Imagine you are fishing on a river. That river is the social stream for every platform. You pay a guide (marketer) to help you increase your catch. He is paid based on how long he keeps your eyes on the water. So he tells you every ripple means something; that there’s an important story behind every bubble connecting in some way to your next catch. You might be so excited and focused on these things, watching the water dance with the elements, waiting for a tug at the line…but it rarely comes and your pockets are emptied quickly. And when you finally get fed up, the guide talks you into checking out a new spot. This is a majority of marketing, especially on social media.
The point I want to stress is not the general difficulty of reeling in a customer. Rather it is to draw your attention to the huge distraction and displacement of your time, effort and energy (TEE) away from your core work and the true signals that matter. It’s true that there is an important story behind every wave and ripple, but it may only affect 1% of your outcome. Is that 1% worthy of 100%, 80% or even 40% of your attention? I’d argue that for most, that reeling in your next, big customer does not depend on or require such effort and attention. More importantly, I bet you have more important priorities than the distractions offered in the social stream. Many of the social signals marketers have you focused on are not worthy of even a part time effort.
In the murk of it all marketers are constantly trying to broaden the definition of “engagement” to mean something as basic as a quick glance and subsequent trip to the trash bin. The entire industry is based on false analytics that mean little. They sound really cool but they’re empty of substance and value; all carbs and no protein. How many people saw your post is less useful than a measured click. As is a like (beyond the notion that it may spread the content). What I’ve seen for the past decade is well intentioned professionals paying too much attention to ripples in the water, not bites on the line.
Think of the signals you’ve been told to focus on: likes, pokes, pluses, comments, shares, retweets, favorites, and on and on. I’m not saying these don’t have some value, I’m simply asking you to consider comparing the value with the resources required and outcomes experienced. By in large, these microscopic indicators of engagement aren’t worth your time, effort and energy.
Let’s face it. They’re low value indicators, and the call to look at them should be treated with the same level of scrutiny as those asking you to read spam. Many marketers are encouraging you to listen, read, and watch while you share. Essentially this is the marketer’s trap. They win, sucking up your attention consuming their other clients’ efforts. Your business suffers as a result in terms of operations and opportunity costs associated with your attention and effort applied to other avenues. It’s a man overboard sucked drowning in the social media abyss- swallowing water while desperate for air. The attention spent is disproportionate to the gains received. You thought you were there to sell, when instead, you were really being sold. This is the standard model that most are subscribed to.
So for the Heroik minded, in terms of being an effective, thriving team, what is the answer for the lean businesses?
In terms of using social media, for the executor; the person focused on getting shit done, it is perhaps best used or thought of as a broadcast medium with a passive listening strategy. That’s right, a place to push out a message on the whole. I know this will ruffle feathers. Did he just advocate for one-way communications? Pretty much. We all want to believe in the grand conversation, where every voice matters equally. It doesn’t. I’m concerned with the opinions of my customers, prospects, stakeholders and closer community. However, even these groups have completely different priorities. My continuity of business is not one of them. Neither is yours. And across the board, most are not honestly in tune with the motivations behind their behavior. This is why Apple doesn’t use focus groups. So letting the grand conversation dictate your efforts is troublesome to say the least.
Remember when all the gurus and marketers were talking about the importance of conversations on Social Media? Now the best of them have come back to the power of storytelling and closer to a broadcast model. They’ve changed their tone as the airwaves and status updates have been barraged with cheesy, sleezy, faux engagement messages. All the clamor about conversations has long since fallen. There’s just too much noise for most teams to pay attention to and effectively get shit done in their other roles.
I’m not saying there’s no value out there and I’m not saying you need to reel in your line, give up and go home. I believe you need to refine your process, lean into an effective system that allows you to measure what matters, engage your targets at the right time, and preserve the freedom to do all the other important things. Many businesses have the tools but lack the process and discipline to do this effectively.
You need a passive system that allows you to focus your attention on other priorities; a bobber in the water, so you know when to tug and reel the line in. With the right alarm on the right line, in all the moments when nobody’s biting, you are free to juggle a book and a beer, or build something. Don’t worry. You have the technology- you just need a better process. This is where effective strategy (marketing, messaging, content and brand narrative) comes in handy.
Here are 6 tips and 1 tool to help you be a more effective fisherman and marketer:
1) Switch to a Broadcast /Passive Listening Model.
That’s right. Stop pretending to “listen” and embrace the broadcast model. Share authentic, well thought content. Stop regurgitating the same motivational posters, business insider articles and works of everyone else. You have limited resources- and you need to share your work, your passion, your values. The message received from people pushing out only 3rd party content is that of a consumer, not a creator. There is no way to distinguish a professional curator from a passionate hobbyist on the web in terms of the content they share. The unspoken unconscious judgements cast on those who share only others’ works is is that your brand might lack faith, passion or confidence in the virtues, values, stories of your work. Curating is lower on the totem poll than creation. For those who share mostly things they are doing or working on is that of an artist confident in their craft, a leader clear in their direction, creator trying something new, executor getting shit done, and refiner making things happen. Of course you want to provide service and have a mix going but if the majority of the discussion isn’t about what you are doing- what is your business strategy and is it effective? I see a lot of lost souls out there who want to believe that all they have to do is click their heals and share kitten photos to grow their business.
If you are searching to strengthen your engagements:
- Broadcast your work, share the tools, tweaks and hacks that helped along the way. Come up to broadcast depth to share things related to your work and your customers. Stop looking for just any body you can get to follow or like you.
- Share things that matter to your brand and values (that must be documented and consistently demonstrated in your work and customer experience)
This requires a commitment to a great content strategy but has the added benefits of giving you back your time to work your craft or enjoy a beer and book, or banter with friends and loved ones. At Heroik we are all about creating a thrivalist, lifestyle and culture; arming you with the opportunities to decide to do with the regained time, effort and energy. This way you can listen at your leisure, not an addiction, and focus on your craft. In an age global commerce, businesses of any size need to hone their craft more than ever to compete and thrive. This means not wasting time over-listening to the noise.
2) Get notified about the stuff that matters. Use important notifications as your trigger to evaluate engaging the social media. Some notifications are like bobbers in the water. You are probably already annoyed with all the notifications you’ve received in the past and if you’re like me, maybe you’ve turned them all off. Or you may be paying someone else to stare at the water for you. I won’t tell you to stop but I will ask that you get smarter about the signals you pay attention to. Notifications that matter: Comments, Messages, and Questions. These are bites on the line and the rest tend to mean little. I don’t care about likes, these take fractions of a second and are not clear indicators of anything, but if someone gives you a comment, asks a question, or sends a message, that’s certainly a stronger signal.
3) Ignore the noise. Not every ripple matters. You’re looking for consistent signals and key indicators to support a commitment to act. Most marketers want to count impressions, visits, page views, and likes and they may number in the millions for your business, but of them, how many convert into customers? You may get hundreds of likes and retweets, but can you track where things go from there? If not, doing so for a superstitious belief that it’s a good practice w/o validation is ridiculous. How many prospective customers do you piss off and chase away with your current tactics? The gurus do not dare imagine this. I’d rather market to 100 with a high quality message and have 20 fall in love with my business, than to market to 10,000, alienating most of them in return for just a few customers. Yet this is what most marketing efforts consist of; social spam and content low on substance. Is this in alignment with the values of your brand? Don’t listen to the majority marketing noise either. They’re failing in droves- usually at the expense of other people’s money. Don’t let them fail with yours.
Don’t get me wrong. You need to take creative risks and try new things, but doing what everyone else is doing in the social media traffic jam with little measured gain is not a creative risk. If people are telling you to jump in and try something new, ignore this noise too. Look for more creative opportunities.
Start with better data. Here’s a metric that matters: Attention Time: how long and to what degree the prospective audience is observing and interacting with your material. The more time people spend engaging your material, the increased likelihood that they’ll do business with you or at the very least understand far more about your brand, business, products and services. Can you say that of a liked post or tweet? NOPE. The same budget of energy spent listening to noise can be put to work doing things that matter for your business.
4) Focus on the cost of acquisition and reconcile it with the lifetime transactional value of the customer. I was recently at a conference for nonprofits where a media firm was proposing that an organization ought to run a campaign that costs 10’s of thousands of dollars pursuing a handful of potential donors who’s lifetime transactional value is mere 10’s of dollars. If you spend $349 to acquire a customer who’s average, lifetime, transactional value is $30, you’ve got a serious problem. You’re bleeding money. I hate seeing it recommended. Ask your marketer if they know the average cost of acquiring a customer for your business and their average transactional value. Make sure you’re on a path to factoring these into your business strategies.
5) Do it for the right reasons. In your spare time, fish in your favorite places for the love of fishing, not because everyone else likes to do it. There is a energetic multiplier to doing things we enjoy. We tend to do them better. We tend to refine our efforts and get better results. If you like engaging on social media and you’re getting measurable and meaningful results, invest in refining your process. Make sure your efforts are warranted. If you enjoy doing it and aren’t seeing tangible results, recognize that social media is a leisure time activity not a business activity.
On the flip side of things, we tend to sabotage our experiences in efforts we don’t enjoy. There is an energy divider for things we take on with a bad attitude (and I say that as a critical person who has done this many times). If you can’t think of a fun way to actively engage on social media, find a fun way to passively engage. My point is to be creative with the way you frame the work and/or create a process that is engaging, captivating and even enjoyable for you first. I’ve seen many people hate their way into spending thousands of dollars driving things into the ground they never believed in. Find a way to believe, or enjoy, or don’t do it.
A personal example of this -I love interacting with intelligent people who want to get shit done. I despise wasting time with people who only want to talk/whine or dream about making things happen (e.g. 90% of the exchange of the masses). It doesn’t serve myself or others, and I lack the patience to hand hold for those uninterested in executing. So being the active social media junkie in a world that loves to talk and do little, isn’t high on my to do list… but I do love to write and venture out. So sharing original content, blogging and engaging in lively discussions is easy for me. I love sharing experiences, discussing topics, and solving problems. Granted, the masses seem to favor the concise, short-form tweets and bumper stickers, but they’re not my market. And the obsession with quick and easy produces a flurry of energy and noise but few results. So I find ways to bake more value into the long-form. The point of my example is for those who struggle to participate, find an adjacent pleasure, and use it as a bridge to guide your efforts. There is a medium out there for every kind of story-teller, and a market for those stories on that medium.
Offering something you enjoy that’s of value to others is the sweet spot of business.
6.) Make sure your bait has value. Whatever you do, say or share, make sure it offers value for your target audience (ideal customers). Take a look at the competition and strive to offer something better. Steal like an artist – which means steal a good idea but transform it through your process into something of your own. Offer music not noise. This requires a skill no marketer wants you to have: the ability to discern value and separate the shit from shinola. Keen sight is extremely valuable these days. If you can curate, cultivate and distill the best of anything, not only can help refine your practice and increase your impact, but also increase the value of what you offer your customers. It’s simply good for business to be discerning (leaning towards critical). If discernment isn’t your thing, look for someone with the gift and bring them onto your team.
1 Tool you may already be using. Why only 1? Because Process is more important!
Buffer – is a simple social broadcasting service that allows you to build a queue of status updates that are delivered at optimum times based on bulk traffic analysis. It’s a social drip system. Unlike other social suites, Buffer is about speaking only, not listening to the distractions and noise. For current users, I encourage you to revisit your social and content strategy and the previously mentioned tips to ensure you’re getting the most out of it. I love Buffer. It supports an effective sharing model for people who get shit done. Unlike Hootsuite, it’s not focused on helping me listen to the noise (a costly distraction), it’s about getting the word out about my work at the right time. So between the two, I prefer Buffer.