Social Media is not Linear

Social Media MarketingThe straightest path between two points is a line – but when it comes to connecting with your customers – the path is anything but linear.

Ever since I can remember, business people have always wanted a “soda machine” relationship with their marketing and advertising.  Slide a dollar or two into your “marketing machine” – and out pops a sale.

It’s no surprise that those same people desperately want social media marketing to work in a similar “sales funnel soda machine” fashion.

The sales funnel is a myth either created by or created to satisfy the bean counters who wanted to see a direct link between marketing expenditures and sales figures.  In the attempt to “prove” that when a dollar is fed into the marketing soda machine that a soda can customer does indeed “pop” out the other end, the Rube Goldberg type of sales funnel was created.  This was the myth used to explain the complex process customers go through between the time they “consume” marketing dollars and the point in time when they show up in the sales figures.

Like all myths, it had a purpose.  In this case, it was created to provide “hard evidence” that there is a cause and effect between marketing and sales.

Unfortunately, for the sales funnel myth, in the real world, people are rarely willing to be lined up and marched in orderly fashion to make their company coerced acquisition on schedule.  Consumers don’t consider themselves to be “consuming” marketing dollars when they watch a television show.  They feel no moral obligation to purchase from their favorite television show’s commercial sponsor.

SURPRISE!!!  Customers make acquisitions to satisfy their own GDP – Goals, Desires and Problems.

Ah  -there’s the rub.  Those pesky customers have their own agenda.  Those pesky customers expect to be treated like real live PEOPLE  – people who are usually pretty smart and who make decisions as to what is in their best interest.  Those pesky customers who want more from their relatioship with your business than to be treated like a credit card wielding ATM whose goal in life is to keep your payroll and profit margins fat.

Social media is about connecting with people. It’s about pulling back the veil between companies and consumers and allowing companies to put a FACE on those customers who, until recently- were just numbers on a spreadsheet.  It’s about having the means and opportunity to watch as consumers discuss your product online – as they Tweet their recommendations – as they blog about their disappointments.

In Social Media’s Warning Label – I highlighted the story of a business that didn’t recognize or appreciate the marketing intelligence provided  by a disgruntled customer.

With that said, the social media warning label can only help the business owner who understands that the very nature of social media is to remove the veil which separates customers from the proprietors of the business in question.

Again – IMHO the sales process has NEVER been linear.  Success has always been found in focusing on the customer’s goals, desires and problems.  Francois Gossieaux over at emergence marketing writes in his post “Where are my leads?

A new study published in McKinsey Quarterly reports that 2/3rd of touch points in a buyer’s active evaluations process are now consumer-driven marketing touch points: user generated reviews, word of mouth, and in store interactions. Only 1/3rd of the touch points are still company-driven. DID YOU HEAR THAT? You still control 1/3rd of the touch points!

I’ve linked to Jason’s post before about why your blog needs to focus on creating cheerleaders and not leads but I’m doing it again because it’s a message that needs to be spread.  In a world where 2/3’s of the sales process is out of your hands – it’s best to marshall your marketing forces to try to SHAPE those interactions… or if nothing else – load your customer’s lips.

Your blog – your Facebook account – your Twitter account were not created to function as “sales funnel soda machines”.   They are communication tools to connect you with other PEOPLE!

Your customers are people too.  Their first concern is NOT your bottom line -it’s their GDP (Goals, Desires, Problems).   Creating a business which counts on customers caring about your bottom line is the quickest path to destruction – or if you’re an auto maker – government ownership.

Connecting with people CAN result in more sales for your company, but not because your blog is a sales lead collector.  Social media can literally pull back the veil and literally provide insight into how your company is perceived by your customers – without the whitewashing of a carefully constructed “customer survey” or “focus group” – if you have the courage to listen.


  1. Yeah, what’s up with those pesky customers acting all human and stuff?? My hubby has to battle them every day.
    .-= Jannie Funster´s last blog ..Frisky Jim at the Water Park =-.

  2. You certainly have a way with words! As much as I would like to have a “marketing soda machine,” something about that just doesn’t seem right. I think social marketing is a HUGE factor in making us all more socially responsible. That has to be a good thing.
    .-= Carol Solomon´s last blog ..Are You Hungry For Something More Than Food? =-.

  3. Hi Kathy – Shoot, I love the sales funnel! Being from the Midwest, it reminds me of a grain elevator (or something). Seriously, I’ve described it and drawn it and explained it to lots of people in the context of you need to keep prospecting, because not everyone is going to be your customer. I’m going to have to ponder what you’ve written about it some more. But . . . you know I emphatically agree that the touchpoints are never linear. They’re more about being you and like-mindedness. I suppose if you’re perfect at all that then everyone could be your customer…. Good stuff, Kathy!
    .-= Betsy Wuebker´s last blog ..TRIIIBES IS ONE =-.

  4. This is really hard to explain to some of my clients – that we use social media to build relationships, enhance credibility and strengthen image – not to immediately produce sales.
    .-= Vered – Blogger for Hire´s last blog ..Staycation =-.

  5. Hi Kathy,
    Well…this is interesting, as I’m just home from an all-day seminar on social media for business. And the bottom line was that this is about connections with people. And in a tweetup afterwards, I saw this clearly with one of the panelists who was also at the tweetup. He used social media to connect with potential customers, in real and meaningful ways. And because of that, he’s gained a loyal following of people who will drive out of their way to buy from him. And it was all about the connection – not about the sale – in social media – that led to a potential customer becoming a customer. Powerful stuff, seeing it in action…
    .-= Lance´s last blog ..Less Stuff, More Meaning =-.

  6. Private Label Videos says:

    Very well said! 🙂 I agree with you. Social marketing is all about social responsibility and accountability.

  7. Jannie- Yeah – if there were just some way to do business without having to worry about those “pesky” customers.

    Carol – You’re right – social media is a powerful “social responsibility” tool.

    Betsy- I too have used the “sales funnel” to explain to clients that not EVERYONE who visits their website will ultimately become a customer. In that manner of speaking – the sales funnel metaphor DOES work – if you install side vents so MOST of those customers fall out of the process.

    Vered – yes, we’re all struggling to get this message out to the “unitiated”.

    Lance – YES -YES-YES!!! Once you’ve MADE that connection – people WILL go out of their way to do business with you… but that kind of connection isn’t made in a single visit – or even a single transaction!

    Christy- WELCOME to the conversation!

  8. Hi Kathy. Right on! “Your blog needs to focus on creating cheerleaders and not leads…” I love Twitter for this very fact. There are a lot of neat people to connect with (not everyone) but just by being there after a time you start to develop the instinct about who you want to connect with.
    .-= Davina´s last blog ..There’s Life Coaching & Then There’s Just Life =-.

  9. Davina – Twitter is another GREAT tool for creating cheerleaders – and it’s also being HORRIBLY abused by people who think followers are leads!

  10. Thanks again for the mention!

    I agree with Vered — it’s hard to explain that the purpose of social media isn’t to immediately produce “leads” or sales. Still those clients have a good point — eventually it needs to product something measurable.

    One thing I’d like to hear more about from you Kathy (or really anyone!) is how to reconcile the need for metrics and tangible evidence with the direct benefits of engagement and attention.

    That is, it’s one thing to tell stories about how someone was enticed by a blog and later told a friend and the friend bought — that’s fine — but what about on-going, measurable effects that clients can see?
    .-= Jason Cohen´s last blog ..Why business blogs should focus on cheerleaders, not lead-generation =-.

  11. Jason – you so “hit the nail on the head” with that post, I’m glad to give it a “double dose” of link luv here.

    You’re right. In a world where we need to do a multi-million dollar study to demonstrate that texting while driving is dangerous – and even then the governors of several US states are still not convinced the practice should be illegal – we NEED more than anecdotal evidence that social media (blogs in particular) are good for business and worth the investment of time and effort.

    The Huthwaite institute spent several years and a million dollar over two decades ago to document Neil Rackham’s theory that there are two “types” of sales (Major Sales and Minor Sales). The problem with doing a similar study on blogging is – who has that kind of “skin” in the blogging game to justify such research?

    There are lots of “small scale studies” that I know are going on – but most are focused on gathering anecdotal evidence.

    If anyone knows of a large scale, scientifically sound research study which will provide the metrics Vered and Jason are seeking, be sure to let me know!

  12. Hmmm, maybe this why I’m broke. LOL!
    I’ve bought the myth as relayed to me by Robert G. Allen (no relation, I’m sure!) in his books about Multiple Streams of Income.

    To be fair to the myth, I’d like to point out that it seems to allegorize the nebulous statistics of the “demographic”. In the same way that people attempt to explain Click-through rates in terms of CPM, I believe that the sales funnel attempts to show the flow of that portion of the demographic that is predisposed to follow that path.

    I’d like to add my two cents to the quest for a scientific study: the owners of the social media metadata are the only ones capable of initiating such a large-scale study. I recently read about Twitter’s collection of tweet stream metadata:
    While the focus of the post was on the Retweet changes, there is a quote from and a link to a post by Robert Scoble describing just what Jason appears to be seeking.

    As an aside, I’ve quoted Jason’s blog before and I’d like to say here, “Jason, you da Man!”


    .-= Mitchell Allen´s last blog ..Twitter Reciprocal Following: Ack! =-.