The two commandments of social media marketing

The Two Commandments of Social Media Marketing Steve DavisHave you started using social media tools for your marketing? Are you having success?

If you are zipping along nicely this article is not for you.

If, however, like many businesses you don’t have anything positive to answer, then you likely fall into one of two categories:

  • I don’t know how to start, it all seems so foreign to me
  • I’ve been using social media for a while now but it’s not paying off and I think I am wasting my time

In my work with thousands of small businesses over the past decade, I have witnessed a phenomenon that might give us some insights into why you are struggling with your social media marketing.

This phenomenon involves motivation, perception of customers and the place your work takes in your life.

Let me unpack these thoughts for you and give context to the two commandments of social media marketing. I created (or adapted) these commandments from the records of Jesus the Marketer (that is how I think of the historical Jesus of Nazareth these days because I have been struck by how much his life and actions seem to embody the purest of contemporary marketing theory. It is astonishing and I will share some of those qualities in a blog post to come).

The curse of business

In the beginning, we are all human. No matter where we live or what we do with our lives, we all share a common set of human frailties and human virtues.

However, those of us who move into business (as owners, primarily, but also employees, managers, etc) start to undergo a change.

Gradually, we start to sort and categorise other humans (prospects and customers) into target market segments and customer types and we develop a ‘them and us’ perception of life.

Our job becomes a challenge to identify the prospects most likely to buy from us, lure them with messages and corral them through our sales systems until we have processed them and passed them on to the part of our business that deals with extracting more value from existing customers. Sounds a bit like an abbottoir.

It is bad enough when this happens to people who work for others, but for people running small businesses, when they lose touch with their former selves I believe it is tragic. Remember, most of us who start small business once had a dream or vision to pursue a passion or hobby into the business world and earn a living doing or selling what we love. It is sad that even we can lose touch with other humans.

How do I talk to them?

What follows, when someone gets sucked into ‘businessthink’, is that they start talking in advertising talk.

A great example of this is when companies try to ‘fake’ customer testimonials. What they produce sound like empty, MBA textbook slogans covering all the ‘key messages’ the boffins want to convey; and the rest of us can spot it a mile away.

Enter social media. Suddenly, us business people have an opportunity to mix online with customers and prospects in social media places like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube and Flickr, just to name a few, and what do we do?

All too often we type in or produce ad content, we put our television commercials up on our Facebook Business Pages because we think it is novel and hip to add video to these places. But we FORGET that there are HUMANS on the other side of the screen. And humans spend their lives trying to AVOID advertising!

So what can we do?

All is not lost. If we can reach back into our past and rekindle some of the memories and motivations that launched us into our careers or occupations, we might be able to nurture a spark of energy into a burning passion once again.

How should we direct this passion? We should use it to remember our humanness and the humanness of our customers or prospects. It is a good idea to flesh out the customer profiles of those people we are targetting and think through their stories; what led them to seek us out, what pain are they feeling, how anxious are they about their impending purchase.

The reason I stress the importance of passion is that for passion to truly take hold, it means you have found a way to embrace the first of the social media marketing commandments:

Love your work with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind

If that sounds like a weird and wonky concept to you, it means you are not ready to fully immerse yourself into social media MARKETING. Because when you use social media channels for marketing your motivation and demeanour should be one of servitude: you are there to share your knowledge and nurture relationships because you truly love what you do and you believe it brings value to people.

I believe this is something demonstrated by the people who are prospering in this social media age. They draw on their reserves of passion to keep producing excellent, helpful content that informs the marketplace and equips prospects and customers to ask better questions and find solutions (through them or elsewhere).

In return, these generous and driven marketers typically become respected in the marketplace and some become authorities, ironically creating a pull mechanism as paying customers start seeking them out. This is fuelled by the fact that if they have achieved a purity in their social media marketing, others will start sharing their material and amplifying their efforts and their credentials.

How can I love my work when customers keep getting in the way?

We all know someone who curses their customers. They complain that if it weren’t for customers they would be much more efficient. Can we see how warped that focus is?

If you recoil at the very thought of dismissing customers and nuisances, then you are ready to truly embrace the second of the social media marketing commandments:

Love your customer as yourself

If you knew nothing or very little about your field and were a potential customer trying to make a sensible, informed purchasing decision, what sort of material would you find most helpful? Where would you go to find it? What format would you prefer?

I believe our challenge in ALL marketing, let alone social media marketing, is to obsess over the lives and preoccupations of our customers. If we can truly walk a mile in their shoes and empathise with them, we are going to have our heads and hearts aligned correctly when it comes to producing Twitter content or blog posts or Facebook updates, etc.

Instead of us just doing what we think we should because it is what everybody else does, we can actually focus squarely on our ideal customer profile and produce material directly for them.

We must remember that in these social media channels people expect to be able to talk back to us and they expect to be respected.

If we can picture our social media content as having the same tone and feel as it would if we had bumped into a customer or prospect in a relaxed setting away from our workplace, then I think we will be off to a good start because we would:

  • listen to their question fully before ‘prescribing’ a solution (social media tools are superb for listening to conversations before joining)
  • ask clarifying questions (social media tools allow you to have some back and forth with others)
  • speak to specific situations with relevant examples (social media tools, especially your blog posts, will be ranked much more relevantly by Google when you have written about specific topics rather than the bland, groping, lazy style of ‘if you are someone who … or someone who …‘ catch-all marketing dribble)

Social media marketing is hard work

The back and forth nature of social media and its insatiable appetite for content means that you will need to go above and beyond the call of duty if you want to be seen and trusted as someone who has joined the social conversations to contribute value.

So this is why these commandments, which sound extreme at first, are so fundamental to social media marketing.

If you do NOT love your work with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and you do NOT love your customer as yourself, will you really be bothered composing a unique reply to someone’s earnest but common question at 11.30pm on a Wednesday night or 2.45pm on a Sunday afternoon? I think it is unlikely. I think you will start looking for shortcuts and automated responses, etc. All of these things are abhorrent to social media users, ie, humans.

So my suggestion to you if you want to use social media tools for marketing is to STOP. Then reflect on these two commandments of social media marketing and ask whether you really do or could live or obey them fully.

If not, do what you can to rekindle your passion first. Or consider making changes to do something you do love. Our lives a so short it is a tragedy when we are tempted to spend it cheaply doing things that do not excite or frighten us.

If so, regroup with your marketing goals and then pick up the tools (or find a 12 year old to teach them to you) and start listening for your customers and prospects. Then start answering questions. Then start producing some original ‘thought’ content like cheat sheets, help articles, how to videos, etc. Share and promote them in social networks where your ideal customers spend their time. Allow and encourage others to share them too. And then do it all over again.

By staying focussed on the act of helping and teaching, you will learn more about yourself, your business and your customers. And you will even start fielding enquiries and generating sales.

Remember people HATE being sold to but they LOVE buying. Use these social media marketing commandments to keep your intentions sharp and pure, and you will be rewarded.

This content has been extracted from my keynote for October Business Month in Darwin, October 2011: Using social media the RITE way with Steve Davis.

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