2 Simple Steps to a Solid Social Media Strategy

social media stages

The landscape of social media is shifting quickly – but it’s the touted “tools” we’re using to share which are changing – not our need to learn and share what we’ve learned.

No matter who the current “social media mega star” is of the moment – all social media products tend to follow a predictable life cycle. Today Google + is in the first “hero” spot – but don’t worry – like the weather – this too will change with time.

Too Fast – Too Furious

In case you haven’t heard, the “hip” ones – the “in” crowd – the “OMG – What’s my Klout Score” crowd are focused on Google + and creating circles which effectively divide their social networks into  friends, frienemies and followers.  Meanwhile everyone seems to be asking….

Will Google + turn Facebook into Myspace?   What happened to FourSquare?  What about Twitter?

While the hype level is high for G+ at the moment – it doesn’t matter which social media site is currently occupying the “king of the hill” spot if you’ve got a solid social media strategy in place.

This simple 2 step system to crafting a solid social media strategy is designed for business owners who spend more time managing their business than their website.

STEP 1:  Just remember – social media is about communication.

Every social media marketing tools is simply a communication tool.  These tools when wielded by skilled craftsmen and women can create “marketing magic”.  However, without direction, focus and an underlying strategy – they are at best distractions from the business at hand – and at worst an addictive time suck.

Ok – got that.  Step 1 is there is not magic here – only communication.

STEP 2:  Communicate the right message.

Social media is about communication – but it’s communication with a goal and a purpose.   Your goal is “the right message at the right time to the right people.”

If that doesn’t help, try answering this question: What do people need to learn about your business?

This is where the “original” social media magic communication tool- the blog – can really shine but is also where the waters get murky.  Way too many “WTF” business blog moments happen when business owners begin blogging about what they had for breakfast or other silliness.

For heaven’s sake start sharing stories on how your business has made current customer’s lives richer, sexier, better, easier and saucier.

Once you’ve got the right stories, then it’s just a matter of making it EASY for your customers to SHARE those stories. That’s when the current “king of the social media hill” comes into the picture. Then you simply encourage people to share this story – a story that features someone like them – solving problems they have.

Which brings me back to the beauty of blogging for your business.  Business blogging allows you to create hundreds of just such stories for your business and monitor which ones “engage” and which ones “fall short”.   It’s why I love business blogging for the entrepreneur who is bootstrapping while building a business.

When you use these two simple steps to form the basis of your social media strategy – then it really doesn’t matter which “social media tool of the moment” is occupying the top spot because in the end – they’re all just tools which help your customers share the stories of your business.

Old school “selling” strategies fall flat in a social media world

Old school selling strategies were very “push” oriented.  Push – Push – Push: Buy-Buy-Buy.

The communication methods associated with “old school selling” are very “one way”.  The business talks AT a prospective customer via traditional media sources – and the customer has two alternatives:  buy or don’t buy.

Then – a new school of selling began to appear.  It was called “consultative selling” and the idea was that the sales person would act as a consultant and HELP the customer find a solution to their problems.  Instead of trying to “sell” a green widget – the sales person instead was encouraged to discover how the green widget would solve a customer’s problem.

In the days when old school media was the only way to reach a large audience of consumers, businesses were forced to do a lot of “guess work”.  Oh sure, they’d try to take some of the “guessing” out of the equation by utilizing focus groups – but dragging people into a room with a two way mirror and listening in is a LOT different than observing those conversations in “real time”…. something social media allows the modern business owner to do.

A while back, I went on a weekend get away and needed to board my dog.  I had noticed a veterinary office located right along my “get away” route – so I decided to board her there.  I began the process by taking her in for a “check up” the week before.   The vet and his staff seemed very nice – and spent a lot of time talking about how fat my lab is.  She’s fat.  She’s always BEEN fat.  We feed 1/2 the recommended amount of low calorie food and she’s still fat.  The vet gave a great spiel on why we needed to test her thyroid function and how EASY it would be to fix her fat problem if her thyroid levels were low – so I agreed.   Then there was another test he wanted to do – agreed.

Push – Push – Push.  By the time I walked out of there, my first office visit to this vet was almost $250.  However, because the recommendations appeared to be made with my dog’s health and well being in mind, I didn’t feel “pushed” but instead I felt “cared for”.

When I went to pick her up from her weekend boarding.  The computed the stay at 10 days instead of three.  When $220 seemed high for three days – they corrected their mistake.  So I wrote another check… and then another when they decided she needed medicine for her gastric distress of eating their dog food.  At this point, I’m  thinking,  “Nice people – but very disorganized.”

Then I get a follow up phone call th enext day.  It seems that the thyroid test – the run at our initial visit and sold as the path to a “miracle” cure – showed her thyroid levels were low.  During the consult – the vet had said that if her levels were low – it would be as simple as giving her a single pill a day and her life would be so much better.  The weight would fall off of her and she’d get more active.  She might actually be able to join me again on my daily walk.  I’m psyched and ready to begin.

That’s when the wheels fell off the wagon so to speak.  The receptionist with whom I was speaking told me that the vet didn’t want to jump into prescription medication yet.  Instead  we were to begin buying prescription diet dog food – sold only at his office.  Only after using this special prescription dog food for several months would he consider putting her on medication for her thyroid.

Now I’m feeling very “sold” – a.k.a. “abused”.  Any warm fuzzies I had for this vet and his smiling office staff are gone.  I now realize that I’m a cash cow to be milked – not a client in need of help.   He’s no longer a medical professional in my book – he’s a pet product salesman.

I get it – he’s a small business owner trying to build his practice.  He’s got a new client on the line – one with an elderly pet – and he’s anxious to begin extracting  all the cash he can get from me. That’s exactly how it feels .  Instead of “this guy really cares about my dog” I’m thinking, “this guy really cares about my pocket book – and nothing else.”

This vet is engaged in  the”old school”  Push – Push – Push – selling strategy.  Unfortunately this approach really don’t “work” when it comes to social media marketing.   I would venture to say that most of the interest in social media marketing is because these old school selling strategies are NOT working anymore.  Consumers are more aware – and more sensitive to   “being sold” and the old school selling strategies only work when the communication is one way.

People are connecting online.  They’re sharing their experiences with others in their “network” just as they’ve always done in the past – only now they’re doing it “online”.

If the only relationship you want with your customers/clients is with their pocketbook – people are going to talk.   I’d like to be able to  say, “Avoid social media” if all you want is a relationship with their pocketbook -but you can’t.   How could you begin to screen your customers/clients?  The screening process might look something like this:

“Before we can schedule an appointment for your dog, do you or anyone you know have a blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Myspace account?”

How many people could answer “no”?   How can you build a business like that?

Unfortunately, that’s the only way I can see a business being able to successfully insulate itself from the impact of social media.

Unseen Business Killers

How a common business blogging excuse may be a sign of an unseen killer within your business.

Lately I’ve been inundated with stories of people battling cancer.  One of my friend’s sister was recently diagnosed with the disease and a client’s sister also received this devastating diagnosis.   Then I received news that the outlook isn’t bright for a client of mine who is also battling this killer disease.  While she was diagnosed within a few weeks of my friend’s sister – my client didn’t discover she had cancer until symptoms forced her to see her doctor.  By the time the cancer was causing her discomfort, it had spread throughout her body.

Just as early diagnosis is a key element in treating cancer – it’s also a key to combating a common unseen business killer as well.

Over the past few years, I’ve helped hundreds of client launch blogs to promote their businesses – and I’ve had perhaps just as many if not more decide against launching a blog.  One of the most common excuses I hear is, ” I don’t have time to blog.”

Unfortunately, when the gloves come off – “I don’t have time to blog” is usually exposed for what it really  is – an excuse.

It’s an excuse used to avoid confronting what may be literally a CANCER which may be growing within the belly of your business.   Like all cancers, early detection is the key to an effective cure.

It’s easy to determine if “I don’t have time to blog” is an excuse or a reason.  If you really don’t have time to blog for your business, you can either

  • hire someone to blog for your business or
  • hire someone to assume some of your duties so you can find time to blog.

Nine times out of ten, when this “either or” is presented,  the REAL objection to blogging for business surfaces.  It takes various forms, but it can be “boiled down” to a very simple: “I don’t know what to write about.”

AH -now here’s the REAL reason most business owners aren’t blogging. It’s not a lack of time – but rather a lack of direction.

It makes sense if you think about it.  After all, we human beings always seem to be able to MAKE time to do what’s important.   The working mother who exercises regularly doesn’t do so because she’s got an extra hour not available to the rest of the population – she MAKES the time to exercise.   She does so because she recognizes how important daily exercise it is for her health and her sanity.

If the reason is that you aren’t blogging for your business is that you don’t know what to write about – the answer is deceptively simple:

Simply write about your customer’s GDP.

It doesn’t matter if your a B 2 B or a B 2 C – if you’re in business – you are either helping customers/clients  to

  1. achieve a goal
  2. satisfying a desire
  3. solve a problem

I call this magic triad “GDP – Goals – Desires – Problems.  Pick one -pick two or pick all three as the reason you’re in business and then start talking about it via your blog.

If you find you can’t isolate one of these three reasons for being in business – then chances are you aren’t creating or communicating an effective marketing message for your company.

If you don’t KNOW what goals you’re helping people achieve,

If you don’t know what desires are being quenched,

If you don’t know what problems need to be solved,

Then OF  COURSE you aren’t going to know what to blog about.

This is definitely a case of what you don’t know CAN hurt your business.

If you don’t know which GDP “button” to push – you’re eventually going to find yourself – and your business – in between a rock and a hard spot.

Your business blog could be the greatest business diagnostic tool ever created.

The sheer act of creating blog posts forces you to FOCUS upon prospective clients/customer’s GDP.   If you don’t know your target audience’s GDP – then you know you have a serious problem in your business.

Discovering that you don’t know what your target audience’s GDP is is almost like discovering you have the earliest stages of cancer.  Admittedly, it’s not good news – but it’s news much better delivered sooner than later.

It used to be that it took a competitor who who understands the target audience’s GDP entering the marketplace and inflicting “sales discomfort” to send the average business owner scrambling for a speedy business diagnosis.  Unfortunately, the explosion of social media  has lead to a new “symptom” for the company with a lack of understanding of consumer GDP: customer complaints being shared via social media tools.

There are plenty of reasons to hit the keyboard and start to blog for your business.  Perhaps the best reason to begin blogging is the act of blogging constantly encourages you to focus upon what matters most – your target audience’s GDP.

If the REAL reason you’re not blogging for your business is that you don’t know what to write about – think of it as an early stage diagnosis of a serious problem – one that should be addressed quickly and decisively.

Please don’t make me explain this to you…

branding boo boosDespite the fact that I am definitely NOT your typical LOGO channel viewer, I recently discovered the reality television series RuPaul’s Drag Race.  It’s Project Runway meets America’s Next Top Model except RuPaul is everything Tyra should EVER hope to aspire to be!  (meow!)

I discovered the show at about the fourth episode and fortunately, LOGO is loving this show as much as I am, so the entire season has been replayed LIBERALLY and quickly filled up my DVR when I set it to “record all episodes at any time on this channel.”

In what may qualify as child abuse in the Midwest (but not in Florida where bestiality is still legal -as long as the animal in question doesn’t exhibit distress over the violation), I allowed my 14 year old son to watch the Drag on a Dime episode with me.

My two older children remember exactly where they were the first time they saw RuPaul in all her glory.  Somehow, my youngest didn’t know who this 6’4″ supermodel of the world was until he joined me in watching the show.

Thus the title of this blog post… because my son had a REALLY hard time wrapping his brain around exactly WHAT RuPaul and the other lovely drag queens were all about.

One question was, “Do they wish they were born with women’s bodies?”

My answer, “No, sweetie.  There is definitely the “change the make and model” option via surgery which is covered in GRAPHIC detail in an episode of South Park – but I’m pretty sure than none of these gentleman WANTS to be a woman all day, every day.”

This brings us to the branding/marketing portion of the program.

Branding Lessons from America’s Favorite Drag Queen

The RuPaul “brand” is a study in authenticity which is kind of ironic if you think about it.  I mean, I’m touting a DRAG QUEEN as a study in authenticity – but RuPaul has never claimed to be what he appears to be on stage.  He admits that he’s a master of illusion!

Because he is such a master of presentation (e.g. hair and makeup) and most importantly “illusion”, he became a spokesperson for MAC cosmetics in 1995.  Who better to demonstrate the transformational powers of the right make up than a drag queen?

However, there are several essential branding lessons every business owner can learn from RuPaul – but I think the most important one is:

Be consistent in your presentation and representation of your brand.

RuPaul has NEVER denied being a man in a drag.  Love it – hate it – he is what he is.

He’s a 6’4″ tall black drag queen sporting a platinum wig.  Take one look at him and you won’t be surprised when he opens his mouth and out spills something outrageous!  Mac cosmetics didn’t have to wonder if he would appeal to the middle aged housewife in the Midwest when they chose him as their spokeswoman – because that wasn’t the audience with whom he was supposed to connect!  He was voted Queen of Manhattan in 1990.  Mac wanted the ultimate urban socialite and they saw that in RuPaul.

As you peruse RuPaul’s site (click on the image above- it goes there) – you’ll notice that MOST of the time, RuPaul is in character and most of the time he’s in character, he’s sporting a platinum blond wig.  He may be wearing some of the most AMAZING fashions  – but his “look” never deviates.

Since the “real” RuPaul is bald, I don’t know his natural hair color but I’m pretty sure from his complexion that platinum blond is NOT what grows out of his head (or any other part) naturally.  He has complete control over his hair color – yet he almost always chooses to portray his character with platinum blond hair.

RuPaul COULD choose to appear with a dazzling and ever changing array of hair colors -yet  he chooses only one most of the time.  RuPaul has found a look that “works” and he’s stuck with it.

By choosing a look and sticking with it, RuPaul doesn’t have to “explain” himself and his brand over and over!

A HUGE problem many business owners encounter when it comes to “branding” and “advertising” is that they often get tired of a campaign at precisely the moment when the brand or the campaign is starting to make an impact on their audience.

If RuPaul were following the path of America’s largest retailer – he would have traded in his blond wig (a.k.a. fired his ad agency) of 20 years and “revamped” his image.  In my opinion, RuPaul trading in his platinum wig for a more sensible “brunette” is the moral equivalent of Walmart dumping the little smiley face guy.

RuPaul could choose a new hair color –  WHY WOULD HE?

The blond wig WORKS so why change it?

The same question can be asked of companies large and small.  Walmart isn’t the only huge company to suffer from this affliction.  From “new Coke” to the “new US Army” – why oh why change something that is WORKING?

If you follow local advertising – you’ll see examples of local businesses who change their branding on an almost daily basis – to the point of not HAVING a single cohesive branding thread upon which to hang a marketing message.

In the end, RuPaul has been very deliberate and equally consistent in crafting and delivering his own unique “brand” of entertainment.    The clothes change, but the character doesn’t.

If a drag queen who can change her hair color as quickly and easily as she changes her shoes can stick with a consistent hair color for more than 2 decades – why would your business want to change it’s branding essentials?

If your branding is broken – fix it!  However, just because you “can” doesn’t mean you SHOULD.  It could be that what’s broken is NOT the marketing – but something else.

Find out BEFORE you start fixing something that used to work!

Shameless Self Promotion in a Graceless Age

There was a time, not so very long ago, when female cultural icons were the likes of Grace Kelly and Jackie O.  These two women were not only stunningly beautiful, but both were the epitome of class and grace.

The AMC series Mad Men is a critically acclaimed television series for good reason.  The superbly written and acted scripts provide a behind the scenes glimpse into the lives of people working at a second tier ad agency in the early 1960’s.  This was a time when Marilyn Monroe was controversial,  Grace Kelly was the “it” girl and Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy’s monogram didn’t include an “O”.  In one episode, a client of the fictional advertising agency refuses to allow their spot to run during a controversial television program episode.  In the “too hot to handle” program the word abortion was mentioned.

That was then – and this is now.  Heather Rand sums it up beautifully in her post Marketing in a Graceless Age:

This idea of grace, of making informed decisions and acting with poise and self-awareness, a countenance of dignity and beyond reproach has me thinking of Grace Kelly and Jackie O.  These ladies seemed the epitome of class, and represent a bygone era where acting with circumspect and moderation were important self-governance attributes.

In her post – she’s railing against Pepsi’s New Suicide-Themed Ads and makes the observation that marketing in the new millennium seems to be “continuously pushing the boundaries of propriety”.  (Thanks Liz Strauss for introducing me to Heather’s blog!)

This is an age where our cultural icons are Brittney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan.   To get noticed, to create a marketing message that “goes viral“, you’d better be pushing the boundaries of propriety.   It seems that morality is joining traditional media in the death march to extinction.   Unfortunately in the age of reality television, that feat is becoming more and more difficult to achieve without making the commitment to acting like a Filthy Marketing Whore.

Well – there is another way and that’s to file a frivolous law suit – which is exactly what Liskula Cohen, a Canadian model, has done.  If you’ve never heard of Liskula Cohen – well, you’re not alone but that’s about to change because she has obviously embarked upon a campaign to raise her visibility.  Her act of shameless self promotion is a graceless age is to sue Google because one of it’s many blogger blogs is the now infamous Skanks in NYC.

This act of shameless self promotion has been remarkably effective.  According to Caroline McCarthy over at Cnet news:

Meanwhile, the search terms “Liskula Cohen” and “Skanks in NYC” skyrocketed to the top of (ironically) Google Trends, earning “on fire” ratings. Hey, considering that I’d never heard of Liskula Cohen before, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one, this might’ve been the best thing that ever happened to her.

Gyutae Park assures me that being Snarky will come back to bite those seeking shameless self promotion in a graceless age.   Tom assures me that authenticity is still the necessary ingredient in the search for success. Stacey assures me that this too shall pass.

I certainly hope they’re right.