that will keep people engaged before and after a sales transaction takes place.

Effective listening sets the stage for this type of conversation. And once you begin, it becomes natural. This is when companies can move in and capitalize on opportunities.

During the Grammy’s that took place last month, popular roast beef chain Arby’s executed this beautifully. The company’s social media manager “listened” and saw that many people were relating his brand to Grammy winning artist Pharrell Williams on Twitter. Seizing the opportunity, he jumped into the conversation not by convincing the artist to buy a sandwich or become their spokesperson, but by being relevant and contributing to what was already being said.

Arby's Tweet to Pharrell Williams

As a result, the tweet was retweeted more than 83,000 times and also included a reply from Pharrell. What’s more, other brands like Pepsi, Quaker Oats and others retweeted it too. It proved to be a huge win for Arby’s gaining the company more than 6,000 new followers.

Twitter Interaction during Grammy's

This is why listening is so important for your marketing strategy. It leads to conversation and potential wins such as Arby’s had recently. It takes time, but other than that, it’s one of the easiest but most powerful assets to your marketing efforts, so start listening.