Monthly Archives: September 2014

Simplifying Social Media Is Not That Simple

So I’m presenting a 30-minute talk on social media to members of the Association of Small & Medium Enterprises (ASME) tomorrow. My boss suggested that I should keep things simple, as it’s likely that many of these folks are not that well-versed in social media for business purposes. I understand the point, but to be honest, this isn’t so simple. No one really teaches the basics of social media because social media is by nature intuitive. There really isn’t any “basics” in social media – you either use it or you don’t. The differentiating factor between success and failure boils down to context, customization and a lot of “feels”.

There is another reason why I feel learning “basics” is a challenge in social media. It is that everyone has heard of it – how great it is, how essential it is to business, how easy it is to use, how everyone and their pet cat is on it (seriously, there are many pet cats on social media). But, like many other aspects of business, it’s only really great and easy if you have already have all the supporting factors in place, many of which are circumstantial. If you don’t, no amount of training helps.

Most people already know the “basics”, like “a Facebook page is good for marketing”. And even if you don’t, it’s just a google away. I won’t present a slide just to show people that.

Everyone knows you need good photos online – for the cover, the profile and for content – but I can’t teach you the art of photography in 30 minutes, and I’m not even qualified to teach it in 30 days.

People may have heard that Instagram is the in-thing now (with younger generations) – but saying that is not often news. In fact, the issue is that to say these “basics” is tantamount to stating the obvious.

So if I were to say “Content is King! Your Facebook Page must have great content to win customers!” – it’s painfully obvious. Even if for some reason someone wasn’t aware of this age-old (by internet standards) rule, saying so without going into extensive detail can lay the ground for disappointment, when said someone realizes just how difficult it is to come up with good content.

Picture Credit:
Picture Credit:

Point being: social media has seen enough widespread use that everyone (or at least those who choose to attend a “Digital Marketing” seminar) probably has an inkling of some sort, no matter how simplistic or even erroneous. And even if someone does not, I can’t really help you in 30 minutes and at the expense of the boredom of some 98% of the audience.

The title of the talk I’m giving is “Five Ways to Winning Customers on Social Media”. The challenge for me is to present 5 tactics or points that a) if you’re a complete newbie to social media, it would still make sense; b) if you’re a novice (but still inexperienced), it would still be useful; and in fact, c) if you’re an expert, you would still enjoy seeing the points reinforced or even learn something new about something you already know.

Take for example, the issue of content and hard sell. Most inexperienced online marketers will default to a majority of hard sell on their Facebook page, following the strategy of traditional marketing. Marketers more attuned to the paradigm of social media (or those who have watched how successful pages do it) may mix in other entertaining content. By and large, what I want to do  for people is to provide a more pointed definition or plan regarding what other content would work on a Facebook page.

For this reason one of the “Five Ways” has to do with the 40:40:20 rule which divides content type into hard sell, “soft sell” and a kind of “no sell”. For example, the idea that as a company, you can impress your potential customers by posting content that makes you look knowledgeable in your domain is a form of soft sell. Posting a picture of a cat – which would invariably gather more likes than any of your other posts – will be a form of “no sell”.

There’s a good chance, I would say, that anyone who’s on Facebook would have seen some degree of soft sell and no sell – but may never have realized that it works in terms of social media marketing. That is the sort of area that I will try to straddle in this talk – to help people realize what they already know, and articulate it as strategy.